How to Write a Reflection

A reflection paper is a short piece of writing usually targeted at one particular text, whether an essay or not. It helps you understand the text you’re reading better.

This paper shows that you understand the ideas in the text and can critically analyze them. It’s important to prepare a reflection before reading a write-up and after finishing it.

A Step-by-step Guide on How to Write a Reflective Paper

Reflective writing is about how you respond to the text. It requires critical thinking so that you can produce an opinion on what you have read.

• Read the text notes first
• Emphasize the main points
• Make a personal connection to the text
• Answer the right questions
• Listen to your feelings
• Structure and write your essay
• Edit your paper
• Get another person’s opinion

Reflection papers require critical thinking and your own opinions. If you want to know how to write one for any given reading, try the following steps:

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1) Read the text and take notes first

Reading to understand the meaning of the text is essential. You should read actively and take notes frequently while taking in new information. Write down related keywords on a notepad.

Also, highlight important passages in the text, and underline concepts that are presented. These notes will help you to remember important ideas and information.

2) Emphasize the main points

Remember to pay attention to words that stand out or seem important and highlight them. These words might relate to the thesis or the main point. The text you’re reading can form the basis of your own opinion so pay attention to those keywords. They will help you solidify your argument once you start writing.

3) Make a personal connection to the text

Think about how you relate to the ideas in the text. If you can’t think of any personal connection, it might be helpful to try making one. Search for examples related to your personal experiences.

For example, you could write about how a topic in the text is similar to something from your life or relates to a current event. You could also try finding discrepancies in the text to show how you think it might be wrong.

4) Answer the right questions

As you read, ensure that you answer the necessary questions to help you focus on what’s important. These questions are the basis of your paper, so you need to cover them.

Questions also help structure your argument. Therefore, it’s crucial to answer the questions in your preliminary stages so that you’re set for the actual paper.

Questions to answer when writing a reflection paper

• What did I learn from my reading?
• How does this text relate to me, and does it affect my life in some way?
• How does this text relate to the world outside of school and work?
• What do I think about the main ideas in the paper?
• What’s essential for me to remember after reading the text?

5) Listen to your feelings

Decide how you feel about the text and try to put it into words. Reflecting on your feelings helps you understand what’s important to you. It also allows you to think critically about the text and see it from a different perspective.

As you sync the text with your feelings, you can then come up with a stronger argument. The more you’re in touch with your feelings, the better your argument gets.

6) Structure and write your paper

A reflective paper requires you to set out an argument. Look at the questions that you answered in the previous step and write down your thoughts. Begin with a general statement that gets the reader’s attention. Add more information building up to the main point of your paper.

Organize your thoughts into an essay that is easy to follow. Aim for about five clear points in your writing, and try to vary the length of sentences to keep the reader interested.

8) Edit your essay

Check your paper for any typos or mistakes, and be sure to check your sentence structures and punctuation. Editing is a critical step in any academic writing. It enables you to polish up your work and avoid obvious errors that can put your examiner off.

Be sure to use available and straightforward editing tools that will help you check your grammar, spelling, and plagiarism. Unedited work will cost you a good grade, and in case of plagiarism, you may end up with a penalty.

9) Get another person’s opinion

Read your work aloud to make sure it sounds like you and not someone else. Ask a friend or teacher for some feedback if you feel uncertain about how it sounds.

Getting another person’s opinion can help you find out some mistakes you wouldn’t otherwise discover. This additional input can improve your final paper, so always ask for feedback.

The Two Main Parts of a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper has two main parts: a response and an analysis.

The response

It is the first part of the paper. It’s where you provide concrete examples to show how you relate to the reading and what it means for your life. This part of the paper also includes your personal opinion, thoughts, and feelings.

The response to the reading should be concise, and there is no strict length that you have to meet. Let your writing flow, but try not to ramble. Also, write it in first-person voice to personalize it. Keep your tone professional if you’re writing for school.


