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Language of academic reflections
Guidance on the language of academic reflections.
Private reflections only have to make sense to you and therefore the language and structure can take any form you like. In contrast, academic reflections have certain characteristics; knowing these will help you write good academic reflections. While this page is specifically focused on academic reflective writing, a lot of the advice is true for private reflections as well.
General language points
- Use ‘I’ and other personal pronouns (reflections are centred around you)
- Use subject-specific language and terminology (use the same language as you would in an essay, just centred around your own experiences)
- Use succinct and formal language
Language points for specific aspects of reflective writing
A summary of key points to remember at different stages of reflection:
- When describing
- When writing about thoughts and feelings
- When analysing/interpreting/evaluating
- When concluding and planning
Language points when describing
- Use clear and precise language. For example, use ‘working on a group project on […] with three other students’ rather than ‘working on a group project with some other students’
- Be as objective as possible. For example ‘The younger children were hanging out at the corner’ rather than ‘the younger children were barricading the corner’ – It may have felt that way but was that actually their intent? If it felt that way, the feelings should be expressed explicitly.
- Be concise.
- Almost always use the past tense.
- Use temporal indicators and transitional language. For example: yesterday, last week, then, subsequently, lastly, etc.
Helpful phrases are ‘I saw…’, ‘I noticed…’, ‘I/they said…’, ‘I had…’, ‘I/they did…’, ‘I heard…’
Language points when writing about thoughts and feelings
- Use thinking and sensing verbs. For example, ‘I believe…’, ‘I think…’, ‘My opinion is…’, ‘I feel…’, ‘I understand…’, ‘I was happy/angry/…’ etc.
- Be cautious not to use ‘feel’ to hide judgement or opinion. For instance ‘I felt they were wrong’, or ‘my feeling was that it was a good choice’. Both of these sentences use feelings as a way to pass judgement. The latter of the examples can be rewritten as ‘I felt confident while making the choice, because…’
- Be aware of tense. Sometimes you are remembering feelings you had at the time of the event, which should be written in past tense. Sometimes you are talking about current and persistent feelings. Use present tense for feelings you have at the time of writing.
- Feelings should be processed. For academic reflection you should not write in the heat of the moment. The feelings should be presented to aid the understanding of the situation and help you to make connections – this is not a place to rant.
Language points when analysing/interpreting/evaluating
- Use comparative/contrasting language. For instance, ‘similarly’, ‘unlike’, ‘just as’, ‘in contrast to’.
- Use causal language to show connects and conclusion. For instance, ‘as a result of’, ‘due to’, ‘therefore’, ‘because’.
Below is a downloadable flow diagram of useful language for creating the analysing, interpreting, and evaluating part of your academic reflections . It is important to note that just because you use the diagrams, you will not automatically produce good reflections and get a good mark. The diagrams can serve as inspiration and support.
Language points when concluding and planning
- Sum up/highlight the most crucial learning outcomes.
- Use future-tense verbs to indicate future actions or practice. For instance: ‘intend to’, ‘will’, ‘may’, ‘should’, etc.
Below is a downloadable flow diagram of useful language for creating the conclusion and planning aspect of your academic reflections . It is important to note that just because you use the diagrams, you will not automatically produce good reflections and get a good mark. The diagrams can serve as inspiration and support.
Ryan, M., 2011. Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 99-111.
University of Portsmouth, Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (date unavailable). Reflective Writing: a basic introduction [online]. Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.
Queen Margaret University, Effective Learning Service (date unavailable). Reflection. [online]. Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.
- Cambridge Libraries
Reflective practice toolkit, introduction.
- What is reflective practice?
- Everyday reflection
- Models of reflection
- Barriers to reflection
- Free writing
- Reflective writing exercise
Many people worry that they will be unable to write reflectively but chances are that you do it more than you think! It's a common task during both work and study from appraisal and planning documents to recording observations at the end of a module. The following pages will guide you through some simple techniques for reflective writing as well as how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
What is reflective writing?
Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.
The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience.
Reflective writing is...
- Written in the first person
- Free flowing
- A tool to challenge assumptions
- A time investment
Reflective writing isn't...
- Written in the third person
- What you think you should write
- A tool to ignore assumptions
- A waste of time
Adapted from The Reflective Practice Guide: an Interdisciplinary Approach / Barbara Bassot.
You can learn more about reflective writing in this handy video from Hull University:
Created by SkillsTeamHullUni
- Hull reflective writing video transcript (Word)
- Hull reflective writing video transcript (PDF)
Where might you use reflective writing?
You can use reflective writing in many aspects of your work, study and even everyday life. The activities below all contain some aspect of reflective writing and are common to many people:
1. Job applications
Both preparing for and writing job applications contain elements of reflective writing. You need to think about the experience that makes you suitable for a role and this means reflection on the skills you have developed and how they might relate to the specification. When writing your application you need to expand on what you have done and explain what you have learnt and why this matters - key elements of reflective writing.
In a similar way, undertaking an appraisal is a good time to reflect back on a certain period of time in post. You might be asked to record what went well and why as well as identifying areas for improvement.
3. Written feedback
If you have made a purchase recently you are likely to have received a request for feedback. When you leave a review of a product or service online then you need to think about the pros and cons. You may also have gone into detail about why the product was so good or the service was so bad so other people know how to judge it in the future.
Blogs are a place to offer your own opinion and can be a really good place to do some reflective writing. Blogger often take a view on something and use their site as a way to share it with the world. They will often talk about the reasons why they like/dislike something - classic reflective writing.
5. During the research process
When researchers are working on a project they will often think about they way they are working and how it could be improved as well as considering different approaches to achieve their research goal. They will often record this in some way such as in a lab book and this questioning approach is a form of reflective writing.
6. In academic writing
Many students will be asked to include some form of reflection in an academic assignment, for example when relating a topic to their real life circumstances. They are also often asked to think about their opinion on or reactions to texts and other research and write about this in their own work.
Think about ... When you reflect
Think about all of the activities you do on a daily basis. Do any of these contain elements of reflective writing? Make a list of all the times you have written something reflective over the last month - it will be longer than you think!
A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience. Think about some of the phrases below and try to use them when writing reflectively to help you avoid this problem:
- The most important thing was...
- At the time I felt...
- This was likely due to...
- After thinking about it...
- I learned that...
- I need to know more about...
- Later I realised...
- This was because...
- This was like...
- I wonder what would happen if...
- I'm still unsure about...
- My next steps are...
Always try and write in the first person when writing reflectively. This will help you to focus on your thoughts/feelings/experiences rather than just a description of the experience.
