How to write a reflection paper

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Reflection essays provide students with a great chance to reinforce everything they’ve learned through personal experiences, lectures, coursework, etc. Although this academic assignment is focused on personal experiences and emotions, it often requires the use of concrete examples and multiple sources. In most cases, students involved in such experiential capstones or classes as practicums and internships find reflection essay writing invaluable for synthesizing their theoretical knowledge with applied experiences. Learning how to write a reflection paper will help you organize all ideas methodically and gain more from your practical experiences.

Basic purposes of reflection essays

Any reflection paper is a type of academic writing that requires you to interact with the targeted audience while describing specific life experiences or moments. You need to explore personal emotions, ideas, and opinions about a particular event and its effect on you. This assignment allows you to do the following:

  • Making your analysis and conclusions about what you’ve heard, seen, or read;
  • Making certain connections between a given text and yourself;
  • Considering what you’ve learned and how you can use new information;
  • Writing from your point of view while identifying interesting ideas for further reading.

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The main goal of all reflection essays is to write concisely and clearly about any chosen subject.

The importance of your essay outline

When writing a reflection paper, some students tend to get a bit disorganized and sound illogical because they discuss anything and everything in no particular order. Using a detailed outline can help you avoid this mistake and improve your writing in many ways.

First, an essay outline helps you lay out all the details and facts that you want to use before getting started. It’s quite helpful because you won’t end up realizing that you forgot to include something important when your last paragraph is ready.

Outlines provide students with a clear roadmap instead of many dead ends and curvy paths. If you have a good outline, you don’t need to wonder what must come next because everything is planned.

Ultimately, you will save time on your academic writing because you can always look at your essay outline and follow it. You don’t have to waste your precious time on second-guessing what comes next, going back for major revisions because you forgot important things, or in what order supporting facts must go. That’s why creating a helpful outline of your reflection paper is the best solution.

The process of writing reflection papers

Teachers and professors usually request reflection papers because they allow students to share personal experiences and opinions about specific lectures, lessons, or articles. Although this academic assignment is quite subjective and personal, it still needs to have a formal style and be well-organized. When reflecting on a particular text, write down your initial ideas and emotions while reading it. When writing about a specific life event or about your personality, feel free to brainstorm and make a special chart with a few columns about your past experiences, reflection, and description. This simple table can help you outline and structure your reflection paper successfully.

Personal reflection papers

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They reflect your personal experiences, individuality, and major influences. A personal reflection essay helps readers get to know you better. Unlike other types of essays, it doesn’t rely on any research or facts because this assignment is focused mainly on you. The number one thing that differentiates a good reflection paper from the bad one is its organization.

The format of reflection essays

The format of reflection essays differs from standard research or argumentative papers because they are all about well-structured stories or diary entries. A paper in MLA or APA formats is applicable only if it comes with the external text that you’re reflection upon. The length of your reflection varies between 300-700 words. If you have any questions, ask instructors about the required word count and follow all the necessary instructions. When writing a reflection essay, avoid the academic writing style because you need take your original ideas and emotions into account. Remember that this paper is about your personality, not a given text.

How to make a good plan

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To start organizing a reflection paper, look at the ideas that you’ve brainstormed. For example, your past experiences and description should be about 10% of your paper. Limit listing life events because you should tell them to readers as little as possible, so your basic goal is showing them in this essay. The essay introduction must consist of:

  • A hook that grabs readers’ attention in a brief preview of what you will write about;
  • A thesis that includes information about your past experiences, and it’s a short statement of what your paper is all about.

Discuss the structure of your body paragraphs in a chronological order. Besides, answer bold questions in your reflection section to come up with a linear storyline, regardless of what your paper is about. Your body paragraph should look the following:

  • Personal expectations;
  • First impressions;
  • Practical and other experiences;
  • New discoveries;
  • Newly found feelings and passions;
  • Your developed mindset.

A conclusion of your reflection paper should wrap all ideas while demonstrating a certain personal development. Make sure that it contains future plans, new discoveries, and personal feelings.

Useful and interesting reflection ideas

Perhaps, a reflection paper is the one you aren’t allowed to borrow a subject for, and the main reason is that it must be about your personal experiences or feelings. The good news is that you can use a few helpful prompts to get started:

  • Some experiences that you can’t forget;
  • The hardest life choice that you made;
  • The happiest or scariest moments in your life;
  • The time your important beliefs were challenged;
  • The time you felt confused or overcame your fears.

It’s helpful to create a specific table or chart to keep a track of all ideas and split it into a few basic parts:

  • Write the main points or key experiences and grade them from very to little important;
  • List a personal response to these ideas;
  • Explain how much of your reflection is shared in a paper.

How students write successful reflections

How to write a reflection paper? First, you should watch what you’re writing because this paper is very personal and includes your opinions or feelings about the chosen subject. Before you decide to include something in this essay, ask yourself whether this information is appropriate or not. If you feel inconvenient about writing something personal, don’t include it in your reflection or write about it in more general words.

Although reflection essays are personal, it’s advisable to keep yourself organized and stay professional. Avoid slang and try to use only correct grammar and spelling. This paper is your personal story, so you don’t have to drag anyone else into it. Be sure to maintain a high level of professionalism and write about certain actions. Frame them within the main context of your reflection writing.

Don’t be lazy when reviewing the entire essay sentence-by-sentence to find and fix all mistakes. Keep all parts to the point and avoid squeezing different ideas into one sentence. Be sure that all sentences have a clear purpose and don’t leave anything in your paper unfinished.

Finally, use special transitional phrases or words to shift between ideas and introduce interesting details. Their use will help you make your reflection close to perfection.

Characteristics of satisfactory reflection essays

  • Your reflection provides a bigger picture of personal experiences;
  • It interweaves interesting information about specific life events and how they are beneficial;
  • Your personal experience paints unique details;
  • A reflection shows what you’ve learned from it and reveals more about your personal goals;
  • It demonstrates your readiness to reflect on personal work and provides a number of adequate examples;
  • Your paper is well-organized and has no spelling and grammatical errors;
  • It demonstrates your personal perspective.

Features of unsatisfactory reflections

  • Your reflection paper isn’t written in a linear format and it provides readers only with the pieces of your personal experiences;
  • It consists of many generalizations;
  • A reflection isn’t memorable and unique;
  • Your essay demonstrate the universal perspective and insufficiently reflect on personal work;
  • It’s incoherent and has many spelling or grammatical mistakes;
  • A reflection doesn’t adequately demonstrate your experience or knowledge;
  • It doesn’t state any personal goals.

Final words

Throughout your reflection paper, you need to make a certain case for how personal experiences stimulated your personal growth. After reading it, other people should get a specific idea of how these experiences affected you and how you’ve made your progress. In this essay, you should approach the writing process by talking about how you want to use everything you’ve learned from particular life experiences in the future. Write about how your gained knowledge will be useful in future jobs, classes, and other important life aspects.

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