How to Write a Reflection Paper

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A reflective paper is a specific kind of academic writing which requires you to express your thoughts, opinions, and impressions about a certain piece of text or content. It requires you to critically "reflect" upon certain events or experience of reading a particular text or subject matter to analyze it and to formulate an understanding or opinion on it. This is an exhaustive guide for you on how to write a reflection paper.

Kinds of reflective writings

Before you learn how to write a reflection paper, you must know the various kinds of reflective writings that are practiced. It will allow you to grasp what is being expected from you so that you can proceed accordingly.

Primarily, there are two kinds of reflective writings:

1. Educational:

This kind of writing is usually demanded by teachers and professors from their students, to ascertain the thought-process of their students. Teachers often ask reflection papers on a particular book or movie discussed in the class.

They themselves might also provide a topic and ask students to go through some material and come up with unique insights. Educational reflection is aimed towards encouraging and developing individual point-of-view among the students on the fictional or non-fictional subject matter.

2. Professional:

These are common in professional learning programs and courses, such as- management schools, nursing training, forensics, etc. Here the expectation from trainees is to reflect upon their experience in that particular field of profession and determine how it compares to what they have learned in the class.

The point of professional reflective writing is to equip students with critical thinking so that they can comprehend the connection between theoretical knowledge and its practical implications. Professional reflection papers help in assessing the merits of theories and principles by relating them with personal experience of their utility in real-world scenarios.

What is expected from a good reflection paper?

Remember that whether you are writing an educational reflection or a professional one, your approach towards writing must prioritize your observations and inferences. A reflective paper enhances your skills in critical analysis and assessment. These skills rely upon awareness and empathy on issues that affect not just your immediate surroundings but the culture at large.

Reflection papers provide an exceptional opportunity for you to delve into your thoughts, preferences, and decisions, and reflect upon the resulting victories and failures that you experienced. You must aim for growth in your perception throughout this process. Now that you are aware of what is expected of you, the following steps will teach you how to write a reflection paper.

Choose a topic

Reflection papers are academic and the topic is usually assigned in the form of a book, or a movie, or a piece of text from the curriculum or outside. Sometimes, a range of topics is provided to choose from. However, if the choice is yours to make, then you must remember to focus on your insights and observations to overcome this conundrum.

Narrow down the particular themes that you can cover or explain through your own unique prism. Brainstorming through mind-mapping will help you find new ideas for your topic and develop a structure for you to follow.

Use mind-mapping to create an outline

Mind-map is used to visually articulate one's inner thought process. You can draw a mind-map to create a rough outline of your primary thoughts and ideas around the topic. This will invigorate your creativity and you will be able to weave many more ideas and opinions around the initial thread.

You can use a pen and paper or you can utilize software to design a mind-map. It will help you accumulate your thoughts and will provide direction and symmetry. The usual structure followed is Introduction(including thesis statement)-Body-Conclusion. Proceed to construct your outline accordingly.

Mind-maps works as a great format for outlines. Not only they provide a colorful visual outlet to enhance your ideas, but it also streamlines your vein of thought to ensure your writing remains focused and specific and does not derail from the topic.

Use mind-maps to develop material

Mind-map will help you to keep track of your ideas. First, write the name of your topic in the middle of the map. Then, note down your premier ideas or key experiences related to the subject matter on one side.

For instance, if you are reflecting on a book, remember to include anything that the author emphasized upon. Any specific theme that the author seemed to have underlined again and again throughout the book, must be taken into consideration. Make it a point to include all specific details.

 Second, proceed by writing down the lesson or takeaway you gathered  from those themes that you have initially listed, on the other side of the map. Lastly, start connecting those two set of ideas, and formulate new insights as you go on.

Express how your subjective point-of-view and personal value system got influenced in response to the book. Remember each has his own method to brainstorm for an essay. Mind-maps make it easy for you to move forward.

Start drafting

Once you have gathered enough material and figured out your structure, you can go ahead and start writing. There are some crucial aspects to keep in mind while writing your first draft:-

1. A reflection paper should be contextual:

Your writing must not meander from the core themes and concepts of the subject matter. Whether you are writing an educational reflection paper or a professional one, it is key to keep the reflection focused upon the contents of the subject matter. Even your insights and observations must reflect on how you have contextualized the topic to develop an understanding and gain perspective.

2. A reflection paper should be informative:

You must convey all the relevant information about the topic in a coherent and congruent manner. Reflection paper does include personal insights but it is at the end of the day an academic paper. This means they should explain things gradually starting from the basics, considering the reader to not be well-informed about the topic.

3. A reflection paper should be formal:

You must pay attention to the kind of language you use while writing the reflection paper. Due to its focus on personal observations and insights, your writing may slip into the terrain of informal language. However, you should make sure to not let that happen. There is no place for slang and abbreviations in a well-written reflection paper.

4. The takeaway is of utmost importance:

The primary goal of writing a reflection paper is to stimulate critical thinking to achieve growth in overall thought-process. That puts the spotlight on the conclusion of the paper. Your writing must be oriented towards achieving some kind of catharsis. The lesson you learned while undergoing this process of deep-thinking and deliberation is the crux of your paper. An eye-opening takeaway is what makes this endeavor worthwhile.

5. Keep it short:

The word count of a conventional reflection paper ranges from 300 to 700 words. Usually, a reflection paper should be crisp and clear and must not under any circumstances, be more than 750 words. However, if you have received specific instructions from your teacher or professor regarding the length of the paper, then, of course, that would be your blueprint to follow.

Revise, Proofread and Edit

Once you are done writing, the last step is to thoroughly revise by proofreading the paper yourself. You must go through the paper at least 2 to 3 times carefully to gauge the quality of your writing. If possible, try to finish writing the paper a few days before the deadline. In this way, you will manage to create some distance when you revisit the paper before submission. This gap will allow you to have a fresh perspective. This will help you to critically review your writing with comparatively greater objectivity. You will be able to scrutinize and edit parts that are inconsistent or unnecessary.


All the steps mentioned above underlines a few characteristics that are imperative for quality reflective writing. First, is the principal focus on highlighting the themes of a given text by relating it to personal experience and observations. The second is to convey that gained perspective to the reader in an informative and formal manner. But you must know that the development of critical analysis and thinking is why you must learnhow to write a reflection paper.