Using reflective writing in your academic work
Many courses will also expect you to reflect on your own learning as you progress through a particular programme. You may be asked to keep some type of reflective journal or diary. Depending on the needs of your course this may or may not be assessed but if you are using one it's important to write reflectively. This can help you to look back and see how your thinking has evolved over time - something useful for job applications in the future. Students at all levels may also be asked to reflect on the work of others, either as part of a group project or through peer review of their work. This requires a slightly different approach to reflection as you are not focused on your own work but again this is a useful skill to develop for the workplace.
You can see some useful examples of reflective writing in academia from Monash University , UNSW (the University of New South Wales) and Sage . Several of these examples also include feedback from tutors which you can use to inform your own work.
Laptop/computer/broswer/research by StockSnap via Pixabay licenced under CC0.
Now that you have a better idea of what reflective writing is and how it can be used it's time to practice some techniques.
This page has given you an understanding of what reflective writing is and where it can be used in both work and study. Now that you have a better idea of how reflective writing works the next two pages will guide you through some activities you can use to get started.
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- Last Updated: Jun 21, 2023 3:24 PM
- URL: https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/reflectivepracticetoolkit
Strategic enrollment management and student success, reflective writing, breaking the blank page: how to get started with reflective writing in college, what is reflection.
A personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information. There is no right or wrong way to respond.
Reflection is not:
- A summary of course notes
- Only information about descriptions of events/experiences
- A simple decision about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong
Why should I care?
You will find reflective writing in:
- Service learning courses and internships
- Classroom assignments
- Cover letters for jobs
Where do I start?
Well, that depends on your prompt! Here is an example prompt that you may need to answer for a personal essay, or as part of an assignment for a service learning position or internship:
Describe a major challenge that you have had to face and the steps you took to overcome the challenge. How has confronting the challenge made you a better person, student, or employee?
In a reflective writing prompt, certain phrases will tell you to provide a personal response. These phrase are bolded because they ask for a description about what has changed or what has been learned.
Questions to think about
Once you have decided which challenge you would like to talk about in your paper, you have some important questions to think about.
- What did I learn?
- How did my views change?
- Is this important to me? Why or why not?
- Did anything surprise me? Why or why not?
Once you have reflected on the experience or information requested by the prompt, you can start to create sentences for your essay!
Reflective sentence templates and examples
Reflective Essay Introduction
Your introduction is a chance to share a key idea and something about yourself.
- Before ____, I had never ____. = Before my internship, I had never worked in an office.
- ____ provided me with valuable experiences in ____ = An internship with Capital One provided me with valuable experiences in an office setting.
Reflective Essay Body
Here are some examples of how you might build reflect phrases in the body of your reflective essay.
- I have + improved + my ability to ______ = I have improved my ability to communicate.
- Having + learned _____, + I now + realize _______ = Having learned how to organize files, I now realize I enjoy it.
- I have + developed + my knowledge of _______ = I have developed my knowledge of how an office runs.
- This knowledge + is + important + to me in the workplace because ______ = This knowledge is important to me in the workplace because I will know what to expect.
Reflective Essay Conclusion
Your conclusion is a chance to sum up your reflective essay.
- Now that I have completed _____, I have new _____ skills. = Now that I have completed my internship at VCU, I have new office skills.
- I am grateful for _____ and for my experiences in _____. = I am grateful for my internship with Capital One and for my experiences in an office setting.
How to Write a Reflective Essay
You’re probably used to responding to different sources in essays. For example, in an academic essay, you might compare two books’ themes, argue for or against a position, analyze a piece of literature, or persuade the reader with facts and statistics.
In one way, a reflective essay is similar to an academic essay. Like an academic essay, a reflective essay can discuss ideas and concepts from books, literature, essays, or articles. However, unlike an academic essay, it focuses on how your personal experience relates to these things.
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What is a reflective essay?
Reflective essays are a type of personal essay in which the writer examines a topic through the lens of their unique perspective. Reflective essays are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and don’t require academic sources. The purpose of a reflective essay is to explore and share the author’s thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.
Reflective essays are often written for college applications and cover letters as a way for the writer to discuss their background and demonstrate how these experiences shaped them into an ideal candidate. For example, a college applicant might write a reflective essay about how moving every few years because of their parent’s military service impacted their concept of home.
Sometimes, reflective essays are academic assignments. For example, a student may be assigned to watch a film or visit a museum exhibition and write a reflective essay about the film or exhibition’s themes. Reflective essays can also be pieces of personal writing, such as blog posts or journal entries.
Reflective essay vs. narrative essay
There are a few similarities between reflective essays and narrative essays. Both are personal pieces of writing in which the author explores their thoughts about their experiences. But here’s the main difference: While a narrative essay focuses on a story about events in the author’s life, a reflective essay focuses on the changes the author underwent because of those events. A narrative essay has many of the same elements as a fictional story: setting, characters, plot, and conflict. A reflective essay gets granular about the circumstances and changes driven by the conflict and doesn’t necessarily aim to tell a full story.
Reflective essays based on academic material
You might be assigned to write a reflective essay on an academic text, such as an essay, a book, or an article. Unlike a reflective essay about your own personal experiences, this type of reflective essay involves analysis and interpretation of the material. However, unlike in an analytical essay , the position you support is informed by your own opinion and perspective rather than solely by the text.
How to choose a topic
A reflective essay can be about any topic. By definition, a reflective essay is an essay where the writer describes an event or experience (or series of events or experiences) and then discusses and analyzes the lessons they derived from their experience. This experience can be about anything , whether big life events like moving to a new country or smaller experiences like trying sushi for the first time. The topic can be serious, lighthearted, poignant, or simply entertaining.
If your reflective essay is for an assignment or an application, you might be given a topic. In some cases, you might be given a broad area or keyword and then have to develop your own topic related to those things. In other cases, you might not be given anything. No matter which is the case for your essay, there are a few ways to explore reflective essay ideas and develop your topic.
Freewriting is a writing exercise where you simply write whatever comes to mind for a fixed period of time without worrying about grammar or structure or even writing something coherent. The goal is to get your ideas onto paper and explore them creatively, and by removing the pressure to write something submittable, you’re giving yourself more room to play with these ideas.
Make a mind map
A mind map is a diagram that shows the relationships between ideas, events, and other words related to one central concept. For example, a mind map for the word book might branch into the following words: fiction , nonfiction , digital , hardcover . Each of these words then branches to subtopics. These subtopics further branch to subtopics of their own, demonstrating just how deep you can explore a subject.
