How to Write a Reflection Paper (With Steps and Examples)

Updated March 21, 2023

University students, high school graduates, and college professors typically write reflection papers. These papers provide an opportunity for students to analyze and review reading texts or experiences. You can write a good reflection paper by learning the format and structure that it requires. In this article, we discuss how to write a reflection paper, discover what a reflection paper is, outline the types of reflection papers, provide tips on writing these documents, and answer frequently asked questions about reflection papers.

How to write a reflection paper in 8 steps

By following these eight steps on how to write a reflection paper, you can properly analyze an experience or assigned text. A good reflection paper maintains a formal tone while expressing your opinion on a particular subject. Here are steps you can follow:

1. Understand and summarize the material

It's important that you review the material before writing the reflection paper. You can review similar texts and authorities to help you understand the content of the text. Some reflection papers may require you to review a particular event.

You can summarize the text or event in one or more paragraphs to guide your writing. If the text is nonfiction, your summary can comprise the author's thesis statement and reasoning. If it's a fictional book, you can summarize the plot. Your summary is not an exact copy of the material, and it can include a brief statement of your opinion on the work. You can also write an outline of your ideas and supporting arguments.

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2. Analyze the material

Typically, you analyze the thesis, argument, or content of the text before writing your reflection paper. Your reflection paper may contain your opinion of the academic material. You can disagree with the arguments made in the text and show the reasoning behind your judgment. Typically, you ask key questions after studying the text and write out problem areas you may notice in the document. You can also review and reference other materials that support your position. You may also reference personal experiences that contradict the argument of the material.

You can use a mind map to outline your thought process, ideas, and supporting arguments. Highlight the questions you raised while studying the material and use them to write your analysis and review.

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3. Select a theme

You can use your analysis of the event or reading material to select a theme for the paper. Choosing a theme is important as it guides the argument and tone of your writing. It also helps you structure your paper. You can choose a theme by finding common points or conclusions in your analysis and writing down arguments that incited strong opinions from you.

4. Make connections between your opinions

You can make connections between your arguments to write and prepare the paragraph sequence of your article. These connections may allow you to write a comprehensive outline that connects your opinions to the arguments made in the paper. It can provide a sketch of your ideas, opinions, and questions related to the topic of your reflection paper. You can use this framework to connect your ideas and develop more insight into your arguments.

5. Begin with an introduction

Your introductory paragraph contains the purpose and topic of the paper. It contains your thesis statement and gives readers insight into your position regarding the topic. Your introduction can also include a summary of the article, book, or experience the paper analyses. When writing your introduction, you can refer to the themes and topic in the paper.

Example: In "The importance of nature" by Susan Mary, the writer explains how important nature is to human development. The increasing awareness about climate change has ensured that individuals are more educated on the physical benefits of preserving nature. But individuals may ignore all the emotional and mental benefits of nature.

6. Write the body of the paper

This section of your reflection paper contains an in-depth analysis of your thesis statement. You can include your supporting arguments, references, and examples. You can have three to four paragraphs in the body of your paper, and each paragraph can introduce a new idea. If you base your reflection paper on an article or book, you can also include direct quotes from that source. Typically, you connect your ideas and ensure that the paragraphs have a logical structure.

Example: Last year, I visited a psychiatric hospital. As part of their treatment, I discovered that they allowed patients to take supervised walks around the hospital gardens. They believe that spending time outside with nature significantly improved the behaviour of their patients. The text highlights the benefits that nature has on mental wellness, and various studies support this claim. Human beings can be in tune with their environment.

7. End with a good conclusion

Your conclusion summarizes the ideas and arguments described in your paper. You can describe what you have learned through your analysis of the article or experience. You can also restate and re-emphasize your thesis statement.

Example: Some people decide to rest from work and school to visit nature parks or spend time in tropical areas. People recognize that nature is serene. While they can enjoy this serenity during vacations and trips, they can also enjoy it in the mundane part of life. Nature is fundamental to their experience as human beings.

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8. Proofread and edit

Proofread your paper multiple times before you submit it. Ensure that you correct grammatical and factual errors. You can ask your colleagues, classmates, and mentors to review the paper. If the paper has specified guidelines, you can review this to ensure that you've followed all the instructions.


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What is a reflection paper?

A reflection paper is an academic work that can express your thoughts and observations on a particular subject. This type of document can communicate your ideas and emotions linked to an experience or a text. Typically, it's more formal than a journal article and less than a business report. These reflections describe how a specific topic has affected your opinions.

Types of reflection paper

A reflection paper can describe your understanding of a topic and how this may influence your beliefs. The types of reflection paper include:

Experiential reflection paper

An experiential reflection paper analyzes a personal experience or observation. In an experiential paper, you can study the experience and assess the accuracy of a particular theory that relates to it. Typically, you observe the experience objectively, summarize it, and highlight the underlying principles and theories that support your analysis of the experience. This type of paper is common in professional programs such as education, business, and medicine because it helps you relate principles and theories to practical experiences.

Textual reflection paper

A textual reflection paper analyzes a written text, which can be a book, an article, or an essay. This paper contains your analysis, interpretation, and opinion on the reading material. This paper might not include any personal anecdotes, as it focuses solely on the content of the text. A textual reflection paper is a reaction and evaluation of the material.

Tips on writing a reflection paper

Here are tips that can help you write a good reflection paper:

  • Write an outline. You can create a draft of your supporting arguments and references before writing the reflection paper. An outline can give you direction and help you structure the paper.

  • Use a formal tone. The reflection paper is an academic paper and requires a formal tone. Avoid using informal words, idioms, or slang.

  • Keep it brief. The word count can range from 300 to 750 words. Your instructor may provide directions regarding the length of the paper.

  • Include relevant points. Be straightforward in your reflection paper. Include ideas and arguments that are relevant to the paper.

  • Reference your sources. You might decide to review other authorities while writing your paper. Consider following the appropriate citation style.

  • Use transitional phrases. In the body section of your paper, you may have several paragraphs. Use linkers and transitional phrases to connect these paragraphs and improve the structure of the paper.

FAQs about writing a reflection paper

Here are answers to frequently asked questions on writing reflection papers:

How can you include references in a reflection paper?

Your instructor might provide citation guidelines, and this can help you reference authorities. If you are citing a book or an article as a source, you can reference it by writing out the title and the author's name. But it's not mandatory to include references in your reflection paper.

Are reflection papers written in the first person?

Authors usually write academic essays using the third person pronoun. Reflection papers are exceptions to this rule. You can write a reflection paper in the first person because it's more subjective than other academic essays. Your instructor might require you to write the paper in the third person. It's important that you adopt a formal tone when writing the paper, regardless of how you write it.

What is the difference between a research paper and a reflection paper?

A research paper is an academic essay that presents the writer's interpretation of a certain topic from the evidence gathered. Research papers are typically longer and more detailed than reflection papers. Research papers are also more objective than reflection papers.

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