A reflection paper is an opportunity for you to critically engage with and connect to reading. You may choose to focus on one particular passage or section or to respond to the main premise of the selection. You may choose to comment on the content and/or the form of the piece of writing. The reflection paper is a dialogue between you and the reader about the text you have read.
To reflect is to think back on something, to step back in time and relive a moment, event, or series of happenings. That is the primary goal of writing a reflective response. The secondary goal is for you to put together in writing what you have learned about the selection.
Although a reflection paper is not a formal research paper, it should have a coherent or organized structure. It should also be analytical in nature where you take the opportunity to use your own judgment to agree, disagree, like, dislike, and relate to the text and EXPLAIN why. You may choose to write a response that is whimsical, poetic, satirical, and/or witty. However, the tone of your reflection paper should not interfere with the clarity and cohesiveness of your writing.
Guidelines for Writing
1. Before you read a selection, make a note of any discussion questions or ideas that occur to you based on your previous knowledge of the topic at hand.
2. As you read, keep your questions and ideas in mind. You may want to note whether or not the piece you are reading provides you with information or perspectives on one or more of these areas. If so, explain how. Give examples—SUPPORT your ideas.
3. You may choose to briefly summarize the main points or premises of the selection, but this is only one part of the reflection paper. Remember: Your reflection is NOT a summary of the piece you read. Ask some of the following questions yourself to help you prepare what to write:
*What insights have you gained from the reading? (What, for example, have you learned about
writing from this selection?)
*What are the limitations (not so great moments) of the reading and why?
*How does the text or ideas presented in the text relate to you?
*Did the reading make you question or think about something else?
*What questions were you left with after reading?
*Did you agree or disagree with what was written? Why or why not?
4. Focus on one or two elements in your paper. This will allow for a well-developed reflection as opposed to a paper of facts that don’t make sense when put together. You do NOT have to discuss all of your thoughts about the reading. Be selective.
5. Follow the five-paragraph format of a typical essay. Develop a thesis statement. Include an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Distinctive Features of a Reflective Essay
Reflecting on the author’s inner world, and relating feelings and emotions pertaining to the described events and experiences are the most important features of a reflective essay. As a matter of fact, the essay has received its name because its main purpose is to reflect the author’s personality. Very often this type of essay is mistakenly understood as an informative essay and students merely give an account of events or experiences. A simple enumeration of facts doesn’t make the essay reflective; in order to become one, it has to reflect the author’s inner world in relation to the described events. Let’s take a look at a quick example. Let’s imagine you have visited Tibet last summer. In an informative essay, you would inform your reader how you prepared, how you got there, what means of transport you used etc. In a reflective essay, you would tell your reader how you got interested in going there, what feelings you experienced during your visit and how it affected you as a personality. In the first case, you enumerate events one by one; in the second case, you share your thoughts and feelings with your reader. This is what makes a reflective essay different from other essay types.
This type of essay is normally assigned during high school and college years with the purpose of giving students the opportunity to analyze their own experiences and skills. In this case, the object of analysis is the students themselves; this essay type allows them to contemplate things they might have been taking for granted. Another case when this type of essay can be assigned is when there is a need to better understand the personality of the interviewee. Reflective essays are also written while applying for college. The high number of college applicants makes competition incredibly tough; as a result, college admission officers require prospective students to write such essays – only thus can they pick out the best candidates. They are looking at a number of things, including maturity, learning skills as well as the ability to analyze and think critically etc. The need to do reflective writing arises in everyday life too; therefore developing this skill is critical.
Reflective Essay Outline
In its basic form, a reflective essay will take the common essay structure:
Introduction: This section should be the shortest; usually only one paragraph establishes the frame of your personal reflection in a clear and concise manner. This is often achieved using reflective statements, and then pointed sentences that describe the key ideas of the reflective essay. For example, “the structure instilled in me by my baseball coaches has made me more organized and focused throughout my academic career”, or “I believe my membership on the school debate team has been the single largest contributor to my research skills today.”
Body: The body paragraphs are where you can be more creative with your space and structure. Some reflection papers resemble narratives in which the writer tells their story from the perspective of how their experiences have impacted their personal growth and development. In the body of the essay, it is important to use descriptive language to differentiate between simply a retelling of key events and a rich narrative that exhibits true personal reflection.
Conclusion: In your conclusion, typically another single paragraph, you should avoid simply restating the reflective statements used in the introduction. Instead, remind your reader of the links between your experiences and the impacts these experiences have had on your development in the areas targeted, whether you’re focusing on growth academically, professionally or otherwise.