Creating a mind map can be a helpful way to explore your thoughts and feelings about the experience you discuss in your essay.
You can find inspiration for a reflective essay from any part of your life. Think about an experience that shifted your worldview or dramatically changed your daily routine. Or you can focus on the smaller, even mundane, parts of life like your weekly cleaning routine or trips to the grocery store. In a reflective essay, you don’t just describe experiences; you explore how they shape you and your feelings.
Reflective essay outline
A reflective essay’s introduction paragraph needs to include:
- A thesis statement
The hook is the sentence that catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more. This can be an unexpected fact, an intriguing statistic, a left-field observation, or a question that gets the reader’s mind thinking about the essay’s topic.
The thesis statement is a concise statement that introduces the reader to the essay’s topic . A thesis statement clearly spells out the topic and gives the reader context for the rest of the essay they’re about to read.
These aren’t all the things that a reflective essay’s introduction needs, however. This paragraph needs to effectively introduce the topic, which often means introducing a few of the ideas discussed in the essay’s body paragraphs alongside the hook and thesis statement.
Your essay’s body paragraphs are where you actually explore the experience you’re reflecting on. You might compare experiences, describe scenes and your emotions following them, recount interactions, and contrast it with any expectations you had beforehand.
Unless you’re writing for a specific assignment, there’s no required number of body paragraphs for your reflective essay. Generally, authors write three body paragraphs, but if your essay needs only two—or it needs four or five—to fully communicate your experience and reflection, that’s perfectly fine.
In the final section, tie up any loose ends from the essay’s body paragraphs. Mention your thesis statement in the conclusion, either by restating it or paraphrasing it. Give the reader a sense of completion by including a final thought or two. However, these thoughts should reflect statements you made in the body paragraphs rather than introduce anything new to the essay. Your conclusion should also clearly share how the experience or events you discussed affected you (and, if applicable, continue to do so).
6 tips for writing a reflective essay
1 choose a tone.
Before you begin to write your reflective essay, choose a tone . Because a reflective essay is more personal than an academic essay, you don’t need to use a strict, formal tone. You can also use personal pronouns like I and me in your essay because this essay is about your personal experiences.
2 Be mindful of length
Generally, five hundred to one thousand words is an appropriate length for a reflective essay. If it’s a personal piece, it may be longer.
You might be required to keep your essay within a general word count if it’s an assignment or part of an application. When this is the case, be mindful to stick to the word count—writing too little or too much can have a negative impact on your grade or your candidacy.
3 Stay on topic
A reflective essay reflects on a single topic. Whether that topic is a one-off event or a recurring experience in your life, it’s important to keep your writing focused on that topic.
4 Be clear and concise
In a reflective essay, introspection and vivid imagery are assets. However, the essay’s language should remain concise , and its structure should follow a logical narrative.
5 Stay professional
Although you aren’t bound to a formal tone, it’s generally best to use a professional tone in your reflective writing. Avoid using slang or overly familiar language, especially if your reflective essay is part of a college or job application .
Before you hit “send” or “submit,” be sure to proofread your work. For this last read-through, you should be focused on catching any spelling or grammatical mistakes you might have missed.
Reflective essay FAQs
Reflective essays are a type of personal essay that examines a topic through the lens of thewriter’s unique perspective. They are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and don’t require academic sources.
What’s the difference between a reflective essay and a narrative essay?
While a reflective essay focuses on its author’s feelings and perspectives surrounding events they’ve experienced or texts they’ve read, a narrative essay tells a story. A narrative essay might show changes the author underwent through the same conventions a fictional story uses to show character growth; a reflective essay discusses this growth more explicitly and explores it in depth.
What are example topics for a reflective essay?
- Moving abroad and adapting to the local culture
- Recovering from an athletic injury
- Weekly phone conversations with your grandmother
- The funniest joke you ever heard (and what made it so funny)
Introduction to Reflection
Language for writing academic reflections
An academic reflection is different to a personal reflection as it’s likely it will be read by someone else and presented for grading as a part of a module assignment. As academic reflections have to make sense to other people, they need to follow a structure and use language that a reader can follow without you being there to explain it.
Academic reflections share certain characteristics with academic essays, in that they require further reading, evidence and referencing. However, in some aspects they differ, such as using both the 1st and 3rd person.
Reflections pass through 3 main stages: Description, analysis & planning
Description involves Who, When, What, Where. What also includes thoughts, feelings and emotions.
The pointers below are a guide to writing Academic Reflections.
- Use the 1st person (“I”, “my” and other personal pronouns) when describing yourself and your responses. Reflections are centred on your experiences.
- Use the 3rd person (“he”, “she”, “it”) when describing others’ roles and responses to events.
- Use proper nouns (names) and 3rd person (Diaz, “the researchers”, “the author”, “he”, “she”) when evaluating and including evidence from the literature. This is the same as a traditional essay.
- Use the 3rd person when evaluating literature e.g. “evidence suggests that my experience was typical of...” rather than “I think this is normal because I’ve read the same story...”
- Use discipline-specific terminology and language that is suitable for discussing your subject with sufficient academic rigour.
- Use clear and precise language. Be specific as often as possible e.g. “3 young men aged around 14 to 16 came in the front door” rather than “a group of youths entered the building”.
- Remain as objective as possible , and resist using language that implies bias e.g. “patient X held the nurse’s look for a few seconds” rather than “patient X glared at the nurse”. It may have felt as though the patient was glaring, but was that their intention? Was that how the nurse received the look? Learn to separate description of actions from the feelings they evoke. Feelings should be expressed separately and explicitly from the description of events.
- Be concise.
- Use the past tense (usually).
- Use temporal indicators and transitional language. E.g. yesterday, last week, then, subsequently, lastly, etc.
Helpful phrases are “I saw…”, “I noticed…”, “I/they said…”, "I had…", "I/they did…", "I heard…"
- Use thinking and sensing verbs. For example, "I believe…", "I think…", "My opinion is…", "I feel…", "I understand…", "I was happy/angry/…" etc. For a comprehensive list of Feelings words, see here .
- Be cautious not to use "feel" to hide judgement or opinion. For instance "I felt they were wrong", or "my feeling was that it was a good choice". Both of these sentences use feelings as a way to pass judgement. The latter of the examples can be rewritten as "I felt confident while making the choice, because…"
- Be aware of tense. Sometimes you are remembering feelings you had at the time of the event, which should be written in past tense. Sometimes you are talking about current and persistent feelings. Use present tense for feelings you have at the time of writing.
