Tips to Make Writing a Reflection Paper Effective

A reflection paper provides you with an opportunity to discuss with your tutor how you have understood a lesson, article, experience or lecture for example. Although a reflection paper is personal, they still need to be well organized and written in an academic style. We will provide you with some tips on what you need to know about writing a reflection paper and making sure it’s effective.

Get Your Thoughts Together

The first thing that you need to do is to work out what the main themes are and summarise these in a couple of sentences. You need to be blunt yet clear. You also need to note down what stood out for you and why this is the case. When it comes to ‘experiences,’ note down exactly what stood out for you in that experience and you can include sounds and imagery here. When it comes to lectures, note down summarised passages or quotations.

It may even be helpful to create a table to note down your ideas. To begin with, note down your main experiences and points. Secondly, note what you feel about those points that you have written down. Finally, think about how much of your own thoughts you will share in the reflection paper.

You need to consider these questions to help you get your own feelings and thoughts together if you find that you are not quite sure about your own response.

  1. Did the lesson or experience test you emotionally, socially or culturally? If it did then at what point and exactly how did it do this?
  2. Do any of the points or ideas that came up in the lesson or experience relate to any of your own experiences? If they do then do they support or work against each other?
  3. Has the lesson or experience left you asking any questions? If so, did you have these questions prior to the lesson or experience or have they developed afterward?
  4. Did the person delivering the lesson or experience miss out anything that you felt was important to discuss? Could the lack of this information have an impact on the conclusion of the lesson or the experience?
  5. Do you feel like the lesson or experiences have changed how you now think? Does it go against any beliefs that you had before you experienced the lesson or the experience? Did the lesson or experience give you any evidence which could change the way you think and feel about the subject?


A reflection paper is usually between 300 and 700 words in length. If you’ve been told a specific word count then it’s imperative to follow this. You now need to consider the introduction of the reflection paper. This is where you point out any expectations that you had at the beginning of the lecture or experience, etc. Once you have completed your introduction, you will need to create a thesis statement which should be around a sentence in length and should outline the transition from what you expected to the ending i.e. were your expectations met? The aim of the main body of your reflection paper is to highlight what you have understood at the end of your experience or lecture etc. You will need to justify how you have reached the conclusion that you have come to. Every conclusion that you have needs to be written in separate paragraphs and these paragraphs should consist of individual topic sentences. The topics sentences need to highlight your understanding, the main points as well as your conclusion. Finally, you will need to end with a summary. Here, you will need to go into detail about the lesson or experience as a whole. You will also need to explain what you have understood and felt you have achieved from the lesson or experience.

Additional Points

As a reflection paper is personal, you need to think carefully about what you reveal about yourself before you include it. If you don’t feel comfortable about a particular subject that has an impact on a conclusion, then don’t add any personal information in. You could try and write about the subject from a general point of view.

Make sure that you maintain an academic tone. For example, if someone made the lesson or experience plain for you, you still need to be professional in how you state this. Focus on the actions that made it plain and not the actual person. Explain how these actions then influenced your conclusions.

Avoid the use of slang and double-check all spellings and the use of grammar. Although you can write a professional reflection paper in the first person, you still need to make sure that it’s professionally written. Double check your sentences and make sure that they have been well written and are clear and each sentence only contains one idea.

Use transitions such as ‘for instance’, ‘from a different perspective’ or as a result of’ as these can help you present certain details. Transitions also enable you to explain how one point links to your understanding or conclusion.

You can also connect classroom learning to your lecture or experiences. Include information that you have picked up in the classroom with information that was picked up at the lesson or experience. As an example, if you are reflecting on a piece of literature. You can discuss how your thoughts on the piece in the lesson or experience related to what your tutor has taught you when in class.