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How to Write Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Written by Sarina Jones
Posted: May 18, 2022
Last update date: March 22, 2024
13 min read

Have you watched or read something that impressed you much? In this case, you may want to talk about it in your essay. Often, students write such a paper not because they genuinely want to share something but because the professor wants to check how they have mastered the material. Thus, this article will give instructions to help you write an exciting and valuable reflection paper.

  • Starting with an outline, we will walk you through the nuances of the reflection paper format.
  • The article will guide you through the process of writing a reflection essay, from selecting a topic and identifying the central theme to engaging in brainstorming and analytical thinking.
  • Emphasize the importance of connecting personal experiences and observations with your opinions.
  • Moreover, the piece includes an extensive section on writing tips, where we discuss how to vividly describe experiences and balance personal insights with objective analysis.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

Before we share what you need to know about effective reflection paper writing, we need to clarify what this type of essay is. It is your personal opinion and reaction about something, e.g., a movie or a trip. Accordingly, you must write about how that topic affected you instead of using only facts and arguments. As such, these papers are very appealing, and most students enjoy writing them. Of course, some don’t like these and rely on a writing essay service to complete a paper in no time.

In essence, the reflection’s purpose is to create a paper expressing your thoughts and opinions about the main topic. There are a few variations of reflection here, and we will explain each below.

Types of Reflective Writing

To write a reflection paper, you must pay close attention to the type you use. Word count is low here, so you must stay focused and use all the steps and proper elements. The essential element is to know about three different types. These will determine how to write a good reflection paper, how you need to optimize body paragraphs, and so much more. It is also one reason that makes writing reflection papers so hard.

Critical Reflection Paper

It is the most common and hardest type. It will be based on your study and has to include different points. For example, you need to elaborate on what you have learned, the experiences you received, and how and what challenges it took. However, you don’t have enough room, so you will need to be professional in this kind of academic writing, and you still need to focus on the main themes. Additionally, you will have to provide details about your experiences and reactions and analyze them in detail. Studying reflection paper examples may be necessary to get a general idea.

Personal Reflection Paper

Here, you also need to provide your experiences. Besides, you will also have to explain how it concerns you. There are countless examples and plenty of things you are about to discover. It differs from a critical reflection paper and focuses more on the experience’s personal element than anything else. You can always write a personal reflection essay how you like and want, but try to focus on the essential occasion.

Reading Reflection Paper

Being a pivotal component of education, a reflection paper plays a significant role in conveying the impact of literature, particularly books, on the individual. It necessitates clearly articulating how the reading material has influenced and shaped personal experiences. At many educational institutions, crafting a reflection on literature is a standard assignment. In meeting this requirement, it is essential to encompass all key aspects of this academic genre. Thus, the expected length of a reflection paper typically ranges from 2 to 3 pages, ensuring a concise yet comprehensive exploration of the insights gained from the literary experience.

Approaches to Reflective Inquiry

A reflection assignment is a powerful tool for personal growth and learning, allowing individuals to explore their experiences and derive meaning from them. Various approaches to thoughtful inquiry provide frameworks that can significantly enrich the narrative of a reflective essay. By incorporating these theories, writers can deepen their self-awareness, analyze their experiences from different perspectives, and articulate the transformative journey within their narratives. This exploration delves into five prominent approaches, each offering a unique lens through which individuals can reflect on something.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Graham Gibbs’ model offers a structured approach with six stages: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion, and Action Plan. This cycle ensures a comprehensive exploration of the experience by systematically guiding writers through each step. From initial impressions to actionable insights, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle provides a robust framework for dissecting and creating a personal experience essay.

Boud’s Three-Level Model of Reflection

David Boud’s model comprises Descriptive Reflection, Dialogic Reflection, and Critical Reflection. By progressing through these levels, writers can move beyond surface-level observations, engage in a meaningful internal dialogue, and critically evaluate the broader implications of their experiences. Consequently, Boud’s model encourages writers to delve into the complexity of their reflections, fostering a more profound understanding of the self and the surrounding context.

Schön’s Reflective Practitioner

Donald Schön’s model distinguishes between Reflection-in-Action, Reflection-on-Action, and Knowing-in-Action. This approach emphasizes the importance of reflecting in real time, analyzing past experiences, and understanding how knowledge shapes future actions. Hence, Schön’s Reflective Practitioner offers a dynamic perspective that aligns with the ever-evolving nature of personal and professional development.