- Feelings should already be processed. For academic reflection you should not write in the heat of the moment. The feelings presented should aid the reader’s understanding of the situation and help you to make connections to future actions.
- Use comparative/contrasting language. For instance, "similarly", "unlike", "just as", "in contrast to".
- Use causal language to show connection and conclusion. For instance, "as a result of", "due to", "therefore", "because".
- Here is a flow diagram of useful language for analysing, interpreting, and evaluating events as a part of your academic reflection.
- Sum up/highlight the most crucial learning outcomes.
- Use future-tense verbs to indicate future actions or practice. For instance: "intend to", "will", "may", "should", etc.
- Here is a flow diagram of useful language for writing the conclusion and planning aspect of your academic reflections.
From: McCabe, G. and Thejll-Madsen, T. (2018) “Language of Academic Reflections”. Reflection Toolkit. Available at: https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/producing-reflections/academic-reflections/language (Accessed: 16th March 2022)
Ryan, M. (2011) "Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective." Teaching in Higher Education , 16(1). Pp. 99-111.
University of Portsmouth, Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (no date). Reflective Writing: a basic introduction [online]. Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth. Available at: https://capstone.unst.pdx.edu/sites/default/files/Reflective-writing---a-basic-intro_0.pdf. (Accessed: 22nd March 2022)
Queen Margaret University, Effective Learning Service (no date). Reflection . [online]. Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University. Available at: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/study-here/student-services/effective-learning-service-els/reflection/. (Accessed: 22nd March 2022)
Language for linking experience to theory
For academic reflection it’s important to identify areas of your experiences that connect to theory you’ve learned on your course or from your further reading. This type of academic reflection is similar to writing a case study, where a specific experience becomes the framework for more generalised learning.
Firstly, identify elements of the experience that may have been experienced by other people before, e.g. nerves on your first day of placement.
Consider how you might find literature about different aspects of this experience e.g. by searching for “placement anxiety” on LibrarySearch
Reading around the subject will help you discover whether this phenomenon has been researched and whether there are relevant theories that can offer a different perspective on the original experience.
When you come to write your reflection, you need to integrate personal experience with impersonal theory and draw conclusions. There are 2 main ways to do this:
Experience > Link > Theory
Theory > Link > Experience
This example relates to a memory of joining a school sports team as a 10 year old.
Roger’s (1983) theory of the Unitary Human relates to my experience …
Insight into the challenges I experienced can be gained from Roger’s (1983) Unitary Human theory...
Judy’s case can be analysed using Leininger’s (1985) Culture Care theory…
Leininger’s work in transcultural nursing, particularly her Culture Care theory, can help explain Judy’s experiences...
Where you have been
Where you are now, related links, © 2021. this work is licensed under a cc by-nc-sa 4.0 license..
Reflective writing introduction
Develop your writing style
Find out what reflective writing is and how to use it in your assignments.
Reflective assignments are different to standard essays. Here we'll cover some key elements for you to consider when writing reflectively.
There are many models of reflection you can use in an assignment. Here we discuss some basic guidance for reflective writing but you should follow any additional guidelines you've been given on your course or module to meet your course requirements.
What is reflective writing?
- looks back at past experience to perform better in the future
- analyses, explores and explains what happened and why
- usually incorporates models or theory
- uses academic language
- considers strengths, weaknesses, anxieties and errors — you can use personal language such as 'I' and 'we' to talk about observations, emotions and feelings
- is constructively criticising yourself, an event and others
- requires evidence to support what you are saying such as things that have been said or done, their causes and their effects — so you need clear records of the events and your thoughts
Thinking reflectively involves:
- Thinking about what was done. Analyse the event by thinking in depth from different perspectives. Use subject theory, reflective models and personal insight. The critical evaluation you make of your and others’ actions should be applied to future events.
- Thinking about what happened, what did and didn’t work, and what you think about it.
- Critically evaluating what you would do differently in the future and explain why.
Reflective writing structure
Non-academic reflective writing is usually unstructured – such as writing in a personal diary, learning journal, or narrative for design development. You should structure your reflective assignments. There are lots of ways to structure your reflective writing, but we explore one example here.
Reflection usually has the following major components:
- Introduction : the event, incident or topic
- Description and problematisation of the event
- Cause and effect of the critical event — don't write too much description at this stage
- Explain and critique what happened, what are you trying to resolve here, what you have learnt and how you would move forwards
Reflective writing example
This example of basic reflective writing can be split into three parts: description, interpretation and outcome. See how the example paragraph is broken into these three sections below the text. Full example text:
Specific tasks were shared out amongst members of my team. However, the tasks were not seen as equally difficult by all team members. Consequently, the perception of unfairness impacted on our interactions. Social interdependence theory recognises a type of group interaction called “positive interdependence” (Johnson & Johnson, 2008, cited by Maughan & Webb, 2010) and many studies demonstrate that learning can be improved through cooperation (Maughan & Webb, 2010). We did not experience these with the initial task allocation. Nonetheless, we achieved a successful outcome through further negotiation. Therefore, we found that “cooperative learning experiences encourage higher achievement.” (Maughan & Webb, 2010). To improve the process in future, perhaps we could elect a chairperson to help encourage cooperation when tasks are being allocated.
Descriptions tend to be short – they explain what happened and what is being examined. For example:
Specific tasks were shared out amongst members of my team. However, the tasks were not seen as equally difficult by all team members.
Intrepretation can include what is most important, interesting, useful or relevant about the object, event or idea. It could include how it can be explained, such as with theory. For example:
Consequently, the perception of unfairness impacted on our interactions. Social interdependence theory recognises a type of group interaction called “positive interdependence” (Johnson & Johnson, 2008, cited by Maughan & Webb, 2010) and many studies demonstrate that learning can be improved through cooperation (Maughan & Webb, 2010). We did not experience these with the initial task allocation.
The outcome should cover what you've learnt from your experience and what it means for your future. For example:
Nonetheless, we achieved a successful outcome through further negotiation. Therefore, we found that “cooperative learning experiences encourage higher achievement.” (Maughan & Webb, 2010). To improve the process in future, perhaps we could elect a chairperson to help encourage cooperation when tasks are being allocated.
Useful reflective vocabulary
Below are some words and phrases to help improve your reflective writing.
You may need to talk about events, ideas or objects in your reflective writing. You can use a range of vocabulary to describe these items so there isn't any specific vocabulary for this section.
You should use the present tense to describe your idea, theory or model.
You can open personal statements with phrases like: 'For me', 'I found that', 'I felt that', or 'I believe...'. You also need to give your reasoning or evidence.
