How to Write a Reflection Paper
Knowing how to write a reflection paper enables you to organize thoughts methodically so that you can gain more from your practical experience. A reflection paper is a paper that gives you an opportunity to add your analysis and thoughts to what you experience or read. It enables you to tell the reader how your comprehension of a class-related material is shaped by a specific lesson, article, experience or lecture. A reflection paper is usually subjective and personal. However, it contains a tone that is somewhat academic and it has to be cohesively organized and thorough. While writing a reflection paper, you should integrate the main themes of the work with classroom experience then indicate how they affect your thinking and practice.
Importance of knowing how to write a reflection paper
Sometimes, you attend lectures but at the end of it you do not get comprehensive experience until when you sit down to analyze what was taught. A reflection paper can have a significant impact in your learning process because writing it entails evaluating your experience analytically. While writing a reflection paper, you must deconstruct and analyze. This enables you to dig deeper into the work that you are reflecting on and discuss its specific aspects. For instance, you may be required to reflect and explain how a task that you performed during a class session will assist you later in life. Although the reflections that you express in a reflection paper are based on your opinion, that opinion is built on personal experience from a lecture or coursework at the university, college or school.
How to write a reflection paper in two major steps
Step 1: Brainstorm
- Select the major themes
Start by listing down your reflections or experiences from your notes, readings or even lessons. You can do this using a few descriptive but straight sentences.
- Highlight the major materials
Some materials will stand out once you list down your main themes. Come up with another list of these materials explaining what makes them stand out. For readings or lectures, highlight specific quotations or passages. For experiences, note down the specific sections of the experience. You can even come up with a story or a summary of the event that happened, sounds or images that came out in a clearer way.
- Organize your ideas
You can come up with a table or chart that will enable you to organize your ideas. For instance, you can do this by creating three columns. Include the key experiences or main points in your first column. The points may be anything that the speaker or the author highlighted as important or the specific details that are important. You can include each point in a separate row. In a second column, indicate your response to what you listed in your first column. Explain how your response is influenced by your experiences, subjective values as well as beliefs. In the final column, describe the amount of personal response that you will share with readers through a reflection paper.
- Present a guided response
Pinpointing responses or gauging personal feelings can be a challenge while writing a reflection paper. In that case, you can ask questions that will help in guiding your response. For instance, you can ask yourself these questions:
- Are you challenged culturally, socially, theologically or emotionally by a lecture, experience or reading? If so, how and in what way? Why does it capture your attention or why are you bothered?
- Does the experience, lecture or reading raise questions in you? Did you have these questions before the experience, lecture or reading or did you develop them after?
- How was your thinking changed by the experience, lecture or reading? Is it in conflict with your previously held beliefs and is there evidence that made you change your perception of the topic?
- Did the speaker, author or the involved parties leave any critical issue unaddressed? Was the conclusion or impact of the experience, lecture or reading changed dramatically by a certain idea or fact?
- Do the ideas or issues raised by the experience, lecture or reading mesh with your past readings or experiences? Do they support or contradict each other?
Step 2: Organize and write the paper
This is a very important step in a guide on how to write a reflection paper. The length of reflection papers ranges from 300 to 700 words. Therefore, you must organize your reflection paper properly so that it can lie within this range. Generally, a reflection paper should be organized like any other paper with an introduction, the body and the conclusion.
- Keep your paper short
Start by verifying whether the instructor specified the word count instead of trying to fit your paper within the range. If there is a specific word count set out by the instructor, organize your paper in a way that enables it to include all relevant information without exceeding or falling below the specified word count.
- Write the introduction
In the introduction, tell readers what your expectations were before the experience, lesson or reading. While writing a reflection paper on a lecture or reading, indicate your expectations on the basis of the abstract, introduction or title. If the reflection paper is about an experience, tell readers what your expectations were on the basis of your prior knowledge from the information acquired from other sources or similar experiences.
- Create a thesis statement
Your introduction should end with a single sentence via which you explain transition from the expectations that you had to the final conclusion. A thesis statement should be a simple explanation of whether the expectations that you had were met or not. It should also provide cohesion and focus for your paper.
- Write the body
In the body of your reflection paper, include paragraphs that explain your understandings and conclusions that you made after the lesson, experience or reading. Explain the conclusions by giving concrete and logical details of how you reached them. Focus your paper on not just summarizing the text that you read but also drawing specific, concrete details from the experience or text so that you can provide conclusions from the context. Each idea or conclusion should be presented separately in one paragraph. Provide a topic sentence for each paragraph which identifies the main points, understandings and conclusions.
- Write the conclusion
Conclude your reflection paper with a conclusion that succinctly describes your overall understanding, feeling or lesion that you got after the experience or reading. The overall conclusion should be supported by the understandings and conclusions that you explained in the body paragraphs. You may have some conflicting understandings and conclusions but most of them should support the final conclusion.
Additional tips on how to write a reflection paper
- Maintain an academic or a professional tone
Although reflection papers are objective and personal, you should keep thoughts sensible and organized. Therefore, avoid being carried away by the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’.
- Use a theoretical concept to analyze experience
Illustrate how the experience that you got diverged from the expectations of a theory or how it conforms to the expectations of a theory. Discuss your reasons for feeling that your experiences where not described or they were described by a theory.
- Be careful while choosing the information to reveal
A reflection paper includes subjective opinions and feelings. Therefore, before you reveal any information, determine whether it is appropriate. If there is an issue that you cannot avoid yet you are uncomfortable sharing it, use general terms to write about it.
- Maintain an academic mix
Ensure that your reflection paper relates your reading or experience with relevant classroom details or information. Incorporate the information that the experience, lecture or reading addressed with what you have learned in classroom.
- Use transitions
Transitions introduce details while shifting arguments in a paper. Use them to show how one detail or experience links to your understanding or conclusion directly. In a reflection paper, you can use transitions like, “for instance,” “an opposing view is,” “a differing perspective is” and “for example” among others.
- Edit your paper
Before you submit your reflection paper, edit it. Revise your paper at the sentence level. Make sure that your paper is consistent with the stated thesis statement. Also ensure that your reflection paper is free of stylistic and grammatical errors.
- Use sample reflection papers
To know how to write a reflection paper with ease, read reflection paper samples for more hints. Click here to read a sample reflection paper.
Get online help with your reflection paper
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