Brookfield’s Four Lenses

Stephen Brookfield’s model encourages writers to view their experiences through four distinct lenses: Autobiographical, Student, Colleague, and Theoretical. By adopting these different perspectives, writers gain a holistic understanding of their experiences, considering personal biases, the viewpoints of others, and theoretical frameworks that contribute to a more comprehensive self-reflection paper.

Atkins and Murphy’s Model

Sensing, Selecting, Executing, and Evaluating form the four stages of this model. Writers following this approach systematically progress through decision-making, implementation, and reflection, offering a practical reflection essay structure for examining the entire process. Particularly, Atkins and Murphy’s Model ensures writers reflect on the outcomes, decision-making, and implementation phases.

Dewey’s Reflective Thinking

John Dewey’s model follows a problem-solving approach with four stages: Identifying a Problem, Describing the Problem, Suggesting Solutions, and Testing Solutions. This model emphasizes recognizing challenges, contextualizing them, generating solutions, and assessing their effectiveness. Thus, Dewey’s Reflective Thinking aligns reflection with practical problem-solving, making it applicable in various contexts.

That being said, incorporating these reflective inquiry approaches into essay narratives enables writers to transcend surface-level descriptions, fostering a more profound understanding of their experiences. Whether examining emotions, analyzing actions, or considering multiple perspectives, these frameworks provide a structured pathway for meaningful self-discovery and growth.

Writing a Reflection Outline


Writing a reflection paper involves more than simply recounting experiences; it requires a thoughtful and organized approach to convey personal insights and growth effectively. That is why creating a reflective essay outline and adhering to a specific format can enhance the clarity and coherence of your reflective essay.

Reflection Paper Introduction:

  • Briefly introduce the experience or topic of reflection.
  • Provide context or background information as needed.
  • Clearly state the purpose of the reflection.

Body Paragraphs:

  • Organize each paragraph around a specific aspect/theme of the experience.
  • Use headings to distinguish different elements of the reflection.
  • Follow a chronological/thematic order, depending on the reflection’s nature.


  • Begin with a detailed description of the experience.
  • Capture sensory details, emotions, and the overall atmosphere.
  • Set the stage for readers to immerse themselves in the narrative.


  • Explore your emotions and thoughts during the experience.
  • Discuss how the event impacted you on a personal and emotional level.
  • Be honest and reflective in expressing your feelings.


  • Analyze the experience.
  • Consider what worked well and what could have been improved.
  • Reflect on the significance of specific moments or decisions.


  • Reflect on what you learned from the experience.
  • Connect the experience to broader concepts, theories, or personal beliefs.
  • Consider how the experience contributed to your personal or professional development.


  • Summarize the critical insights gained from the reflection.
  • Reinforce the significance of the experience in the broader context of your life.
  • End a reflection paper with a compelling conclusion for a lasting impression.

Action Plan (Optional):

  • Discuss how the insights will influence your future actions or decisions.
  • Consider any changes you plan to implement based on the reflection.

Reflection Paper Format

Here, we can see one crucial fact about reflective writing. All papers of this kind must use proper formatting. Admittedly, a reflective paper format will make your essay look as it should, and you won’t have any issues with your professor making any mistakes possible. In simple terms, this is the template you can use for all papers of this kind.

To encourage you to explore your ideas for different reflective essay topics, we will have to interpret the main facts below so you can use them. Keep in mind that your school may have a different requirement, so you will have to talk to your professor and get the guidelines to use them to write a reflection essay.

An academic writing is different worldwide, but you must do this before starting any essay:

  • You must write on A4 paper (in Office Word or on real paper).
  • Margins must be 1 inch.
  • The text size is 12 points.
  • Fonts you can use are Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri.
  • All lines must be paired with double spaces.
  • A teacher will define the citation (usually APA or Chicago style).
  • The length should be between 250 and 750 words.

How to Write Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

How to start a reflection paper? For this purpose, we will have a complete process of creating an effective reflective paper. All the experts use this simple guide, and it can have a huge effect on your writing. Undoubtedly, each reflective paper must follow the points, so you can imagine how crucial these are. If you skip at least one, you can finish poorly and get a lower grade. While at college, you can use these all the time but only on papers of this kind.