Interpreting the importance or value of something:
Clarifying the nature of the learning point or points:
Looking back and to referring to development over time:
- at the time
Expressing your personal viewpoint, behaviour or action:
- did not think
- did not feel
- did not notice
- did not question
- did not realise
- did something
- did not do something
- did not expect
Highlighting similarity and difference:
- this is similar to
- differs from
Words and phrases for academic caution:
- this might be
- is probably
- may be seen as
Introducing reasoning or evidence:
- may be explained by
- is related to
Describing the nature of your reflection:
- having read
Explaining what you learnt from your reflection:
Emphasis and the degree of understanding you've gained:.
- most importantly
- I have improved
- I have slightly developed
Expressing what you have gained from the experience:
- knowledge of
Expressing its future value:
- this knowledge, understanding or skill / is, could be, or will be / essential; important; useful / as a learner or practitioner because
- have not yet
- am not yet certain about
- am not yet confident about
- do not yet know
- do not yet understand
Words and phrases for what applying your learning to the future:
- I will now need to
- in a future similar situation, I would
- I need to further develop my knowledge
- my responses would be different
Johnson, D., and Johnson, F. (2008). Joining together: group theory and group skills. New York: Pearson.
Maughan, C., and Webb, J. (2010). Small group learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://18.104.22.168/archive/law/resources/teaching-and-learning-practices/groups/index.html.
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Reflective Practice & Reflective Writing
- What is Reflective Practice
- Barriers to Reflecting
- Models of Reflection
- Reflection for Learning
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Getting Started with Reflective Writing
Unsure how to get started with reflective writing.
Or have questions about any of the resources in this guide..
- The Reflection Toolkit provides a useful guide for those engaged in reflection, or facilitating reflection in others.
- A Short Guide to Reflective Writing outlines what reflective practice is, why we reflect and how to do it.
- A website for all types of academic writing, including reflective writing. Includes some examples of reflective writing.
- The Structure of Refle ctive Writing is an activity based website designed to familiarise you with the reflective process and get your started.
- Academic Phrasebank is a useful resources for academic writing. Providing phrases and general academic vocabulary. For example, how to discuss results,introduce quotes and transitional words and sentences.
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Examples of Reflective Writing
Types of reflective writing assignments.
A journal requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
A reflective note is often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
An essay diary can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
a peer review usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
A self-assessment task requires you to comment on your own work.
Some examples of reflective writing
Social science fieldwork report (methods section), engineering design report, learning journal (weekly reflection).
Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting , Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner , Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.
Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required.
Essay and assignment writing guide
- Essay writing basics
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- How do I write reflectively?
- Examples of reflective writing
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Reflective Essay Writing
Reflective Essay: Step-by-Step Guide with Examples & Tips
Published on: Apr 27, 2019
Last updated on: Oct 16, 2023
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Thought and reflection are a major part of our inner lives. Whenever we engage with art and literature or experience anything novel, we tend to reflect on it later.
What if we write our reflections down in a structured way? That is a reflective essay.
Among various types of essays , reflective essays stand out for being the most personal form of writing. Reflective writing lets you explore your thoughts and experiences about something and gain profound insights into yourself and the world around you.
So how can you write a great reflective essay? Read on to understand reflective essays better with examples and get useful tips.
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What is a Reflective Essay?
A reflective essay is a type of writing where a writer explores their thoughts, feelings, and observations about a personal experience. These essays are deeply subjective, personal, and introspective.
At its core, a reflective essay prompts you to answer the question: "How did a particular experience impact me?" Unlike narrative or descriptive writing, reflective essays are not just about recounting events. The goal is to analyze and interpret the event with your unique perspective and insights.
In addition, reflective essays do not require you to provide external evidence or validation, nor do you have to argue or prove something. However, it's important to follow a structured approach that allows you to organize your thoughts and engage your readers.
So what is that structured approach to writing a reflective essay? Read below.
How to Write a Reflective Essay?
Writing a reflective essay can become a lot easier if you follow a structured writing process. It allows you to effectively communicate your insights to your audience.
Here is a step-by-step process to start a reflective essay:
Step 1: Brainstorm and Choose a Topic
Begin by brainstorming a specific event, experience, or topic to reflect upon. It could be a personal experience, a book you've read, a class you've taken, or a significant life event.
Here are some helpful tips for choosing a topic:
- Think about your personal experiences and select a topic that resonates with you and offers room for reflection.
- Consider which one is most relevant to the purpose of your reflective essay.
- Choose a topic that holds personal significance and allows you to explore and convey meaningful insights.
Step 2: Reflect Deeply & Gather Your Thoughts
Unlike other types of academic essays, reflection papers do not demand research or gathering sources. The source material for the essay can be found in your own thoughts.
You can write down your thoughts in the form of a bulleted list, mind mapping, or other forms of note-taking. Take time to immerse yourself in the experience and consider its various aspects, including:
- Specific details, emotions, and observations from the event or experience.
- Your initial reactions and thoughts at the time. Recall how the experience affected you and what you learned.
You don’t have to write down complete sentences yet, you can simply note down keywords and phrases.
Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts
To ensure a coherent and logical essay, organize the points you’ve gathered in an outline. The outline should clarify these aspects:
- A clear thesis statement that indicates the main idea of the essay.
- Body paragraphs that explore different aspects of your reflection, organized in a logical sequence.
- Key points, experiences, and insights you want to include in each paragraph.
This is the last step of your pre-writing preparation. With an organized outline for your essay, you have everything you need to start writing.
Learn more about crafting efficient outlines in our reflective essay outline guide
Step 4: Write Your First Draft
With your outline in hand, start writing your first draft. Follow your organizational structure and express your thoughts and experiences clearly and concisely. As you write:
- Maintain a reflective and personal tone, as this is a chance to express your thoughts and emotions.
- Use specific examples, anecdotes, and details to illustrate your points.
- Ensure that each paragraph flows logically to the next, creating a smooth reading experience.
Don't worry too much about perfection at this stage; the first draft is about getting your thoughts on paper.
Step 5: Proofread and Revise
After completing your first draft, take a break before revising. Returning to your essay with fresh eyes will help you identify areas for improvement. During the revision process:
- Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
- Ensure clarity and coherence in your writing.
- Review the flow of your essay to ensure that it logically progresses from introduction to conclusion. Paragraphs should be connected to each other through transition phrases.
- Trim unnecessary or repetitive content and add details or insights where needed.
By following these five steps, you'll be well on your way to crafting a well-organized and impactful reflective essay.