Here are some examples of what you could write in the response section:

• Write a specific event that demonstrates the text’s main idea.
• An example of a particular situation and how the text relates to it.
• A quote from the text and how it applies to your life now.
• An example of how the text is similar to something you already know well.
• An opinion about the reading, whether it meant something to you or not.
• A reaction to the text, such as frustration or amusement.

The analysis

It is the second part of the report. Here is where you discuss whether or not you agree with the author and why. Explore different perspectives about what was written, and discuss what you find significant. It may also include your thoughts on the subject, but it shouldn’t be about your personal opinions.

An example analysis would be about a given text and whether you agree with it or not. In this situation, your paper wouldn’t just say that the reading is correct or incorrect. Instead, you would explain why you agree or disagree with the author’s ideas and provide examples to support your claims.

The analysis should also include your opinion on the meaning of different parts of the text. This part shows that you understand what the author is saying.


This part of the reflective essay should be concise. An example would be about two to three pages in length. Here are some things you could include in the analysis section:

• Discuss whether or not you agree with what the author is saying.
• Explain why you think so and provide examples to support your claim.
• Explain some of the main points or ideas and how they relate to each other.
• Discuss whether or not the author’s argument is well organized or convincing.
• Discuss what you find significant about the text, but don’t just repeat what the author said. Add your own opinions, too.
• Write two to three paragraphs in length.

A Reflection Paper Outline

The structure of a reflection paper takes the same form as many other academic papers. It consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

Introduction

It’s advisable to start a reflection paper with a captivating introduction. The introduction is a brief summary of what you plan to write. To start, include the text or poem you are writing a reflection paper on and how long it was written.

This part of the paper should be no more than a paragraph in length. Implicitly state what your opinion is on the text or poem. You can include anything else relevant to your paper to create a  motivation for reading the text. The introduction also addresses any questions you had when reading or why you chose that topic.

An example of a reflective paper introduction is:

“The poem, ‘To his coy mistress’, was written by Andrew Marvell. It is four stanzas long and was written in 1681. The poem is about a man persuading his lover to sleep with him soon because he won’t live forever. One of the main themes of the poem is how time passes, and we can’t recapture it. Another theme that is present throughout the work is the idea of love and relationships.”

Body

The body paragraphs should be about three to five paragraphs in length. The first paragraph should be an explanation of your opinion on the reading. Use concrete examples from the text. Each paragraph should discuss a different theme of the text or poem.

Start each paragraph by briefly summarizing the main aspects of the theme. For example, if the text was about a topic you disagree with, briefly state what it’s about and how you feel.

Ensure you back up your claims with specific examples from the text. Also, if you use a quote, include the page number to make it easier for your reader to follow along.

Keep each paragraph focused on the topic you are discussing, and don’t jump from one idea to another in each paragraph. Use transitions to help your reader follow along.

An example of a body paragraph would be:

“One of the main themes is how time passes, and we can’t reclaim it. The author uses the imagery of wind, rain, sun, and flowers. These show how time erodes everything. The poem begins with the line, “Had we but world enough and time,” emphasizing how much more time they would have.”

 

Reflection conclusion

The conclusion summarizes what you have written. State your opinion again, but more briefly than in the introduction. It should not be more than one paragraph. For example, you could say, “In conclusion, I agree with the author because …” or “In conclusion, I do not agree with the author because…”

As you conclude your reflections, you could briefly mention the main points of each paragraph and how they relate to each other.

Write a reflection in your own words. Paraphrase and quote the text only when necessary.

Include a work cited page if you have used other sources to write your reflection. This page should include full citations of all the texts and poems you referenced in your paper.

Below is an example of how a reflection conclusion paragraph would look like:

“In conclusion, I agree with the author for several reasons. One reason is that time passes, and we can’t hold onto it. Another reason is that love can be difficult to express.”
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Types of Reflection Papers

Reflection papers can be either personal, educational, or professional.

