What Is A Reflection Paper?

Academic writing comprises numerous research papers that students must complete as part of the evaluation process for the grading system. Among the many assignments, reflection papers allow students to express personal opinions on different issues while incorporating critical analysis. Though it is subjective and opinionated writing, you must maintain a formal tone since it is an academic paper.

Reflection papers cover a wide array of subjects, including academics, professional or personal occurrence. You can compose a detailed paper about a specific incident, a seminar, a book, or a study about a particular subject discipline as per your understanding. Reflecting on the issue while ensuring the paper is within the essay’s parameters is vital in developing an effective composition.

Unlike other rigorous academic assignments, reflection papers are more relaxed and take a personal approach. It encourages students to speak their minds on the paper without fear of criticism or judgment from the audience. Such reflective essays allow learners to grow while enhancing self-understanding.

This article discusses various aspects to help you know how to write a reflection paper. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of the definition, outline, to mistakes you can avoid when crafting a reflection paper.

How to Write A Reflection Paper

It is imperative to break down the reflection paper definition before proceeding to the writing phase. As mentioned above, reflection papers are all about expressing personal views regarding particular issues. The writer narrates an experience or a subject analysis, for instance, a book or an article, while evaluating it using a personal and an academic approach. Reflection essays are not quite limiting compared to other strict academic papers, though you have to write within the required language and formatting standards.

Below are steps you can follow to guide you on how to start a reflection paper:

  • Topic Selection

The first step entails picking a relevant topic if your tutor has not assigned one. Make sure the topic is captivating enough to impress the audience. Ensure you select a topic you are familiar with to simplify the entire process.

  • Brainstorming Session

Here, you have to conduct extensive research and identify all the significant points relating to the topic. Create a mind map with a central theme and sub-topics to help you during writing. 

  • Develop an Outline

List all the significant points you extracted during the research phase. It constructs a skeleton of the entire paper in a simple model comprising the introductory paragraph, main body, and conclusion.

  • Analyze and Write

Since you now have a topic and major points, start connecting all the ideas to develop a logical theme. For instance, if it is a book reflection, you must incorporate the author’s history, characters, major themes, and plot. Make sure you conduct an extensive analysis before you begin to write your reflection paper.

  • Edit and Proofread 

After you have the final draft, make sure you thoroughly edit and proofread your paper to make it flawless. Your paper must be error-free with a logical flow for effective communication to your readers.

What Can I Write About? 

Most students don’t know what to write about when they get a reflection paper assignment. While it may seem like a simple paper, you must pick a thoughtful topic that will captivate the intended audience. You can write about relationships, nature, personal events, etc.

Here are a few topic ideas to help you jumpstart your writing:

  • The first betrayal from a close friend or family member
  • Your favorite childhood memory
  • Watching the sunset 
  • Memories of your hometown
  • A vacation you will never forget
  • The best birthday you experienced as a child
  • Relocating to a new town
  • Your favorite book
  • The time you hit rock-bottom in life
  • Your graduation ceremony

You can research online and get inspiration from a wide array of subject topics.

Reflection Essay Outline

Even though most students overlook the significance of outline creation, it is equally important to have one. Apart from saving time, it also guides the writer to know what content to put in each section.

Below is a detailed overview of a refection paper outline: 

  1. Introduction

It is essential to have a catchy and informative introduction if you want to hook the audience. Be clear and specific about your reflective subject and what it entails; for instance, if you analyze an experience, a book, or an article, make it known to the readers. You must also incorporate a thesis statement in the introductory section revealing the impact of the subject matter in a subjective approach. Make it brief and coherent to allow the readers to understand the research purpose clearly.

  1. Main Body 

This is the crucial part of an academic paper since it holds all the weight in arguments and supporting evidence. You have to critically evaluate the experience and ensure it aligns with your research topic. Each paragraph should be clear with details about your research analysis. Include examples, comparisons, and quotes as supporting evidence about your thesis. Incorporating a detailed description of events will connect with the readers, and they will understand your perspective.

