What is reflection writing? Best Examples, format, guidelines

What is reflection writing? Best Examples, format, guidelines

It is natural to reflect on something you see, hear, or read every day. As you do so, you always have different opinions about the meaning you get.  In reflection writing, you try to convey your thoughts and beliefs on the content. It gives your reader a better understanding of yourself.

Sometimes, you may relate well to a movie or an article as it will remind you of an experience you had similar to what it is discussing or portraying. When you analyze and reflect on its meaning and impact, you get to learn much.

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This article discusses reflection writing, types, format, and guidelines to follow as you write a reflection paper.

What is a reflection in writing?

Reflection is having a serious thought about the meaning of given content. It is when you keenly explore and explain an occurrence of events from your perspective.

You reveal your emotions, fears, opinions, thoughts, errors, or successes as you try to describe an event or content. Reflection in writing involves;

Making sense in a subject matter

It is by reflecting that you get the meaning and impact of something. As you think through content, it becomes reasonable and easier to interpret.

Keeping off from making a hasty decision

Reflection takes time. It can take you hours as you try to analyze and critically examine an event or observation. As you do so, you develop a clearer view and perspective when you reflect.


Before you reflect on the content, you make sure that you have gone through it a couple of times. It helps you explore what happened from different points of view as you get other opinions.

Deeper honesty

Through reflection, you associate and acknowledge feelings or thoughts that you might have suppressed and ignored at a particular time.

Clarity and understanding

Reflection makes the content clearer. You understand something deeper as it gets mirrored to you either through relating to an experience you had. You are likely to gain more insights that someone can’t teach you.

What is a reflection paper?

A significant step to reflection writing is understanding what exactly is a reflection paper.

It is a systematic type of writing where you take a personal approach and express your thoughts on a topic. Your main goal is to write a critical reflection of your thoughts and perceptions about a particular work or subject.

A reflection paper can take an open structure. It is where you write each paragraph integrating or exploring a new idea, experience, or perspective. 

Common subjects to write about in a reflection paper

Some of the common issues your reflection writing will include are:

  • A real experience
  • Something you have imagined
  • A place
  • An object
  • Something you have read, smelled, heard, or seen

Two sections of a reflection paper


A reflection paper usually reflects on all the facts you find when watching a movie or reading any book. Everything should be in a story format to attract the attention of your readers.


It is an assessment of the individual experience. When writing a reflection about something, you always focus on giving your thoughts or opinions.

Elements your reader looks for in your reflection paper

  • Your connection with the subject at hand
  • Your ability to deconstruct the article, movie, or story
  • The ability to recognize how your personal experiences shape the interpretation you give
  • Clear, cohesive, and organized flow throughout your paper
  • How you re-evaluate your ideas and how the subjects impact them

Types of reflection paper

Reflection papers differ from each other depending on the type of tone you use. Although the goal of a reflective essay is the same, the style you showcase to explain your thoughts and opinions is different.

The following are the types of reflection papers:

Personal reflection essay

In this writing, you explore your thoughts, feelings, and opinion about a person or a particular subject. It can be a more intimate subject revolving around your personal experiences.

You can use transitional phrases to shift your argument or introduce specific details. They help you illustrate how you experienced it. Your aim should be directly linking them to a conclusion or understanding of something.

Educational reflection essay

It is a personal response to a lecture, book, movie, or article to show what you have learned and your interpretation. The paper is most common in schools when teachers want students to respond to what they have learned in a particular subject.

Professional reflection essay

A professional reflection examines your professional behavior and development within a particular setting. It is a type of paper you write in fields such as education or social work. You examine how you behave around other social workers or teachers.

Self-reflection essay

You write a self-reflection paper after a significant project, presentation, or at the end of a course. It gives details of what you learned throughout the process and your development since the beginning.

Experimental reflection essay

You usually use this paper within fields where you apply theory in practice like nursing, business, or forensics. You access an idea or approach based on your observations and methods to evaluate your knowledge and skills within the professional field.

What is the purpose of a reflective paper?

If you include the description, analysis, and outcome elements in your reflection writing, you give your reader a clear connection between your experiences and the subject. Mastering the details allows you to:

 Critically analyze what you have read, seen, or heard. Reflection writing shows that you can evaluate what you read or experienced.

Make a connection between the text and yourself. Reflection writing allows you to explore your ideas and opinions rather than summarizing the thoughts of an author.