Choose the topic

The first is to pick the topic and thesis statement for reflective essay. Thus, you will have an easier time writing, and you will be able to focus more on the things you like and find interesting. You can also find some self-reflection paper examples. If the topic is not something you can opt for, you will probably have a harder time. Indeed, your chosen topic must perfectly match your experience and opinion and make you passionate. This is one of the reasons why so many students need help and want to get a good reflection paper done. They don’t want to write about some topic they don’t like. Luckily, you can always buy a research paper and get it over with.

Start with the main theme

You must write about what you have learned from the experience you are defining. Try to match the readers. They will want to be able to link up with you, and they will need that. In other words, if you can choose this, you already have a good reflection paper. They should be able to relate to that from reading your essay. Additionally, you can use strong words and many details if you are trying to define this from a book. At college, this is essential.

Brainstorming part

This can be an interesting part. You will need to relax and write down all the ideas that you have on your mind for self-reflective writing. It is not substantial how silly they are or how special they sound. Just write them down. Once you are done, you can organize them and make corrections. You should start with a title page when this is a more significant element. In general, you will have to write down anything memorable that may have any impact on the essay you are writing now.


Main theme: A constant fear of missing out.


  1. I only feel FOMO when I’m studying instead of having fun.
  2. Studies show that FOMO is a display of fear of social exclusion.
  3. Social media foments the fomo.
  4. Now I realize the main solution to FOMO is to spend less time checking on the feed.

Analyze how and why

Now, you will need to choose and analyze that idea in depth. You will need to write about how and why it hit you and your experience at the end. This is more important than you may believe and has a huge role. While at school, you always need to ask yourself how to make a self-reflection assignment and why. These are mandatory questions for all types of writing, which can help you get your desired grade.

✏️Examples of reflective writing:

  • “Before” questions: What will I receive from this experience? Which critical thinking skills do I need to overcome? Are there any issues I can face?
  • “During” questions: What is the expertise I receive from the occasion? How do I feel about it? Does this experience change my outlook?
  • “After” questions: How have these past experiences altered my life and thoughts? Did it meet my expectations? How can I express my feelings about it?

Connect your opinion, experience, and observation

You will need to write about the connection between what you thought about that idea, your experience, and what you observed. Try to link these simply and reach your readers as well. It may sound obvious, but one element can be essential for understanding. If you are writing a reflection essay about the book, you must say something about the author, the characters’ names, and how it affected you.

6 Tips on Writing Your Reflection Paper

Writing a reflective essay is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery and learning, allowing you to delve into your experiences and extract valuable insights. Here are six essential tips to enhance the effectiveness of your reflection paper:

1. Describe the Experience Vividly

Bring your experiences to life by vividly describing the details. Engage your reader’s senses with colorful language, capturing the moment’s sights, sounds, and emotions, especially if you are writing a reflection paper on a book. Transport them into the scene by painting a rich picture, allowing them to connect with your experience on a deeper level. Whether it’s a significant life event or a subtle moment of realization, the power of your reflection lies in the ability to convey the experience with clarity and depth.

2. Use of First Person

Reflection papers are inherently personal, so embrace the use of first-person pronouns. This approach allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions authentically. Accordingly, using “I” and “me” invites the reader into your journey, fostering a connection and providing a more genuine reflection of your experiences. Don’t shy away from sharing your perspective; it is the foundation of a reflection paper format.

3. Balancing Personal and Objective Elements

Strike a balance between personal reflections and objective analysis. While conveying your emotions and subjective experience is crucial, incorporate objective elements to provide context and depth to your reflection in psychology and self-development. Besides, consider the broader implications of your experience and how it fits into the larger socio-cultural or academic context. This balance ensures that your reflection is both introspective and intellectually engaging.

4. Authenticity and Honesty

Authenticity is the heart of reflective writing. Be honest with yourself and your readers about your thoughts and emotions. Share the highs and lows, acknowledging moments of uncertainty or personal growth. No doubt, readers connect with authenticity, adding depth to your narrative. Also, avoid embellishment or artificial positivity; let your genuine voice shine through, creating a narrative that resonates with sincerity.

5. Critical Self-Reflection

Go beyond surface-level descriptions by engaging in critical self-reflection. Thereupon, challenge your assumptions, question your beliefs, and analyze your thought processes during the experience. After, consider how external factors or societal influences may have shaped your perspective. Critical self-reflection demonstrates intellectual rigor and a willingness to explore the complexities of your thoughts, contributing to a more nuanced and insightful reflection.

