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How to Write a Reflection Paper: Full Guide with a Free Example

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Full Guide with a Free Example

Reflection papers should have an academic tone, yet are personal and subjective. They allow you to analyse and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception.

Here's what you need to know about writing an effective reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the team of EssayPro — professional essay writing service.

Table Of Contents

What Is a Reflection Paper

Reflection papers are where students share their learning experience, whether it be an influential experience, or class-related material. In other words, you should inform the reader about how a particular academic task or experience has shaped your thinking.

Writing a reflection paper can seem easy because they’re subjective. Yet, to write an excellent paper, you need to make sure to share your own ideas and reflections. It’s important to express your opinion, rather than the opinions of others. And more importantly, it’s not only important to express what you think, but also how and why you think that way.

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The first thing to do when working on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly and take notes. Whether you are reflecting on an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.

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 (if it does)?
  • Has the article changed your mind about something? If so, explain how.
  • Has the article left you with any questions?
  • Were there any critical issues unaddressed 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?

Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.


Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind:

  • How my views on folk 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

Reflection Paper Format

Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. If your reflection paper was assigned to you, formatting your paper will depend on the criteria your professor assigned. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range between about 400-800 words in length.

Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:


If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of your articles for how to format in MLA, APA or Chicago style.

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step by Step

Step 1: Create a main theme

If you are able to choose your topic, summarize what you learned about your experience with that topic.

For example:

After watching the 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 the topic

You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you had, things that influenced you, or anything memorable.

For example:

  • I was brought up to think cold would harm my health
  • A specific moment when I struggled with the cold
  • The evidence and studies of Wim Hof
  • My new experiences with cold exposure
  • The influence others’ perception of cold have played on me
  • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective

Step 3: Analyse 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 analyse it further.

For example:

Idea: I was brought up to think cold would harm my health.

Analysis: I think most people were brought up to think that the cold has mostly harmful effects. These assumptions have made it harder for me to try to understand and truly embrace the benefits of cold therapy.

Step 4: Make connections between your observations, experiences, and opinions

Try to connect your ideas and insights to form more of a cohesive picture about your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline


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 analysing: 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:


“After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should examine the ideas and experiences you’ve had in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.

If you are writing about a book or an academic article, your reflection may include quotes and passages. 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.


“I saw many people participating in our cold therapy 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. Tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Describe the feeling and overall lesson you had as a result of 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 from 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.

Do you need a helping hand with your reflection paper outline? Count on the support of our professional writers.

Writing Tips

Here are some tips to help you write better, and maintain clarity in your writing:

  • Avoid being vague with your writing; be precise and clear about what you’re trying to communicate.
  • Your paper should be properly and cohesively organized.
  • Don’t use slang.
  • It is perfectly okay to use the word ‘I’ in your reflection. It is one of the few academic papers you can use first person language.
  • Make sure the information you include is relevant and appropriate for your reflection.
  • To make any necessary corrections on your reflection, it’s always a good idea to proofread it. Proofreading is vital before submitting any assignments or papers.

Reflection Paper Example

Having a reflection paper example can save you time. Find one below and feel free to use it as a reference.

Reflection of Angela Jones’ Lecture on Poverty

To Sum Up

That’s the advice we have for you on how to write a reflection paper. Remember that you should share your learning experience, analyse how the experience has shaped your thinking, and discuss why you thought or think that way. Your reflection paper is somewhat of a personal reflection corresponding to an experience. Good luck with your Reflection Paper!

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