Reflection writing helps you improve your critical analytical skills. It requires you to write what you think and why you feel that way. In reflective essays, you acknowledge that your assumptions and preconceived ideas shape your thinking or view of something.

A reflection paper focuses on personal growth. Through analyzing personal life experiences and professions, you get to understand yourself better and your behavior towards others. You will note how you have grown in your career and how to do your job better.

Tips for reflection writing

  1. When writing a reflection paper, write point to point. You should explain each point in its paragraph. Use active voice and short sentences.  
  2. You should not write a summary of the subject but rather your thoughts and opinion concerning that subject.
  3. Before you write your paper, gather all your thoughts and ideas together. You can pick some ideas from the text and analyze them in your perception.
  4. You should keep the proper structure and tone. Don’t be very casual, although you are writing in the first person.
  5. It is better if you don’t write your story when relating to a specific point. Instead, write your experiences and beliefs that relate directly to the issue you are making.
  6. In professional or experimental reflection, you should address your learning goals and objectives. You can state your pros and con since you started. It will help you analyze your progress and development.
  7. It will help if you try to cite authorized sources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
  8. Proofread to check any spelling and grammatical errors. You can also focus on whether you have organized your work.

How to start a reflection paper

Before writing a reflection paper, it is important to read the book or article thoroughly as you take notes. You should highlight the key concepts and ideas that you get from the subject.

  It is essential to summarize the central concept in your notes. You will get to know if your paper includes all the information that you need for your readers. Prepare a list of how you will effectively deliver your ideas to the reader.

Reading a reflection essay example is very crucial before you start writing a reflection paper. It will give you an idea of how to gather and organize your thoughts.

Brainstorming technique questions

After you finish reading your article, it is time to brainstorm concerning the concept. The following are some of the questions that you can answer as you reflect:

  • How did the subject affect you?
  • How did the subject matter change your idea about something?
  • Were there any critical issues in the subject? How would you respond to them?
  • Does the article relate to any experience that you might have had before?
  • Does the article agree with some of the past reading experiences?

Reflection paper format

When writing a reflection paper, you may prefer to use either the MLA or APA format. Each format has a few pointers that you need to follow when formatting your paper.

MLA format

Use Times New Roman 12-point font and double spacing

The margin should be 1’

Integrate your name and the page number of each of the pages on the top right

You should place all your titles at the Centre

In the header, you can include your name, the type of your reflection paper, or the article that you are discussing

You retain any work that you have cited on the last page

APA format

Use Times New Roman 12-point font and doubles spaced

The margins should be 1’

You should insert a page header on the top of each page

You should insert the page numbers on the right of each page

Divide your essay into title page, abstract, main body, and references.

A guide on how to write a reflective essay

Each reflection paper has a different writing style. The following are common  guidelines you can use to write a reflection paper:

Create the main theme

After choosing a topic, summarize what you have learned and your experience with the subject. From the summary, come up with the main idea that will be the main point of discussion. It should answer the question about your feelings towards the topic.   

Be honest about how you feel about that topic. It will help your readers relate to your opinion and your perspective. They will have a better understanding of your reflection paper.

Brainstorm and outline the ideas and experiences you have related to the topic

As you take notes, you should put your opinion about your topic in mind as part of the brainstorming activity. Write down everything that you can think about your subject. Through brainstorming, you can create a rough outline of your ideas and experiences. Use vivid adjectives to describe your experiences.

Join your ideas and thoughts logically to make your reflection writing more efficient. You can start your reflection paper by jotting a few sentences that relate to your core theme. They will serve as points for developing the rest of your ideas.

Analyze and organize how your ideas affect your interpretation of the theme

Your ideas should connect with your theme. It is important to organize your ideas to relate to each other, giving a clear theme interpretation. How well you organize your ideas, structure your experiences and thoughts in a systematic manner.

Before you begin writing your reflection paper, analyze the most important thing you have learned from the ideas.

Incorporate reflective questions

You can note down some simple questions relating to the subject matter. They will help you in setting the tone of your essay. You can select a few questions from the group you have written and try to answer them.

As you answer the questions, you will recognize how your personal experiences affect the interpretation of ideas. You will get many ideas from answering the questions.