6. Demonstrating Growth and Learning

A reflection paper is not just about recounting an experience; it’s an opportunity to showcase personal growth and learning. Thus, reflect on how the experience has influenced your beliefs, attitudes, or actions. Discuss any changes in your mindset or behavior that have resulted from this reflection. Plus, articulate the lessons learned and highlight the ongoing process of development. Demonstrating growth adds a forward-looking dimension to your reflection, illustrating the transformative impact of your experiences.

Incorporating these tips into your reflective writing process will make your paper more engaging and provide a platform for genuine self-exploration and learning. Embrace the opportunity to share your unique perspective, allowing your reflection to resonate authentically with yourself and your readers.

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Reflection Paper Example

“Reflecting on the Moment I Received a Long-Desired Possession”

I still vividly remember the day I received the item I had been longing for – a sleek, silver MacBook Pro laptop. It was a momentous occasion for me, as I had been saving up for it for months and constantly researching and comparing different models and features. The laptop symbolized a new level of independence and creativity for me, and I was beyond excited to finally have it in my hands.

As I eagerly tore open the box, I felt a rush of emotions – excitement, gratitude, and a sense of accomplishment. I had worked hard for this, and it was a tangible representation of my efforts and determination. I felt proud of myself for setting a goal and following through with it, and I couldn’t wait to start using my new laptop to its full potential.

Using the MacBook Pro was like a dream come true. Its sleek design, fast processing speed, and advanced features made it so much easier for me to accomplish tasks and unleash my creativity. Whether I was working on school projects, writing personal essays, or just browsing the web, I felt inspired and empowered.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson about the power of perseverance and hard work. I learned that if I set my mind to something and put in the effort, I can make it happen. This sense of control and autonomy was empowering and gave me a new level of confidence.

In conclusion, receiving my long-desired MacBook Pro was a moment that will stay with me for a long time. It taught me about the rewards of hard work and perseverance, and gave me a new sense of confidence and independence. I am grateful for this experience, and I am looking forward to using my laptop for many years to come.

Ideas to Come Up with a Topic for a Reflective Essay

As you already know, writing a reflective essay requires speaking from experience and expressing yourself. That means that not only do you need to have an understanding of a specific matter. But you have to find a relation between the subject of the writing and yourself. That is related to creative skills, as interpreting that connection and experience is not an easy matter.

When writing such assignments, knowing how to pick your topic is crucial. For that, you should choose something of interest, and it can be anything dear to you—places, events, or meaningful moments with special people.

Always conduct thoughtful research. Finding information about your topic is crucial, as you must not only speak with your experiences but be able to confirm that with some facts and examples too. It is vital to ensure that you do not make up facts by yourself and provide truthful information, see from your perspective, and explain with your understanding.

Keep these tips in mind when selecting your reflective essay topic. They will greatly help and make the writing process more comfortable. Now it’s time to give you another shoulder. Check down below, and you will find reflective essay topic examples that inspire you to create the perfect one.

Reflective Essay Topic Ideas for Middle School Students

  1. What I Did During the Summer Vacation
  2. School Trips Are Fun
  3. The Impact of School Sports
  4. Season Changes and Their Beauty
  5. The Winter Vacations
  6. When Was The First Time You Lied?
  7. Best School Memory You Have
  8. How Important Is Family?
  9. Why Lies Are a Bad Thing
  10. First Day at School

Reflective Essay Topics for College Students

  1. What Is Your Favorite Computer Game?
  2. Was the Time You Spend Studying Worth It?
  3. The Impact Humans Leave on Nature
  4. A Gorgeous Person You Have Met
  5. When Were You Really Embarrassed for the First Time?
  6. The Best Birthday Memory You Have
  7. Your Special Person and Their Importance to You
  8. What Is Your Favorite Holiday Season?
  9. Are You Afraid of Failing at School?
  10. School Bullying, a Factor that Must Disappear

Reflective Essay Topics for High School Students

  1. Your Favorite Fast Food Place
  2. Playing on the Beach as a Middle Schooler
  3. Moving to a New Place and the Issues that Come With It
  4. Effects of Gaming on School Performance
  5. Life Behaviour and Understandings from the Perspective of a High Schooler
  6. Overstudying, Depression and Its Effects on the Modern Student’s Life
  7. How Does Social Media Influence the Life of Every High Schooler?
  8. The First Time You Fell in Love
  9. Features in the Educational System that Must Be Changed
  10. Your Favorite Hobby and Its Effects on Your Life