Educational reflection paper

In this reflection, you need to answer a research question that should be simple, clear, and specific.

A research question about writing a reflection paper would be, “what are the different types of reflection papers?”

An educational reflection paper should be about a single specific topic, not multiple different topics. It can be a personal or an impersonal topic.

Personal reflection paper

A personal reflection paper is used to record what you have learned or how change has occurred in your life. For instance, you can write about how your opinion of an issue has changed or why you chose to get a different career path.

“I used to think that reading was boring and useless. However, now I realize the importance of reading for gaining knowledge and improving my vocabulary.”

A personal reflection paper uses concrete examples from your own life and personal experiences.

Professional reflection paper

A professional reflection paper should be about a topic that relates to your career. It should:

  • Give information about the topic
  • Be organized clearly
  • Include sources if using other information to write your paper

Professional reflection papers are more formal than personal and educational reflection papers. For example, your opening sentence could read, “This paper will discuss …”

For a professional reflection paper research question, you could ask, “What are the different types of professional reflection papers?”

A professional reflection paper should include a work cited page at the end. The work cited page should list all sources used to write the paper.

Helpful Tips on How to Craft a Top-notch Reflection Paper

  • Use concise language in your paper. Try to keep it between five and ten pages long, depending on the length of the text you are writing.
  • Make sure to use your words and don’t just copy what the writer said verbatim. Include your opinion and the main points of the text.
  • Proofread your paper before you turn it in to catch any grammatical errors. If possible, ask someone else to read it over for you too.
  • Don’t forget to include the works cited page! This page should have all the sources you used to write your paper, including full citations.
  • Start with an attention-grabbing introduction so your reader is interested in what you have to say.
  • Write about how you felt when you read the text and why you feel that way. Remember to back up your claims with examples.
  • Keep your paper organized by using headings. This will help your reader follow along.
  • Use transitions to link each paragraph so your reader has an easier time following along.
  • Include a conclusion about what you wrote and why you feel that way. Wrap it up by summarizing the main points of your paper.
  • Use formal language. Your text shouldn’t be so informal that it’s unprofessional, but also avoid sounding overly stuffy.
  • Include a work cited page, if necessary. Don’t forget to include full citations of all the texts and poems you referenced in your paper.

General Formatting Rules of a Reflection Paper

Different examiners may give varied instructions on how students should format their reflection papers. However, there’re general and standard rules for formatting a reflection as listed below:

• 12 pt. font size
• Double-spaced lines
• One inch margins on all sides of the paper
• Left justified alignment
• Use a standard title page and reference page for your paper.

Title Page: The first page of your reflection paper should be the title page. Include the title of your reflection, your name, class title, and date in the header at the top.

Title: On the title page, you will include one of two different titles:

A. Title your paper “Reflection on ___________” where you name the text you are reflecting on.

B. Title your paper “Reflections on __________” where you name the class.

Name: Your name should be in the following format, centered at the top of the page.

Student’s name

City, State abbreviation

Class: In the header on the top of your title page, include the following centered at the top of the page:

Reflections on _____________________

Date: Include the date, centered below the class title

Reflection Reference Page: The reference page of your essay should be on its page right after the title page. You will include the following information on this page:

Works Cited centered at the top of the page

Name, centered at the top of the page

Institutional affiliation, if listed, centered below your name

Phone number, if listed

Email address, if listed

Works cited list begins on its separate page after the reference page

Summary

So there you have it! You now know how to go about writing a reflection essay. You can use the information above to help you write your paper, but remember that this is just one way of doing it. There are many other ways to write this type of paper, so consult your teacher or professor if you need more guidance.

When writing a reflection paper, make sure you develop a strong thesis statement to start you off. Your opinion does not have to be the same as the author’s, but you should analyze it academically.

Also, take the time to read over your paper multiple times before submitting it, so you can ensure there are no errors. If you need any more help or explanations on how to write a reflection paper, feel free to leave a comment.

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