Reflection papers enable you to express your reaction to a subject, an article, lecture, movie or, an experience such as a volunteer experience or an internship. They are generally personal. In fact, this is what makes it easier to write a reflection paper compared to other types of essays. However, it is important that they carry an academic tone, and be properly organized. The structure of this kind of essay is similar to the structure of general essay writing. It can be formatted in APA, MLA and, Chicago writing styles.
A reflection essay helps to hone your critical thinking skills. Before you write, you will need to spend some time thinking about the theme that you wish to focus on and be clear about what you wish to put forth in the essay. How do you write a reflection paper? Before you begin, you ask yourself some questions:
- What do I feel about this subject?
- What impact has it had on me?
- If it has failed to have any influence, then why so?
- What have I learnt from this?
These questions will help clarify what you wish to communicate in your essay and how to write reflection paper. This kind of writing demands that you express your insights and the answers to the above questions will help you move forward with it. Ask yourself more questions like these that make you express your opinions.
How do I write a reflection paper? Here are some reflection paper guidelines.
How to write a reflection paper
Once you have the answers to the questions, summarize them in a couple of sentences, which then will be the main theme of your essay. You can then identify the ideas that support the theme and build your essay around it. As with other essays, it is important to organize the reflective paper well. Have a reflection paper outline. Make sure to include the following while writing reflection papers:
An introduction - The introduction need not be more than one paragraph in length. In the introduction, you can introduce the theme of the essay. However, take care that you do not give out too much detail about what will follow in the rest of the paper. It should be a short preview to the rest of the essay, something that would prepare the readers for what they are about to read.
Write about your experience in a few words and the effect it has had on you without giving it all away. This is the time when you can capture the attention of the audience and get them interested in your reflections.
Body - Once you have identified your thoughts and feelings about a subject, and what prompts them, you can get down to explaining why you feel the way you do with regards to the subject. The body of the essay should present in detail the development of the experience of the writer. You can summarize your inferences on the basis of what you have read and experienced. Organize it neatly, assigning one paragraph for each inference.
Keep in mind that the analysis portion should be driven by the subject and not just by your thoughts and feelings. References to facts or quotations from the book that you have read will help give more substance to your thoughts.
The body paragraphs should be organized in a logical manner. Each paragraph should lead to the next one. It should also contain the lessons that you learnt. You can discuss about what you have gained or lost due to that particular experience. While there is no reflection paper format for the body, you can divide it into two parts:
- Description - Give a description of the facts that helped shaped the experience or the event. The point is to communicate your thoughts about the same. Be complete when describing, "What happened" and tell it all in detail. You can use the paper to analyze your reading or use it to express your feelings about what you have read. Again, while you can use personal experiences in a reflection paper, it is recommended that you do not depend on it, and instead focus on the reflections on your subject.
- Reflection - Carefully evaluate the experience and the impact that it has had. Do not use a reflection paper to simply summarize all that you have done or read. The idea is to reflect upon what you have undergone. Also, do not assume that the reader will just understand the meaning without you explaining it in detail.
Summary - While writing the conclusion, keep in mind that this is the last thing the reader will read. The conclusion brings together all the key ideas discussed in the body. You can conclude the paper by putting together all that you have learnt or experienced. Briefly put across the implications of the points you have made, and leave the readers with a clear idea that captures the theme of your paper.
While summarizing, you can state your main theme once again. You can end with a challenge encouraging them to reflect on the topic.
While writing (Reflection paper guidelines)
Be careful of what you reveal
There are certain things that you must keep in mind as you write your essay. While a reflection essay is somewhat personal, it is important that you carefully evaluate if something is appropriate before mentioning it in the paper. If you are confused or uncomfortable about a particular issue and if you feel that this might affect the conclusion of the essay, it is best to refrain from including those details in the piece of writing. However, if something is unavoidable, you can write about it in a more general manner.
Make it sound organized
A reflection essay is all about your thoughts and feelings. While sharing your reflections, keep in mind that while this kind of essay is more formal than a journal, it is less formal than an analytical or a research paper. However, you must not get carried away and take care to keep your thoughts sensible and organized.
It is crucial to keep the technical aspect in mind, as it is very easy to ramble and move away from the topic. Maintain a level of detachment and avoid being too harsh or critical of any person or incident. Avoid using slangs and online abbreviations such as OMG, LMAO and, LOL etc. Keep in mind this is not your personal diary entry.
A well-written essay should have crisp and clear sentences and correct grammar and spellings. Proofread your paper thoroughly for any errors. While writing, avoid bringing too many ideas in one sentence. Also, it is best to avoid sentence fragments. You can vary the length of your sentences. A combination of both simple and complex sentences will make your paper seem more natural.
The keys to a well-written paper include excellent preparation and engaging ideas that offer deep insights into the theme of reflection. At the end, summarize, and as you are doing so check if the essay has covered everything that you wanted to portray. If your paper leaves the reader with something to ponder upon, you have written a successful piece of writing.
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