Reflective Essay Topics about Places and Locations

  1. The House in Which I Grew Up
  2. Your First School Trip and the Experience You Gained from It
  3. Dear Memories of Your Grandparent’s Place
  4. Which Place Makes You Feel Safe No Matter What?
  5. Your School Club and Its Importance to You
  6. The Part Where You Kissed Your Loved One
  7. Circus, the First Time You Ever Visited One
  8. The Mall and Its Vital Role in Every Student’s Life
  9. Your Favorite Coffee Place
  10. The Cinema Where You Went on a Date for the First Time

Reflective Essay Topics about Events You Cherish

  1. Your Best Birthday Party Memory
  2. The First Parenting Experience You Have Got
  3. The Importance of Getting a New Job
  4. Fishing and the Memories You Have Got from Your Grandparents
  5. First-Ever Experience with Your Favorite Sport
  6. The Time You Got Lost in a New City
  7. Your Favorite Sports Event
  8. The Time You Celebrated Your First Significant Anniversary
  9. Your First Time Going to a Bar for a Drink
  10. What Was the Best Unexpected Gift You Have Ever Gotten?

Reflective Essay Topics about Nature and Wildlife

  1. Your First Experience of Seeing and Touching a Wild Animal
  2. Farming, Your Experience with It, and Personal Observations
  3. The Most Beautiful Sunset You Have Ever Seen
  4. Rock Climbing and Its Effects Over People’s Mindset
  5. First Natural Disaster You Have Seen
  6. Your Experience with Insects
  7. Nature and Hiking, Importance of Healthy Life
  8. Your Thoughts about Winter and the First Snow Every Year
  9. Scuba Diving, Experiencing Life Beneath the Surface
  10. Your First-Ever Walk in the Summer Rain

Reflective Essay Topics about Relationships

  1. The Importance of Family in Your Life
  2. What Is the Most Significant Memory that You Have with Your Loved One?
  3. When Was the Last Time You Had a Good Laugh with Your Other Half?
  4. The First Time You Have Told Someone You Are Sorry for Your Actions
  5. The Impact of a Healthy Family Relation on the Positive Mindset of a Person
  6. Your Thoughts about Social Networking at Work
  7. School, Student, and Teacher Relationship and Its Importance over Studies
  8. Sincere Thoughts about Relationship with a Family Member
  9. Long Distance Dating, Pros and Cons of the Healthy Relationship
  10. When Was The Best Date You Ever Had?

Personal Reflective Essay Topics Ideas

  1. Eating During School and Your Personal Experience with It
  2. Your Most Significant Memory of Your First Workplace
  3. The First Time You Fell in Love
  4. Graduation and My First Time Finding a Job
  5. The Most Beautiful Memory of a Walk in Nature
  6. When Was the First Time Someone Asked You on a Date?
  7. The Earliest Birthday Memory You Have
  8. Your First Job Interview
  9. The One Time You Unexpectedly Went on a Journey
  10. What Was the Thing That Made You Fall in Love?

Reflective Essay Topics about Nursing and Caring

  1. Your Thoughts on Nursing and the Hardships Related to It
  2. Nursing Studies, Your Experience of the Process
  3. Elderly People Homes and Nurse’s Importance
  4. Man in the Nursing Sector
  5. Your Insights on the Nursing Career Path
  6. The Importance of Fast Reaction and Time Management Issues
  7. Nursing and the Patients, Whose Interest Comes First
  8. Modern Ethics and Their Importance in the Nursing Sector
  9. My Life as a Nurse, Reflection Essay
  10. Nurse and Why Did I Choose to Become One?

Crafting Reflective Narratives

In navigating the landscape of reflective writing, embracing vivid descriptions, first-person engagement, and a delicate balance of personal and objective elements is essential. Authenticity and honesty form the bedrock of compelling reflections, creating connections between writer and reader. Otherwise, you can ask for help and Google someone who will perform your “write my paper for me” request or try to do it yourself.

Critical self-reflection elevates the discourse, fostering intellectual exploration. A well-crafted reflection paper should be a testament to growth and learning. As you embark on your reflective journey, remember that each experience, when authentically shared, has the potential to resonate profoundly. Embrace the transformative power of your narrative and let the true essence of your journey unfold!

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