In general, reflective papers are assigned with the purpose to make students consider their personal experiences and try to shape it with new ideas and opportunities. Writing this kind of paper, you need to explore the topic, give an overview of the analyzed text and express your opinion instead of summarizing other sources (even credible ones). Reflective writing is also very helpful as you promote your analytical skills and can come up with your point of view supported by examples and evidence. Writing a reflective paper, you can estimate other ideas, spot their assumptions, strong and weak sides and recognize how your own thoughts support or oppose to what you reflect on.
How to build your reflection
Reflection is an important element of making connections between practice and theory. You evaluate a theory or approach based on your experience and observations using your knowledge and skills in this field. It gives you a chance to think about your actions, choices, failures and successes and plans. If you are planning to write a reflective paper, this guide can become quite helpful. First, you need to differentiate between different types of reflections: educational, professional and experimental.
Educational reflection is most common and is typically assigned to students, so we will focus on this one considering the writing process. To come up with a reflection paper, you should:
- Pick a great topic. Usually, your teacher assigns a specific topic to reflect on: it can be a book, personal experience, movie or article you have discussed in the classroom. But if you have the right to choose, you can pick some trending story from the news, book review or nature observation, a fairytale, big life change or strong emotions you have experienced;
- Do the brainstorming. One of the essential parts of writing a reflective paper is the research: you look for information about your topic and make notes before coming up with your reflection. It helps you to have a good understanding and organize your ideas to the final draft. Use the sources just to grab the idea and focus on your personal opinion;
- Organize your thoughts. After the brainstorming and research are over, you have a list of ideas you can include in your essay. It`s time to transform them into logical flow:
- To set the tone and overall theme of your essay, ask a reflection question. For instance, «How do I react to this news/subject/movie?»;
- Introduce your topic with a few straight points (two-three sentences) that will grab the attention of your readers. Don`t forget to mention your thesis with expectations you have;
- Explain your ideas in the main body with as many details as necessary;
- Wrap it up with a thesis restatement and brief summary of the main arguments.
- Start writing. Follow the structure from the previous step and fell in each section. Don`t edit on the go, you can do it after everything is completed: write as fast as you can not to miss an important thought. Then polish it up.
Here are some extra tips you can use for writing a reflective paper:
- Be unique. Your personal opinion matters only, so choose your own style of writing and don`t try to sound smart or copy someone else;
- Be brief. In general, a reflective paper takes from 250 to 750 words depending on the topic. Remove all the junk and leave only relevant information;
- Be clear, concise and focused;
- Keep it professional and academic (no slang or jargon);
- Cite all the sources you are using;
- Devote one idea to one paragraph.