Reflective Essay Structure
A reflective essay typically follows a standard structure that includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Let’s delve into each of these parts here.
Reflective Essay Introduction
The introduction aims to draw the reader in by catching their interest and providing some context to the topic. A good introduction clearly indicates the subject and type of essay and tells the readers what to expect ahead.
Follow the tips below to craft an engaging introduction.
- Start with a hook or an intriguing opening sentence to pique the reader's interest. For example, you might begin with a thought-provoking quote, a relevant anecdote, or a rhetorical question.
- Provide context by briefly introducing the topic or the experience you will reflect upon. Mention any necessary background information to help the reader understand the context.
- End your introduction with a thesis statement . The thesis statement for a reflective essay can be flexible and can be more than one sentence long. It states the main point you want to convey, such as what you learned, gained, or how were you changed by the experience.
Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs of your essay are the heart of your reflection, where you dive deep into the experience and explore it from multiple angles. It's essential to organize your body paragraphs logically to maintain a coherent flow.
Here is how body paragraphs are organized in this type of paper:
First Body Paragraph
Provide a clear and detailed description of the experience or event you are reflecting upon. Set the stage by answering the basic questions: What, when, where, and who?
Share the most significant aspects of the experience. Consider the sensory details, the environment, the people involved, and other aspects. This will help your readers immerse themselves in the situation.
Second Body Paragraph
Once you’ve described the structure of your experience in detail, now is the time to move on to your thoughts, experiences, and observations.
Reflect on your immediate feelings and initial thoughts. Were you excited, anxious, or confused?
What did you notice about the people or surroundings? This section allows the reader to connect with your emotional journey, helping them understand the initial impact of the experience.
Third & Fourth Body Paragraphs
In the subsequent paragraphs, delve into in-depth reflection and analysis of your experience.
This is where you critically examine the experience, asking yourself why it was significant and how it impacted you. Consider the implications and connections to your personal growth, beliefs, or values and analyze the experience in the context of your life, education, or career.
You should also engage in critical reflection. For instance,
- What did you learn from the experience?
- How did it challenge or reinforce your existing beliefs?
- Did it change your perspective on certain issues?
Feel free to use multiple paragraphs for this reflection if needed. Each paragraph can explore different facets of your experience and offer a more comprehensive analysis.
Reflective Essay Conclusion
The conclusion of your reflective essay brings your reflection to a meaningful closure. It ties together the entire essay and aims to leave the reader with a lasting impression.
Here are some tips for writing a good conclusion:
- Summarize the key points you discussed in the body paragraphs without introducing new information. Reinforce the main message of your essay.
- Present the significance of the experience and its impact on your personal growth, beliefs, or understanding.
- Consider ending with a thought-provoking statement or a powerful insight to make it more impactful for the reader.
Reflective Essay Examples
Although you now know how to write a reflective essay, you should read some examples before you start writing. Reading the reflective essay samples below will help you get a feel of this type of writing.
Reflective Essay Sample - Reflections on Reading a Book
Reflective Essay Example - A Visit to a Historical Place
Tips for Writing Better Reflective Essays
Only following the writing steps can help you write a good essay. But to make it even better, you should do something extra. Here are some writing tips that can help you polish your reflective writing.
- Be Genuine and Authentic: Reflective essays thrive on authenticity. Share your true thoughts and feelings without embellishment or pretense. Readers appreciate sincerity and honesty in your reflections.
- Show, Don't Just Tell: Instead of merely stating your emotions or thoughts, demonstrate them through concrete examples and anecdotes. Let readers experience your reflection alongside you.
- Be Concise and Focused: Avoid unnecessary tangents or excessive details that may distract from your main reflection. Keep your essay focused on the central experience and its significance.
- Engage the Reader's Emotions: Touch on universal emotions and experiences that resonate with readers. Connecting on an emotional level can make your reflective essay more relatable and memorable.
- Seek Feedback: Don't hesitate to share your reflective essay with peers, mentors, or writing tutors. Their feedback can offer valuable insights and help you refine your writing.
- Reflect on Your Reflection: After completing your reflective essay, take a moment to reflect on your own reflection process. Consider what you've learned about yourself and your writing style. Use this insight to improve future reflective essays.
Reflective Essay Topics
Reflective essays can be written on a variety of topics. Here are some ideas you can write about:
- Engaging with Art: Reflect on your experience of reading a book, watching a documentary etc.
- A Life-Changing Journey: Reflect lessons learned from a trip or adventure.
- Mentorship and Learning: Reflect on the influence of a particular teacher, mentor, or role model on your life.
- Overcoming a Challenge: Write about a challenging experience or obstacle you've faced
- Life Milestones: Write about a major life event, such as graduating from school, getting married, or becoming a parent, etc.
- Career Transitions: Share your reflections on transitioning between careers or jobs.
- A Turning Point: Reflect on a specific moment or decision in your life that marked a turning point.
- Relationships: Explore the dynamics of a significant friendship or relationship.
- Ethical Dilemmas: Discuss a moral or ethical dilemma you faced and how you navigated it.
- Volunteer or Community Service: Share your experiences with community service.
These are just a few general ideas. With the help of these topics, you can ignite your creativity and choose the most meaningful topic for yourself.
Need more ideas to find a great topic for your reflective paper? Here are 100+ engaging reflective essay topics for your help!
Reflective essays serve as powerful instruments for self-discovery. It allows you to delve into your thoughts and experiences and share them with others in a meaningful way.
By following the steps, tips, and, examples above, you can explore the richness of your own experiences and engage others along the way. Trying to write a reflective essay can even become another one of your amazing experiences! So, embrace authenticity, engage your readers, and inspire those who read your words.
Need help writing a reflective essay? Don’t worry!
We understand the significance of these reflective journeys, and we've expert writers to assist you. At our reflective essay writing service , our team of writing professionals is dedicated to helping you craft insightful and impactful essays that meet your custom requirements.
So contact our essay writing service now!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you say i in a reflective essay.
Yes! First-person pronouns are a great way to give the reader insight into your life and thoughts. I, me, we - these words all have personal meaning. So, they should be used in a reflective essay.
What person is a reflective essay?
A reflective essay is a type of academic writing that can take on many different forms. You might be asked to write it in the first person or third person, and there's no one correct way to do so!
Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)
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Reflective Essay Examples and Samples
Reflecting on a chosen topic requires deep insight, making reflective essays difficult to write. Read our samples of reflective essays to gain a greater understanding of how to write one on your own.
