Reflection Paper

A reflection is a piece of writing that allows you to share your personal experiences with a given piece or collection of content. This content could be a piece of writing such as an article, a piece of art such as a symphony, or collection of experiences such as an event or a time period.

What is the purpose of a reflection?

A reflection addresses your interactions with a text or piece of content. It should tell the story of how you experienced the main themes and concepts as well as how these main themes and concepts interact with your own ideas and values.

What is a reflection NOT?

A reflective piece of writing is not a journal or “mind dump”. Journals can be stream-of-consciousness, loosely organized, written in everyday language, and emotionally driven. Reflections and journals are both writings about personal (and often emotional) experiences; however, reflections are still academic pieces of writing that require organization, academic language and tone, and inclusion of intellectual experiences as well.

Reflections are also not research papers. Although they may include research, the goal of a reflection is not to present disembodied ideas to a reader or to educate them. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the content. Therefore, unlike research papers, reflections can include opinions and personal assumptions, and they are written in first person.

Finally, reflections are not first-person book reports. Regurgitating the material in your own words does not make a paper reflective. A reflective paper focuses on how you experience, understand, and apply the information. It is not a play-by-play of what that content includes.

Hold up! I'm ________________, so how can I write a reflection paper?

The beauty of a reflection paper

  1. Not a very intellectual thinker
    1. A reflection paper is a great place to start exploring your own thoughts and ideas without having to dive head-first into the heavy content.
    2. Start by considering these questions:
      1. What did I assume about this content before I read it?
      2. What did I know about this content before I read it?
      3. What do I think of it now?/What did I learn?
      4. How can I think or live differently now that I have experienced/learned this content?
  2. Not a very emotional, ushy-gushy person
    1. Sometimes students feel that professors only like their reflections if they are deep and personal. For people who do not want to write out their heart, mind, and soul in a paper someone else is going to read, consider these things:
      1. Recognize that personal does not have to mean private!
        1. Decide what you are comfortable sharing. Maybe you do not want to share how this affected you emotionally, but you might be okay sharing how you found ways to connect this knowledge with your field of study.
      2. Focus on the intellectual side and stay true to yourself! Maybe you focus more on the application side of the piece of content instead of focusing on your experience. The beauty of reflection papers is that they allow you to do both!
  3. Confused about where to start
    1. Use the questions listed above!
    2. Take time to reflect. Go on a walk. Or record yourself talking and see if you can find some main themes.
    3. Write an awful first draft (stream of consciousness, journal style maybe) and then read through and see if anything is worth keeping.

Since this is a reflection paper, it doesn’t need a thesis does it?

It DOES need a thesis! Even a reflection paper needs a guiding theme or a main topic to keep it grounded. This can be written in an argument summary sentence called a thesis. This does not have to be stated explicitly (although it is often helpful for professors when it is.)

Some examples of what this might look like:

  1. I assumed that____, but after reading_______ I now believe/realized that____
    1. Ex. I assumed that all classics were outdated and inapplicable to my life, but after reading Brother’s Karamozov, I realized that the questions we humans have about our place in the world are the same throughout all ages.
  2. Although I expected_____, I actually found______
    1. Although I expected Intro to Statistics to be boring, I actually found that it connected with many of my interests.
  3. This experience taught me/will allow me to_______. OR This experience was meaningful because it _____
    1. Watching Sometimes in April allowed me to understand the experience of people who have lived through genocide and reminded me of the importance of questioning our bias toward others.
    2. Attending the workshop on pottery allowed me to connect what I had learned in class to a real life setting.

How do I edit and revise my reflection papers?

Like any paper, you will want to look at the content and the context of the paper.


  1. Did I incorporate key themes from the piece of content?
  2. Did I display an accurate understanding of key concepts?
  3. Did I address my assumptions, thoughts, and feelings toward these themes and concepts?
    1. Ex. Did I link these themes and concepts to my current of future life?
  4. Were my claims supported by evidence (AKA examples from my experience or from the content)?
  5. Is my thesis clear (even if not explicitly stated)?


  1. Did I use first person?
  2. Did I address the appropriate audience?
  3. Did I maintain a consistent academic tone?
  4. Did I follow the rubric and proper length?
  5. Did I use proper citations, formatting, and grammar?

Picture of TaraJane House

Compiled By

Amelia TaraJane House

Writing Studio Consultant