How to Write a Reflection Paper

How to Write a Good Reflection Paper

Regardless of the department at which you study, the learning process always involves stages at which you’re required to reflect on the already covered path and significant milestones of your educational process. At these moments, you’re asked to write reflective pieces – that is, academic works that consider thoroughly what you did, read, or witnessed. These writing assignments may relate to a practical experience related to your study material or simply assess how you practice reflection.

Thus, be prepared to turn on your reflective nature and assess the significance and meaning of the past events or influences when engaging in reflective writing. But what to do if you’re clueless on how to write a college reflection paper? Here is a detailed guide from our experts, explaining all ins and outs of this process. You will also get workable tips on structuring your assignment and including valuable content in each part.

What Is a Reflection Paper

First, let’s clarify what this type of assignment requires from you as a writer. Experts point out that a reflective exercise is typically meant to help students make sense of their experiences and derive certain inferences for the future. Thus, when you’re composing a reflection piece, you typically talk about yourself, your experiences, and your subjective meanings assigned to those experiences and events.

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The beginning of your reflection paper writing process typically includes two issues: choosing a topic and reflective direction. The topic can be assigned by your professor or chosen on your own; it doesn’t matter which approach you pick as long as you stay relevant and on-topic with the prompt. As for the direction, here you need to consider several options (our experts typically use the reflection compass of Seidel and Blythe with four alternatives).

  1. Backward (this reflection typically addresses something that happened to you in the past and describes what you witnessed and felt about it).
  2. Inward (this reflection paper should consider your feelings and emotions related to a specific phenomenon or event, an inspection of your rationale for doing something, and the change in the situation’s perception since that moment).
  3. Outward (this reflective piece should make connections between the way you feel inside and the external societal issues or the environment).
  4. Forward (this type of reflection targets the continuum of your learning and advancement, thus drawing implications for the future from the past experiences).

In some cases, you can limit your reflection to one of these directions or combine several directions into a single, coherent piece. In any situation, make sure that your choice and use of these reflective directions is conscious and well-planned.

How to Structure a Reflection Paper

Again, the structure of your assignment will depend on what topic you’re examining and for which academic subject you need to do this task. As a rule, reflective pieces include:

  • A reflection on the professional and academic practice of the writer or a specific event in the past or present.
  • Analysis of what that experience meant in your life and how you dealt with it.
  • Evaluating the significance of that event in your life, a system of values, and professional orientation, with a detailed discussion of how it made you change your thinking or approach.
  • Reflection on the role of that event in your personal development and thinking about what you did right or wrong, what you could have done differently, etc.

How to End a Reflection Paper

At the end of a reflection paper, you need to focus on the long-term implications of the experience you had. By looking at what happened, what went right or wrong, and what it taught you, you become a much more thoughtful, analytical personality. Thus, you need to show what you realized based on the discussed experience and your analysis thereof.

Reflection Paper Outline

If you need more reflection paper guidelines, here is a reflective cycle we typically use to compose reflection papers on demand and a sample outline for such an assignment. It’s pretty general, so you can apply it wherever you need, tweaking the structure a bit depending on your prompt and subject of discussion.

So, the reflective cycle envisions a reflection as a cycle including six steps:

  • A brief introduction to the event that actually took place
  • Examination of your emotions
  • Assessment of the event or encounter in terms of successes and failures
  • Detailed analysis to comprehend the situation
  • Inferences regarding the lessons learned and alternative actions you could have taken
  • Implications for the future if you encounter similar situations.

Sample outline:


My first experience working with interview participants. Description of the study project. How I entered the room with the first interviewee, how we interacted.


The way I felt when interacting with human participants. Their feelings and expectations from the encounter with a researcher. Problematic points that we had in the interaction. The way I resolved those challenges.


My first encounter with human participants in research and understanding of this research dimension. What I learned from that encounter and what I will do differently next time.

Reflection Paper Introduction

Start your reflection paper with the description of the actual experience you want to analyze in this assignment. Describe it in physical terms, first of all, presenting a detailed narrative of what happened, who was present, who said what, and what you witnessed. Don’t be evaluative in this part; your task is to introduce the readers to a story, not offering the reflection yet.


I undertook my first session of interviews last week, which was meant for my Sociology class. I sent out a Google forms survey to fellow students asking them to participate in my study, and five persons responded positively. So, I organized a cozy conference room in our library, scheduled five interview sessions for 20-30 minutes in a row, and welcomed all respondents to a meeting.

Reflection Paper Body

The body of the reflection paper serves to explain all your experienced emotions and thoughts connected with the event you describe. Here you should provide some details and clarify how they made you feel, why you think you felt this way, and what went good or bad in the situation.


The first interview was the hardest. I presented myself formally (too formally, as I now understand) and hasted to start the interviewing part. My respondent answered all questions, but these responses were mechanic and minimalistic, as I now see. This happened because of a lack of rapport and my little investment into establishing a relaxed, sincere atmosphere. I missed that point because of being nervous and could not do anything with that until the end of our meeting.

Next time, I was more cautious about the respondent’s psychological comfort and went at length to explain the study, introduce myself, and discuss any points causing worries or caution in him. The outcome was much better, and I was celebrating a victory already, thinking that I’d discovered the secret of successful interviewing. But the third interviewee was too talkative to put it all into 30 minutes, and the fourth interviewee was in a hurry, so the fourth meeting went not that good. Besides, I was too exhausted by the time the fifth respondent came, so I barely remember how I made it through the final interview.

Reflection Paper Conclusion

The final part of the reflection piece is a conclusion that sums up your takeaways from the described experience. You can also examine your expectations and the actual experience you had, thus comparing them and making some logical conclusion from the event or encounter.


Now, looking at my first encounter with interviewing as a research stage, I have learned many vital lessons for my future career. First, I have understood that personal contact is vital, and it should be created at the beginning of the meeting, no matter what. Otherwise, you won’t be able to extract the needed data from interviewees; they won’t trust you. Besides, I have figured out that making a tight schedule kills sincerity and a relaxed feeling of comfort at the interview.

When you’re constantly looking at the watch, your interviewee won’t feel appreciated and carefully listened to. Finally, the researcher’s inner resource is also significant as a person cannot cover many hours of interviewing with equal attention and care. So, it’s better to schedule only 1-2 interviews for one day to give all respondents enough attention and collect valuable data.

Need Help with Your Reflection Paper?

As you can see, reflective writing is pretty specific in terms of time, effort, and the degree of introspection it requires from you. Not everyone is ready to engage in demanding academic tasks like this, lacking time or concentration amid the hectic daily schedules. So, if you’re unsure how to write a reflection paper in APA format or need help with any other academic task, it’s time to come to our paper writer service and ask for help.

We’re always online, handling student tasks 24/7 and contributing to your better, more stable education.

Inesse Goulding
About post author
As a former student myself, I appreciate the opportunity to help and guide young learners. I am your fearless partner in any academic emergency. My major is journalism, but I am always willing to help you with other pressing matters. Likes traveling, books, self-education, blogging, and academic writing. A diligent and hard-working writer, Inesse Goulding is an ever-positive personal who is always pleasant to talk to. Inesse is a profound editor and proofreader with a keen eye for impeccable grammar and engaging style. Also, Mrs. Goulding boasts a perfect English language, which makes her one of our most prolific and well-demanded writers. Let’s create something great together!
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