Introduction to Reflective Essay: An Exploration of Self
A reflective essay is a type of personal writing that allows you to explore and document your thoughts, feelings, and insights about a particular subject or experience. Unlike other forms of academic writing, a reflective essay is more subjective and focuses more on your personal perspectives and interpretations. Writing a reflective essay can be a powerful way to articulate your growth and discoveries, making it an essential tool for creative and personal writing.
The Importance of Personal Experiences in Reflective Writing
Reflective writing revolves around personal experiences. It’s through such experiences that we learn, grow, and evolve. As such, personal experience plays a crucial role in reflective essays. A well-written reflective essay should vividly describe the experience, delve into the feelings it evoked, and critically analyze the impact it had on you. Reflective essays are not just a recounting of events, but a deep exploration of how those events influenced your outlook on life, reshaped your beliefs, or contributed to your personal growth.
Creative Expression: The Heart of a Reflective Essay
Creative writing goes hand in hand with reflective essays. The very nature of reflective essays – introspective, personal, and subjective – calls for creative expression. The creative door is wide open when writing a reflective essay, allowing you to experiment with different writing styles, narrative structures, and descriptive techniques. The goal here is to create an engaging and compelling narrative that captures your personal insights and emotional journey in the most authentic way possible.
Examining Growth Through Reflective Essays: A Journey of Self-Discovery
Reflective essays often serve as a mirror, reflecting your journey of growth. Whether it’s overcoming a personal challenge, learning a new skill, or undergoing a transformative life experience, these growth narratives form the backbone of reflective essays. When writing a reflective essay, it’s essential to not only describe the event or experience but also to delve into how it contributed to your growth as a person. How did it change you? What did you learn about yourself? How have you evolved as a result? Answering these questions can lead to profound insights and self-discovery.
Using Books and Literature as a Catalyst for Reflection
Books and literature often serve as a catalyst for reflection. A classic novel, a thought-provoking non-fiction book, or a compelling piece of poetry can provoke deep reflection and become the subject of a reflective essay. Whether it’s a book that changed your perspective, a character you deeply resonated with, or a theme that made you rethink your beliefs, reflective essays about literature can be a powerful way to explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the written word.
Emotional Intelligence: Exploring Your Emotions in a Reflective Essay
Exploring your emotions forms an essential part of the reflective writing process. In fact, reflecting on our feelings and emotions is an exercise in emotional intelligence. A reflective essay offers a safe space to navigate complex emotions, understand emotional responses, and articulate emotional growth. Whether reflecting on a life-changing event or exploring your reactions to a particular book, it’s crucial to delve into your emotional journey. By understanding your feelings, you can gain deeper insights into your emotional patterns, personal triggers, and coping mechanisms.
- Understanding Emotional Responses: When writing a reflective essay, it’s crucial to delve deep into the emotions experienced during a particular event or circumstance. This could range from joy and excitement to confusion, disappointment, or even grief.
- Navigating Complex Emotions: Sometimes, experiences can elicit complex emotions that are hard to navigate. Reflective writing offers a safe space to untangle these emotions and gain a clearer understanding of your emotional state.
- Articulating Emotional Growth: A reflective essay allows you to document your emotional growth. Overcoming a difficult situation, managing negative emotions, or discovering a new perspective all signify emotional growth that can be articulated through reflective writing.
- Identifying Emotional Patterns: By consistently writing reflective essays, you can identify patterns in your emotional responses. This can help you better understand your reactions to similar situations in the future.
- Recognizing Personal Triggers: Reflective writing can help you identify personal triggers that prompt specific emotional responses. This awareness can equip you to manage these triggers more effectively.
- Developing Coping Mechanisms: Understanding your emotions through reflective writing can lead to the development of effective coping mechanisms. Whether it’s mindfulness, meditation, or simply taking a walk, recognizing what helps you manage your emotions is a significant step towards emotional intelligence.
Reflecting on College Class Experiences
College classes offer rich experiences that can provide plenty of material for a reflective essay. Perhaps it’s a creative writing class that opened up a new world of expression for you, or a challenging science class that pushed you to your limits. Reflecting on these experiences can help you understand your academic journey, recognize your learning style, and appreciate the knowledge you’ve gained. Discuss the skills you’ve acquired, the challenges you’ve faced, the friendships you’ve made, and how these experiences have contributed to your growth and development.
Time Management Reflections: Overcoming Procrastination
Reflecting on time management can lead to valuable insights about your work habits and productivity. Have you struggled with procrastination? Have you discovered effective time management skills? A reflective essay on this topic can discuss your past struggles, the strategies you’ve employed to overcome them, and the progress you’ve made. By examining your relationship with time, you can uncover patterns, identify areas for improvement, and devise strategies to enhance your productivity.
Reflective Essay Examples: Lessons and Insights
One of the best ways to understand reflective essays is by reading and analyzing examples. These examples can serve as a guide, offering insights into the structure, tone, and style of reflective writing. Whether it’s an essay reflecting on personal growth, a transformative travel experience, or a powerful book that left an impression, reflective essay examples can provide inspiration for your own writing.
In conclusion, reflective essays are a powerful form of personal and creative writing. They allow you to explore your experiences, emotions, and growth in a deeply personal way. Through reflective writing, you can gain valuable insights about yourself and your journey, making it a rewarding and transformative process.
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Guide on How to Write a Reflection Paper with Free Tips and Example
A reflection paper is a very common type of paper among college students. Almost any subject you enroll in requires you to express your opinion on certain matters. In this article, we will explain how to write a reflection paper and provide examples and useful tips to make the essay writing process easier.
Reflection papers should have an academic tone yet be personal and subjective. In this paper, you should analyze and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception and thoughts on a subject.
Here is what you need to know about writing an effective critical reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the writing team at EssayPro — a research paper writing service
What Is a Reflection Paper
A reflection paper is a type of paper that requires you to write your opinion on a topic, supporting it with your observations and personal experiences. As opposed to presenting your reader with the views of other academics and writers, in this essay, you get an opportunity to write your point of view—and the best part is that there is no wrong answer. It is YOUR opinion, and it is your job to express your thoughts in a manner that will be understandable and clear for all readers that will read your paper. The topic range is endless. Here are some examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, your favorite TV show, or your opinion on the outcome of WWII. You can write about pretty much anything.
There are three types of reflection paper; depending on which one you end up with, the tone you write with can be slightly different. The first type is the educational reflective paper. Here your job is to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended—in a manner that teaches the reader about it. The second is the professional paper. Usually, it is written by people who study or work in education or psychology. For example, it can be a reflection of someone’s behavior. And the last is the personal type, which explores your thoughts and feelings about an individual subject.
