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How To Write A Reflection Paper

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A reflection paper is an essay that allows you to express your thoughts, reactions, or feelings from a personal experience, in a comprehensible and clear manner. This type of paper lets the reader know how the personal experiences shaped your thinking and what value you gained from them. So, you are essentially sharing your point of view, supporting it with observations and examples, hence, making it subjective or personal. How to write a reflection paper might seem like a hard task, but this post will help you come up with a good informative paper.

Reflection essays are more like a journal but in a formal academic tone. You should be able to express your ideas reasonably despite revealing your feelings. Don’t use a language like ‘yeah, it was awesome or OMG.’ Remember to use the first-person point of view because you are telling your personal experiences. Similarly, you might share your thoughts on a film, an event, or a book.

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The Purpose of a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper gives students the power to speak their minds without getting intimidated by academic writing laws. Therefore, students have the freedom to express their perspectives regarding certain things. These essays also help you to;

  • Improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and how and why you think that way
  • Analyze and examine personal life experiences 
  • Promote personal growth and emotional development 
  • Make sense of thoughts and feelings 
  • Appreciate other people’s ideas since you understand that people experience life differently
  • Reflect skills and knowledge learned gained from a particular experience

The Purpose of a Reflection Paper in Different Fields


Healthcare providers can use reflective essays to improve their skills. They may reflect on a patient case or an experience they encountered at work. The reflections can dwell on negative or positive things. For example, a reflection paper could be on a missed diagnosis, a failed procedure, a well-managed cardiac arrest, or an interesting seminar or conference.


An educational reflective essay gives feedback on a book, film, or lecture studied in class. In this category, students can present what they observed and the emotions and feelings they had while reading the book. Nonetheless, please remember, this is not a book review. It is important to include what you have learned from the experience or how it made you change the way you look at things.


Reflection papers are helpful in businesses because they help you gauge your performance. Hence, people can know what they did right or wrong and what business strategy can improve their performance. Self-creative environments help people grow as individuals and as a team since people have the energy, creativity, and motivation to succeed.


A reflection paper helps scientists talk about their experiences in their projects or practicals. One might talk about their experience on the moon or why a certain project failed or succeeded. They might talk about how it felt like coming up with a cure or the challenges they encountered during a pandemic. Additionally, it helps them know their progress and what changes need to be made.

What To Talk About in a Reflection Paper 

The purpose of a reflection paper is to review or relive experiences. You don’t just recount a story, but take the reader through a journey of growth and discovery. How to write a reflection paper might require you to talk about how an experience impacted your life or what you feel you would have done differently. Similarly, you can also reflect and ask yourself if you made the right or wrong choice. Here are some of the things to consider when you write a reflection paper;

  • An experience you’ll never forget 
  • A time when you made a difficult choice or decision
  • Change period or a turn around point in your life 
  • Analysation of wrong and right decision 
  • Beliefs and personal conflict 
  • Examination of practice placement or a new experience

Guidelines For Writing A Reflection Paper

People have differing writing routines. Some people write after taking a quick shower, and others after listening to their favorite tune. Whichever method you choose, make sure you follow it strictly before writing a reflection paper. Below are guidelines that you need to consider;

  • Look for samples
  • Avoid emphasizing on the deadline
  • Master your sources
  • Be systematic
  • Culminate the writing experience with a catchy introduction
  • Don’t get too personal
  • Avoid colloquial or slangs

Look For Samples

Other students have crafted reflection papers in the past as part of their assignments. Examining their craftsmanship helps you acquire skills and understand some simple-to-follow tricks and methodologies. Therefore, research how to write a reflection paper online and read through them. It will answer a lot of questions you had in mind.

Avoid Emphasizing On The Deadline

Some students over-focus on meeting the deadlines instead of focusing on the paper. It would be best if you had a timeline. Nonetheless, consider focusing on the topic more rather than crafting a vague piece in the name of meeting the deadlines. The writing should focus more on the topic and evoked feelings. 

Master Your Sources

You need to have memorable outstanding materials and readings about your topic. So, take your time and reflect on these sources and understand why they remain memorable and outstanding. For example, if it’s a story, talk about why the story is important and not the others. This is important especially if you are reflecting on a book, an article, or a film.

Be Systematic

Students often make the mistake of writing their reflection essay at a go. There is a need for you to follow a systematic order of events. Therefore, choose a day when you will develop an outline, and then focus on growing or expanding the ideas one at a time. Where possible, set a day for each idea. 

Culminate The Writing Experience With A Catchy Introduction

An introduction is necessary for the reflection essay. Nonetheless, it is best when you craft it last. After developing the body, ensure to write an introduction. Why do I recommend this? This is because the introduction helps the writer understand what the essay is all about. Make sure to snatch the attention of readers through your introductory statements. Also, don’t give a lot of information too soon. The body paragraphs will do the talking.

Don’t Get Too Personal

Even though you are speaking your mind out, you need to remain factual while writing the paper. Therefore, avoid getting personal. Remember, you are writing an academic paper. If you were talking to a friend or a therapist, then maybe things would be a bit different.

Avoid Colloquial Or Slang

A reflection paper is to be written using the first person point of view. As you do this avoid using informal language like yeah, OMG (Oh My God), or even cuss words. As mentioned earlier, you are not talking to your friend. You are doing an academic assignment, try to be as professional as possible and stick to the instructions given.