Start with a strong introduction

You should be precise about the subject matter, as you clearly state your opinion. The introduction is the first thing that your reader will see on the reflection paper. It should be attractive to draw them to read the entire paper.

Focus on your thesis statement

Building a thesis statement gives focus and harmony to your reflective paper. Your thesis statement should explain your expectations, opinion, and thoughts regarding the topic. 

A good thesis statement covers your observations and the conclusions that you have made on the topic. It should reveal your clear position about the issue you are discussing.

Explain your ideas clearly in the body

When writing a reflection paper, you should clarify your thesis statement. It is crucial to provide your details on the degree to which it meets your expectations. You should include evidence to support the thesis statement.

Write down the closing comments

Write a summary of your ideas and feelings in a few words. You should briefly articulate your conclusion based on your thoughts and expectations. You can write your closing comments in about two or three sentences.

Reflection paper outline

After you have gathered your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, reflection starts with an outline. It will help you stay organized and make sure that you structure your writing to make a clear point.


The introduction should specify the subject that you will be reflecting on. It consists of the following:

  1. You can start with a hook statement that will grab the attention of your reader. It can be a quote related to the topic.
  2. A summary of your work
  3.  Give a thesis statement stating how your subject has affected you.

Body paragraphs

The body is an explanation of your thesis. In the paragraphs, you examine the ideas and experiences you have in context to your topic. Each section should start with a topic sentence. You explain what you saw, heard, or felt in connection to your thesis statement.

For example, if you want to write about an article or book, your reflection paper may include quotes or passages. It gives your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback.


In conclusion, you summarize what you have learned from the experiences. You describe the feelings and overall lesson due to the incident or reading.

You can conclude your reflection paper in two ways:

  • Wrapping up all the ideas from the body paragraphs together and generalizing the significant insight you have experienced.
  • By restating your thesis and summarizing the content in your paper

How to compose a reflection paper

It is essential to understand how to write a reflective paper on a book, article, course, project, or interview. The following are useful hints for reflection writing on a book, article, and critical analysis of an object or event.

Reflection paper on a book

When writing a reflection paper on a book, you need first to understand the plot. Your reflection paper should reflect your thoughts, experiences, and perspectives related to the book.

As you write a reflection paper on a book, you can refer to the following guidelines:

  • Start your reflection paper by mentioning the author of the book. You can give a brief explanation about the author, his other works, and proposed theories.
  • Give a summary of the book. Focus on the essential parts of that book and the main characters.
  • Explain the issues that the author touches upon in the book. You should take a few problems and write about them briefly. You can provide your impressions and solutions about the issues you have picked.
  • Explain the allusions in the book and their influences. They should relate to the topic on which you are writing your reflection paper.
  • React to the reading of the book and share your impressions.

Reflection paper on an article.

In this paper, you provide an opinion or criticism of that article. You may read a report and have different views about the subject. You may write a reflective essay expressing your opinion and thoughts regarding the paper under such a situation.

When writing a reflection paper on an article, you focus on the article topic. You can follow the following steps:

  • Give your reactions on the article topic
  • Present your feeling about what you have read. For instance, you can state what you have felt after reading the article or describe any emotions generated in you.
  • Give a personal experience related to the topic. You should share a similar event to the one the article discusses.
  • Don’t write a summary of the article in your reflection paper.
  • Organize your paper well and use a formal tone while writing.
  • In your conclusion, provide the lessons from the article. You can also deliver the improvements to the article.

Critical reflection writing paper

Writing a critical reflection paper is the climax point of your studying process. It is intensive thinking that presents your ability to observe, question, evaluate, and apply personal experiences when interpreting the subject.

You should:

  • Describe an experience. You should provide details of an object or event that you are interpreting.
  • Examine your experience in an event or with the object. You can integrate personal and academic contexts.
  • Provide an in-depth analysis of the experiences.
  • Explain to your readers what you learn from the analysis of the experiences.
  • Clarify how the analysis of the event or object will be helpful in your future.
  • Presume how your reader should react to reading your paper. You can suppose how they should feel about the reflection paper.

Closing remarks

 Reflective writing is different from other academic papers as explained in this article. It is personal writing where you give your ideas, thoughts, perspectives concerning a subject matter. You write a reflection essay through what you see, experience, hear, learn, or smell.

As discussed, the reflection writing format and guide will help you structure your reflective essay effectively. It will give you an idea of how to organize and write your thoughts

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