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Learn How to Write a Reflection Paper Correctly and Enjoy Your Grades

April 26, 2021
Content how to write a reflection paper

If you keep wondering how to write a reflection paper, you aren't alone. Millions of students are having the same issue right now, and while most of them will figure the answer out, only some will proceed to write an amazing essay of this type. Every kind of writing assignment requires theoretical as well as practical knowledge. A person should know the definition of what they are doing and understand the structure of their essay along with the language they are supposed to use; in addition, they need to be able to write well. If you feel uncertain about any of these aspects, the information below could be greatly helpful!

Dealing with Definitions

First of all, let's find out an answer to the following question: what is a reflection paper? Every day, we are surrounded by never-ending chains of events. We meet other people, read books, watch movies, have lessons, hurt our friends and make up with them, fall in love and get our hearts broken. Reflection can cover each of these situations. It is a description and analysis of one's personal experience. The goal here is to share your thoughts with your readers, explaining a specific subject you interacted with or an event you lived through as well as underlining your feelings, reactions, associations, and conclusions about it.

There is a big number of reflection paper topics students could choose from. For example, you could reflect on the book you read. What did you think about it? Was it boring or exciting? Did characters' actions make sense? The same applies to a movie. What was it about? Did the director manage to send their message effectively? Was an actor's performance convincing or did it need improvement? Pick a relevant event that changed your life; share a story about your mistakes. It could be broad or narrow — the choices are endless and they are all yours to make! Go with what you consider exciting.

Preparation Process: Things to Do Before You Start Writing

How to start a reflection paper? Contrary to what you might think, none of the answers to this question involve actual writing. There is a number of steps you need to follow, so welcome to a pre-writing stage!

1) Choose a subject. We already provided some ideas above, so use them or brainstorm and come up with something else. Note that topic is extremely important! People cannot reflect on something they don't know well. If they have little interest in the subject, their essay is going to be bleak and boring, too. How to write reflection paper and make it good? Pick a topic that stirs passion in you! It could be of positive or negative kind — as long as you feel strong emotions, your chances at success increase.

2) Refresh your memory. Now that you've settled on the topic, it is time to recall it in vivid details. If this is a book, read it again (or at least go through its detailed summary). If it's a movie, re-watch it. In case you are describing an event, close your eyes and recall as many things as you can about it. Make an emphasis on remembering the order of events, your emotions, and your thoughts at that time.   

3) Ask yourself questions about it. This step is directly related to the previous stage, and it helps students understand reflection paper format. Start asking questions that have reflective nature. For example, how did an event/subject affect you? Did it defy your expectations in some way? Did it feel complete or did it leave you without a sense of closure? Would it affect other people, and if so, how?Are you satisfied or do you wish some things could have gone differently? Each answer is going to make a picture of your future paper clearer.  

4) Understand the format. Look at any reliable reflection paper template. That'll help you understand how a paper like this should look like. Reflections are a personal thing: you'll need to write from your perspective by using personal pronouns. Language itself should be vivid yet precise: provide details, use adjectives, & pour your feelings into the text.

5) Make notes. This is the step that concludes everything we've mentioned before. Now that you chose a topic and built the foundation, write it all down. Just make quick notes to avoid forgetting anything — a few words here and there would suffice. This is something for your sake: only you are going to see and use these notes, so they don't have to look or sound impressive.

Reflective Paper Outline and Why Students Need It

Outlines always cause a lot of debates among students and experts alike. Some people agree that they are important while others deny this fact furiously. It's understandable: who wants to spend any extra time on writing something that their professor won't even see and give them a grade for? Students who hate academic tasks in general are particularly against the idea of writing outlines.

We are not really trying to change your mind about this subject: yes, not everyone needs something like an outline. But usually, it applies to experienced writers who burst with creativity and could do their assignment quickly and efficiently without any tips. For everyone who wants to know how to write a good reflection paper, outlines can be very helpful. They allow voicing your ideas and keeping track of them once you actually start typing. Outlines could be short, too — just make sure you include these three sections in them.