  1. Conclusion

Since the conclusion is a critical section, you must leave the audience with a striking impression.  Summarize all the significant points outlined in the body paragraph and express your personal opinion about the thesis. How has the experience changed your life? Why is it important? Conclude your paper by paraphrasing the thesis with a summary of the research content.

Reflection Paper Example

Here is a reflection paper example to give you an idea of the paper’s expectations and outlook. 

Topic: Honesty 


Honesty is a rare virtue that few people possess. In the overall sphere of relationships, whether in marriages or friendships, honesty is a core ethical principle. However, most people often find themselves in limbo about being honest in grave situations because the truth might escalate the problem at hand. I have been in questionable circumstances where dishonesty was my last line of defense. Because of this, my discussion focuses on the grey areas of honesty, when it is fair to be truthful, and instances when it is not.

Main Body

While truthfulness is a constructive trait, it can also become destructive to you and other parties involved. In such situations, telling a white lie might seem fair because you protect the destructive truth from coming out. Let us discuss a life-threatening example: Nazi soldiers were killing Jewish people during the 2nd World War; if the soldiers came to your house to ask if there was a Jew in your home, how would you answer? Honesty would cause that Jew’s death at the hands of the soldiers. In my opinion, most people would justify lying in this situation because of a proper reason. Therefore, this example proves that dishonesty can sometimes save lives.

In other instances, one becomes untruthful to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. It happens that if you are honest about a personal issue affecting another person, they might take an offense and feel attacked or hurt. Thus, self-preservation or thoughtfulness prevents you from telling the truth. However, the truth will eventually come out in different ways, making that particular individual feel betrayed. Though hiding the truth may bring temporary solace, it has long-term repercussions. 

‘Truth hurts’ is an accurate statement that reveals how honesty causes uncomfortable situations among friends, co-workers, or even spouses. When you opt to be honest with your spouse, for example, about a secret extra-marital affair, it might be the end of your marriage. Therefore, honesty is a slippery slope that should be handled carefully by all parties involved.


Ultimately, honesty is an admirable character trait. But you have to measure your words and know when it is justifiable or not. It is essential to have empathy to protect the message’s recipient while ensuring you deliver the truth with sensitivity to cushion the pain. 

You can use the above reflection paper sample to guide you when crafting your academic paper. 

Popular Mistakes When Writing A Reflection Analysis Essay

Now that you have an in-depth understanding of what is a reflection paper, you can start writing your paper with all the above factors in mind. However, you may encounter mistakes along the way that might compromise your work. To help you compose an exceptional paper, take into account the following writing mistakes you need to avoid:

  1. Inadequate Planning

Brainstorming and essay planning are vital if you want to write an exceptional reflection paper. Most students skip this step and end up with cluttered information that results in a poorly-written document. Thus, it is crucial to plan and brainstorm to avoid picking generic topics and mediocre arguments.

  1. Too Narrow or Too Broad Explanations 

You need to maintain a balance since having too narrow or too broad information is a blunder in reflection writing. Ensure you are detailed enough not to bore the readers with unnecessary information; conversely, inadequate details will invoke speculation. Thus, make your essay coherent and easy to understand to avoid confusing the readers.

  1. Improper Organization

Failing to organize your paper in terms of structure and content properly is another blunder when crafting a reflection paper. Most learners underestimate the power of thought organization, not knowing it affects the entire paper. Therefore, make sure you incorporate logical and transitional flow to develop a clear focus for your paper.

  1. No Personal Touch

Since reflection papers are subjective, the personal views should connect with the readers. Having a personal touch allows the reader to relate to your thesis without struggling to understand your perspective. Without this authentic touch, it is impossible to achieve effective communication resulting in a substandard reflection essay.

  1. Use of Complicated Jargon

Another worst mistake is incorporating hard words in your paper. Using complicated vocabulary hinders communication, and you might leave the readers more confused. Since you want to connect with the audience, it is essential to use simple language for easier comprehension.  

Becoming an excellent academic writer does not happen overnight. Take time to master the writing process and stay away from the writing mistakes above if you want positive results. Moreover, you will earn impressive grades by crafting a meticulous reflection paper.