Steps On How To Write A Reflection Paper

  • Choose a topic
  • Brainstorm on the topic
  • Design an outline
  • Finish up with an introduction and a conclusion
  • Keep it short

Choose A Topic

Your professor is entitled to give a topic for the paper. Nonetheless, there are instances when the professor gives multiple areas to dwell on, and you are to choose one. Always take time to decide what your topic will be to end up picking the best one. 

Brainstorm On The Topic

Sit down and come up with a list of ideas that you think might make a good topic. Check if you have enough information regarding the topics because you wouldn’t want to run out of ideas midway. Then choose an interesting and engaging topic. One that will not only be intriguing to you but to the reader too.

Design An Outline

An outline helps you focus on the ideas you will discuss in your paper without forgetting important stuff. It also gives you a smooth transition from one idea to the other, thus making your work orderly. Similarly, an outline will help you achieve clarity and concision throughout your essay.

Finish Up With An Introduction And A Conclusion

Once you have developed the ideas in your outline, write the introduction. Writing the introduction last helps you avail of the precision and catchiness it necessitates. The conclusion helps the readers understand why they spent time reading the paper. 

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Keep It Short

A reflection paper must be short. It should have a word limit of around 750 words. So, make sure you proofread and edit your work to avoid having grammatical errors and mistakes. Only talk about the necessary information relevant to your topic and if you want to make your essay longer or shorter, this post will be your guide.

How To Write A Reflection Paper Format 

Different types of formats are applied while writing a reflection paper. The word count depends on the instructions from the tutor, but you can have an average of 300 – 700 words.

MLA Format

If you are using the MLA format, consider the following;

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced
  • 1” margins
  • The top right includes last name and page number on every page
  • Titles are centred
  • The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy)
  • The last page includes a Works Cited

APA Format 

The APA format has the following elements;

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced
  • 1” margins
  • Include a page header on the top of every page
  • Insert page number on the right
  • Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References

How To Write A Reflection Paper Outline

As a human, it’s easy to get lost while telling a story. We might have too much information that we forget about other important details. For this reason, an outline will help you stick to the main discussion points of your essay. This way, your work will be clear, organized, and have an easy flow of thoughts.


It is advisable to have one paragraph for your introduction. In this segment, introduce your topic but in a catchy way to hook the reader to your paper. Tell the reader why the topic is important to you, then state your thesis statement. This is the main idea of the essay. In this case, it is a particular experience that influenced you significantly. Remember, everything in your essay should tie back to your thesis statement. Briefly summarize your work without giving too much information too soon. 


The body can have three or more paragraphs depending on the ideas you want to talk about. Let the reader know the focus of your paragraph is. For every point you make about an experience, support it with examples. i.e., explain the impact it had on you if it was positive or negative. The body paragraphs should examine the ideas and experiences you’ve had in context to your topic. Consequently, make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.


A conclusion summarizes the ideas in the entire essay as well as the lessons you learned. Talk about how your attitude and behavior changed, or the knowledge and skills learned. However, do not introduce any new thoughts or ideas at the conclusion. Doing so will confuse the reader.

Dos and Don’ts of How To Write a Reflection Paper 


  • A reflection paper should be as organized as any other type of formal essay. It should have its structure and a systematic flow of ideas making it clear and easy to read
  • For every point you make about an experience or event, support it by describing the impact it had on you and how you felt
  • Write using the first-person narrative, make sure that the tone of your essay is very personal and reflective of your character
  • Be descriptive. Don’t use terms like, I felt good. How did you exactly feel? Create a vivid picture of your experiences
  • Choose your vocabulary carefully to properly convey your feelings and emotions. Be honest with your feelings and opinions
  • Be as honest as you can about the experiences. Don’t lie about something just because you want to finish writing your paper


  • Don’t include all your experiences. You need to be very specific. Therefore, pick the most significant ones. The ones that are relevant to what you are talking about
  • Do not use a reflection paper simply to summarize what you have read or done 
  • A reflection paper should not be a free flow of ideas and thoughts. The aim is to have an organized essay  describing your reactions and analysis to an experience
  • Do not use informal language. Despite the paper being personal it’s still an academic paper. Try your best to retain the professional tone.
  • Overload the paper with too many details and ideas
  • Don’t get too personal and neglect academic requirements


How to write a reflection paper is not as hard as many students think. The most important thing is choosing a topic that brings out the best of your experience and telling the reader the impact it had on your life. For a good essay, stick to the guidelines provided above and remember a reflection essay is important as any other essay. So take your time while drafting and sharing your ideas. Also, be as creative and descriptive as possible. Incorporate the five senses which are sight, sound, smell taste, and touch to have a lively reflection paper.

An Example On How To Write A Reflection Essay

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An example of a reflection essay
How do you start a reflection paper?

The most critical step in writing a reflection paper is determining your topic. This will help you know what experience to talk about. Brainstorming is an essential step that will enable you to come up with a good topic. Then from here, you can formulate your thesis statement.

What a reflection paper should include?

A reflection paper should include your thoughts, feelings, and reactions regarding your personal experience. Talk about what you learned from the experience, how it changed your mind, or how differently you would have approached the situation.

Does a reflection paper need a title?

Yes. A title is important because it lets the reader know what you will be talking about. Remember, your title needs to be relevant to the content of your paper. If it talks about different things, you will confuse the reader for no reason.

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