  • Introduction. Simply mentioning a thesis here is more than enough. What is the main point of your reflection? It should be a direct claim, something like, “This article is informative and thought-provoking, although its language is overly complicated at times.” By looking at it later on, you'll immediately remember what you were planning on exploring.  
  • Body Paragraphs. Make mentions for every paragraph separately. How long should a reflection paper be? This depends on a professor and college, but all in all, it has between 600 and 900 words. This means that you'll have between 3 and 5 body paragraphs, and an outline should express their main ideas. Add one sentence, such as “Content of book/event,” “How this influenced me,” “What impacts this had on me,” etc.
  • Conclusion. Restate your thesis in this part. You won't need any new info, so there is no point in writing anything more specific. 

How to Write a Reflective Essay for University: Step-by-Step Flow

Now that we've covered the basics, it is time to describe what reflection essay writing process consists of. We'll mention all major stages involved in it. Pay close attention because this is going to help you create a memorable essay!

1) Fill your introduction with these specific details. Present a subject you're exploring. Include its title and author if this is someone's book; point out title, directors, and actors if this is a movie, or describe a situation you're reflecting on in several words. Give some brief background, like when it was published/when it happened, what's the main thing about it, and how you feel. Be brief here — you wouldn't want to overwhelm your readers from the start. End introduction with strong thesis that expresses the main idea behind your reflection. This is important: thesis usually receives its separate amount of points. In case you feel unsure about how to write it, look for examples online. We provided one above, but you could find more on our website.

2) Frame body paragraphs in accordance with reflection papers format. When students do a task like this, they should follow some specific guidelines. Start each paragraph with an opening sentence. It must be broad but specific at the same time: it should cover the central idea you'll be describing in this particular section. Provide details along with evidence. This is where the questions you asked yourself previously come into play: what impact did an event have? Why did this get your attention? How did you feel about this all? End a paragraph with a concluding sentence or a transition to the next part.

3) Check back with an outline. Time to consult your outline! Are you moving in the right direction? Do you follow your own ideas in a logical order? If everything looks good, move on. If there are some deviations, work them out. Don't be afraid to change an outline if you need or adapt the text if it is going the wrong way.

4) Restate major points for conclusion. Many students learn how to do a reflection paper, but few of them realize how to end it correctly. Conclusion is a place where writers can no longer present any new aspects of their topic. They could (and should) recycle the key points from previous paragraphs, restate their thesis in different words, and make recommendations if this is applicable. For instance, if you were reflecting on a book, indicate whether you suggest your audience to read it, too, or if you don't think they should waste their time on it.    

5) Re-read what you wrote & edit it. Interestingly, from all tips on writing a reflection paper, this one gets underestimated most often. Once a student finishes writing, they close the document and hurriedly send it for their professor's assessment. This is a serious mistake! If you have no time left, it's one thing, but if there are still several hours or days ahead, use them wisely. Wait a little bit and then re-read everything you've written. We guarantee that you are going to find some mistakes in grammar, formatting, or even content. Some sections might sound weak; others could be too long or on the contrary, too rushed. Edit and proofread issues like this. Once you are certain that what you created meets college expectations, submit your work and exhale! You did it. It's all over — now you need to wait for your grade.

Ten Sample Reflection Topics

How to write a reflective essay and get top grade for this? Like we've said before, your topic must interest you personally. As a small bonus, we decided to come up with ten possible themes you could use. If none of them appeals to you, feel free to change or shift some of these ideas until they work — use them as an inspiration source.

1) How I Reacted When I Learned That I Am Going to Have a Sibling

2) The Hunger Games: Your Opinion on What This Book Teaches Us

3) Thoughts on How Setting Is Presented in Any TV Show

4) My Realization That I Have Fallen in Love with Someone

5) Music Concert That Impressed Me Most

6) The Taste of First Failure and Impact This Had on My Sense of Self-Esteem

7) Reflection on a Book That Made Me Furious With It

8) The Worst Mistake I Made in My Life

9) The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Me

10) The First Time I Truly Wanted Someone to Forgive Me

Pick a Good Topics, Follow All Steps, and Enjoy Your Success

Now you know how to write a good reflective essay. If you select a great topic that you feel eager to explore and follow the tips we've outlined, you won't face any troubles with creating the best kind of paper — your professor is going to love it. But in case something still isn't right and you are stuck or just frustrated with the lack of inspiration, let us know. We'll be glad to help you in a more personal way by letting our experts handle your essay. Explain what task you want in particular and it'll be done before you know it!