Tips for Writing Reflective Essays

When writing a reflective essay it is important for the writer to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in respect of certain situations, events, occurrences, or phenomena. Writing an essay of this type is good training in that it helps sharpen the writer’s ability to think critically and it helps them develop the skills to express their opinions on a given topic, one that their instructor assigns to them or they choose themselves.

How to Write a Reflection Paper? A Simple Manual

If you do not know how to write a reflection paper, do not fall into despair. You can always contact your professor and ask him/her for assistance. Alternatively, you can keep reading our article, which is full of tips and secrets that can promote your writing inspiration. We will clearly characterize all aspects of reflection paper writing so that you could follow them and reach academic success. 

Part 1. Brainstorming

  • When writing a reflection essay, brainstorming is the inevitable procedure. It is the process that allows the author to reflect on the previous experience and the lessons achieved.
  • When brainstorming, try to write down everything that comes to your mind regarding the topic. Think what makes these ideas better than others and why they are worth to be mentioned.
  • Keep in mind that these statements should be both descriptive and straight to the point. 
  • In addition, it is recommended to use your course readings and other materials that can be helpful. When using these sources, write down the specific quotations, which can help you develop your topic.
  • If you want to mention some personal experiences in your essay, feel free to make some notes or write down the short summaries of these experiences in order not to miss the important details. When writing about your experiences or feelings, feel free to describe images, sounds, and smells; everything that can help the reader imagine him/herself as the part of your story. 
  • Create the outline. Indeed, a good outline greatly simplifies the writing process. Therefore, smart writers always strive to write the outline first, in which all ideas and thoughts will be organized in the correct order. Having a good reflective essay plan will enable the writer to strictly the main points thoroughly without paying attention to the meaningful details.
  • When writing a critical response to some book or movie, feel free to create a chart. This chart will be very helpful for writing a rough draft of your essay. In the first column, write down all the important points discussed. Their number depends on the length of your essay. In the second column, write down your first reaction to these events. When writing your responses, do not hesitate to mention your personal opinions, beliefs, and experiences that are relevant to the topic discussed. 
  • To make the response clearer and more coherent, ask yourself some questions that will help you shape your response. These questions can be as follows:
  1. Does this book or movie challenge you culturally, socially, emotionally? What are the aspects that catch the attention of your audience?
  2. Has this particular book/movie the power to change the way of thinking? Can it conflict with the beliefs that were established initially?
  3. Does this movie/book leave the audience with some questions? Is it thought-provoking?
  4. Does the author address some controversial issue? What is his/her position towards this issue? Does it coincide with your own position?

Part 2. Organize Your Reflection Paper Properly

The common reflective writing structure coincides with the structure of the classic 5-paragraph essay that requires writing an introduction, main body, and a conclusion.

  • Read the prompt several times paying special attention to word count. Usually, a reflection paper requires writing 300-700 words. If your assignment is different, be sure to follow the instruction given by the professor since word count is the important part of the grading rubric. 
  • The primary stage of reflection paper writing is writing an introduction. In your introduction, you have to explain the choice of the topic and give its brief overview. Some students prefer to include a short summary of the book or the movie that will be discussed in the essay.
  • If you are writing about your personal experience, be sure to write some hook that could engage your reader. You have to invent the effective instrument that would help you make your essay interesting for your target audience.
  • At the end of the introduction, there should be a thesis statement. Usually, it is the main idea of the essay that will be developed throughout the whole paper. 
  • A thesis is the inevitable part of the paper since it provides the author`s writing with the focus. 
  • After the brainstorming process, you have a sheet of paper with several meaningful ideas. When writing your main body, you need to select the most interesting ones and develop them in the separate paragraphs. Each paragraph should start with the topic sentence. 
  • Finally, draw a concrete conclusion that will restate the key ideas discussed in the essay. In other words, your conclusion should describe the overall lesson, feeling, or acknowledgment you got as a result of the reading the book or watching the movie.

Part 3. The Writing Process

Below you will find the effective rules that will help you understand how to write a reflection paper rather effortlessly.

  • Keep in mind that any reflection paper is always an objective expression of personal beliefs, ideas, and opinions. Undoubtedly, you are not a book/movie critic, but your attitude matters. 
  • When writing a reflection essay about yourself, think about the experiences or situations you would not like to mention in your essay. If there are any, make sure not to mention them in your essay to avoid the unpleasant questions.
  • Maintain an academic tone. Although a reflection essay requires expressing your thoughts, you need to keep them clear and concise.
  • Avoid mentioning the thoughts and ideas of other people. It means that if you tell about the personal experience of your friend, you have to tell how his/her experience can be relevant to your own life.
  • Perhaps, a reflection paper is only one academic task, in which the use of the first person is not only allowed but also required.
  • Avoid slang, clichés, and jargon since it significantly undermines the overall quality of the essay. 
  • Correct grammar and punctuation are also the important part of the grading rubric so you should not ignore these aspects. 
  • Use transition words. When writing your reflection paper, do not jump from one idea to another. Move smoothly utilizing the transition words such as: moreover, in addition, what is more, alternatively, nevertheless, and many others. 
  • If would be great if you could incorporate the information from your class readings in your essay. Your professor will be impressed by such a professional approach and evaluate your paper with the high grade.

In conclusion, it should be said that reflective essay writing requires much practice. The more reflective essays you write - the better writer you become. Do not treat this essay as a problem or challenge, but instead, try to treat it as an instrument for the improvement of your writing and critical thinking skills. We do hope that our effective tips helped you understand how to write a reflection paper. If you still find it difficult to understand the peculiarities of this task, feel free to download the free reflection paper templates from the web. Although these papers were already written and submitted by other students, they can serve as the source of your inspiration. Using them as the examples, you will be able to create wonderful reflection papers from scratch. Good luck!