However, reflection paper writing will stop eventually with one very important final paper to write - your resume. This is where you will need to reflect on your entire life leading up to that moment. To learn how to list education on resume perfectly, follow the link on our dissertation writing services .
Free Reflection Paper Example
Now that we went over all of the essentials about a reflection paper and how to approach it, we would like to show you some examples that will definitely help you with getting started on your paper.
Reflection Paper Format
Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. Since it is your opinion, professors usually let you handle them in any comfortable way. It is best to write your thoughts freely, without guideline constraints. If a personal reflection paper was assigned to you, the format of your paper might depend on the criteria set by your professor. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range from about 400-800 words in length.
Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:
How to Start a Reflection Paper
The first thing to do when beginning to work on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for example, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.
You can start writing your reflection paper by summarizing the main concept of your notes to see if your essay includes all the information needed for your readers. It is helpful to add charts, diagrams, and lists to deliver your ideas to the audience in a better fashion.
After you have finished reading your article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the basic questions below:
- How did the article affect you?
- How does this article catch the reader’s attention (or does it all)?
- Has the article changed your mind about something? If so, explain how.
- Has the article left you with any questions?
- Were there any unaddressed critical issues that didn’t appear in the article?
- Does the article relate to anything from your past reading experiences?
- Does the article agree with any of your past reading experiences?
Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind before preparing to write your own:
- How my views on rap music have changed over time
- My reflection and interpretation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- Why my theory about the size of the universe has changed over time
- How my observations for clinical psychological studies have developed in the last year
The result of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and appropriate organization.
Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.
Do you want your task look awesome?
If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of our articles on how to format MLA, APA or Chicago style
Writing a Reflection Paper Outline
Reflection paper should contain few key elements:
Your introduction should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject.
- State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...)
- Briefly summarize the work.
- Write a thesis statement stating how your subject has affected you.
One way you can start your thesis is to write:
Example: “After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”
The body paragraphs should examine your ideas and experiences in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.
Your reflection may include quotes and passages if you are writing about a book or an academic paper. They give your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.
Example: “I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”
As with any conclusion, you should summarize what you’ve learned from the experience. Next, tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Finally, describe the feeling and overall lesson you had from the reading or experience.
There are a few good ways to conclude a reflection paper:
- Tie all the ideas from your body paragraphs together, and generalize the major insights you’ve experienced.
- Restate your thesis and summarize the content of your paper.
We have a separate blog post dedicated to writing a great conclusion. Be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at how to make a good final impression on your reader.
Need a hand? Get help from our writers. Edit, proofread or buy essay .
How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: create a main theme.
After you choose your topic, write a short summary about what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Then, let readers know how you feel about your case — and be honest. Chances are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your opinion or at least the way you form your perspective, which will help them better understand your reflection.
For example: After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I was able to reevaluate my preconceived notions about the negative effects of cold exposure.
Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic
You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you have, things that influenced you, or anything memorable. Be personal and explain, in simple words, how you felt.
For example: • A lot of people think that even a small amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight • A specific moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely • The consequences of my actions that gave rise to my research • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients • The influence of other people’s perceptions on the harm of carbohydrates, and the role their influence has had on me • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective
Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme
Pick an idea or experience you had from the last step, and analyze it further. Then, write your reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with it.
For example, Idea: I was raised to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight.
Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of research to overcome my beliefs finally. Afterward, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key to a healthy lifestyle.
For example: Idea: I was brought up to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of my own research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key for having a healthy lifestyle.
Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions
Try to connect your ideas and insights to form a cohesive picture for your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.
There are some subjects for reflection papers that are most commonly written about. They include:
- Book – Start by writing some information about the author’s biography and summarize the plot—without revealing the ending to keep your readers interested. Make sure to include the names of the characters, the main themes, and any issues mentioned in the book. Finally, express your thoughts and reflect on the book itself.
- Course – Including the course name and description is a good place to start. Then, you can write about the course flow, explain why you took this course, and tell readers what you learned from it. Since it is a reflection paper, express your opinion, supporting it with examples from the course.
- Project – The structure for a reflection paper about a project has identical guidelines to that of a course. One of the things you might want to add would be the pros and cons of the course. Also, mention some changes you might want to see, and evaluate how relevant the skills you acquired are to real life.
- Interview – First, introduce the person and briefly mention the discussion. Touch on the main points, controversies, and your opinion of that person.
Everyone has their style of writing a reflective essay – and that's the beauty of it; you have plenty of leeway with this type of paper – but there are still a few tips everyone should incorporate.
Before you start your piece, read some examples of other papers; they will likely help you better understand what they are and how to approach yours. When picking your subject, try to write about something unusual and memorable — it is more likely to capture your readers' attention. Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections.
- Short and Sweet – Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words. Don't go off on tangents. Only include relevant information.
- Clear and Concise – Make your paper as clear and concise as possible. Use a strong thesis statement so your essay can follow it with the same strength.
- Maintain the Right Tone – Use a professional and academic tone—even though the writing is personal.
- Cite Your Sources – Try to cite authoritative sources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
- Proofreading – Not only should you proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, but you should proofread to focus on your organization as well. Answer the question presented in the introduction.
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Helpful phrases for reflective writing
Helpful phrases for reflective writing The following are a few suggestions for words and phrases that might be useful in reflective writing. Using any of these words and phrases will help you to describe or analyse an event or experience for your assignment. The phrases are set out according to a three-part structure for a reflective writing piece: Description, Interpretation & Outcome. This is just a suggested structured approach to reflective writing. Always check your assignment marking guide for your lecturer’s requirements. 1. Description (the short bit): What happened? What is being examined? When describing the specific event or experience, there is a range of possible words and phrases you can use. But remember that when describing an idea, for example a theory or model, it is usually best to use the present tense e.g. ‘Social interdependence theory recognises…’ (not ‘recognised’). Events or experiences are nearly always described using the past tense. 2. Interpretation (probably the most important bit): What is most important / interesting / useful / relevant about the object, event or idea? How can it be explained e.g. with theory? How is it similar to and different from others?
Writing Skills November, 2015 3. Outcome: What have I learned from this? What does this mean for my future responses?
______________________________________________________________ This means that… This makes me feel… ____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________ As a next step, I need to… Text extracted from: University of Portsmouth (2015). Reflective writing: A basic introduction. Retrieved from http://www.port.ac.uk/media /contacts-and-departments/student-support-services/ask/downloads/ Reflective-writing—a-basic-intro.pdf Writing Skills November, 2015