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Tips on writing a reflection paper

Updated April 17, 2017

A reflection paper can be written on an assigned piece of reading, a lecture or an experience, such as an internship or volunteer experience. A reflection paper probably will be further clarified by the teacher or professor who assigns it to you. However, for the most part, a reflection paper cites your reactions, feelings and analysis of an experience in a more personal way than in a formal research or analytical essay.

Thoughts and Reactions

When writing a reflection paper on literature or another experience, the point is to include your thoughts and reactions to the reading or experience. You can present your feelings on what you read and explain them. You also can use a reflection paper to analyse what you have read. Like any other paper or essay, it should be cohesive and refer directly to the specific passage or quote in the material that inspired this feeling. You can include personal experience in a reflection paper, but do not depend on it; base your reactions and reflections on the material that is your subject.

Don't Summarise

Do not use a reflection paper simply to summarise what you have read or done. Also, a reflection paper should not be a free flow of ideas and thoughts. The idea of a reflection paper is to write an essay describing your reactions and analysis to a reading or other experience; however, it is more formal than a journal entry, so leave out informal language and form.

Organise Your Thoughts

A reflection paper should be as organised as any other type of formal essay. Include an introduction, perhaps one that describes your expectations before the reading or the experience. You also may want to summarise the conclusions you came to during the process.

The body of your paper should explain the conclusions you have come to and why, basing your conclusions in concrete details from your reading and experience. End the paper with a conclusion that sums up what you got from the reading. You might want to refer to your conclusions in relation to your expectations or come to some other conclusion or analysis about the text or experience in light of your feelings and reactions.

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About the Author

Maggie Mertens is a freelance writer currently located in Washington, D.C. She has written for numerous media outlets since 2006. Her work has appeared in publications such as the NPR Health Blog, Seattle Weekly, the San Diego Reader and the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Italian studies from Smith College in Northampton, MA.