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How to Write a Reflection Paper

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  • 0:01 What Is a Reflection Paper?
  • 0:54 Importance of…
  • 2:36 Before You Begin
  • 3:59 Structuring Your Paper
  • 5:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

A reflection paper is all about what you think. In this lesson, we will learn how to write an effective reflection essay and discover why they are so important to the learning process.

What Is a Reflection Paper?

A reflection paper is more academic than a journal entry but less formal than a traditional research paper. A reflection paper is all about you. It's an essay that essentially gives you the opportunity to react to how you personally feel about a particular book you read, a movie you saw, or a debate you attended.

While a reflection paper allows writers to provide their own personal feelings and should be written in the first person (unless instructed otherwise by your teacher), it's important to note that an effective reflection paper will not only provide your opinion, but it will back that opinion up with solid examples and cite an expert's knowledge if possible. Additionally, a reflection paper is about how you feel about the subject you are writing; there is no need to bring up counter-arguments or counterpoints in this sort of essay. That would only take away from the importance of your opinion.

Importance of Reflection Papers

Sometimes, we work an internship for college credit or sit through a classroom lecture but don't get the full experience until we are forced to sit down and analyze the event. Reflection papers have a major impact on the learning process because you are being asked to evaluate your experience in an analytical way.

Life is not just about first impressions. For example, perhaps you didn't like your internship at first because you felt that the tasks assigned to you were too menial and boring. However, when you sat down to write your reflection paper at the end of the summer and really thought about all of the various jobs you did for the company, you realized that you actually learned a lot from the experience. In fact, maybe you're now walking away with an idea about how a company is run from the bottom up, and perhaps all those copies you made and files you stored away will ultimately help you with your own organization down the line. Perhaps you did not see the value of your experience while you were up to your neck in files.

It is important to note, however, that a reflection paper is not about summarizing your experiences and opinions. You must be prepared to analyze, to deconstruct. Your teacher will not just want you to recap the various tasks you did during the summer. She'll want you to dig deeper and discuss specific aspects, such as how the specific tasks you performed will help you in the future, how the company could be run more effectively, and why or why not you would like to work for that company upon graduation. Those reflections will be based upon your opinion; however, your opinion is now built on your own personal experience and from your coursework and lectures at school.

Before You Begin

Of course, you have a lot of things to do, but before you get started on your reflection paper, you need to know exactly how you feel about what you're writing. It sounds silly to say, but sometimes we rush through projects to get them finished, before we've had time to properly reflect. If you're not sure what you want to specifically write about before you write it, your paper may end up being confusing to the reader and aimless in its direction.

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