Reflection Paper: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Reflection Paper Definition
  • 1:58 Reflection Paper Examples
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Diedra Taylor

Diedra has taught college English and worked as a university writing center consultant. She has a master's degree in English.

Take a look at this lesson in order to learn what a reflection paper is and how you can go about forming your reflection. You'll also find out the role of critical thinking and analysis in a reflection paper.

Definition of a Reflection Paper

You know when you look into a mirror or the surface of water, and you see your reflection looking back at you? That's what reflection of the mind is, as well - a looking back. Reflection is a term often used in conjunction with meditation or deep thought. That is the kind of reflection we talk about when writing a reflection paper, and it can only be done by looking back at something from different angles. To write a reflection paper, you have to keep changing the angles until you see a fuller picture.

Reflection papers require you to analyze a topic from new perspectives.
Photo of a reflection.

You've probably been assigned a reflection paper in one of your classes. You may have been asked to write about something that had been covered in class or to come up with your own topic. Either way, the strategies you'll use are the same. You can even use the techniques of reflection in order to write articles for outside of school.

Reflection involves critical thinking, which is looking deeper into a particular topic. Critical thinking is not about your gut reaction. It is not simply writing down what you think you already know. Critical thinking means that you re-think your existing knowledge and opinions to see if there is more to the issue, or if perhaps your beliefs have been dominated more by feelings than by actual logic and reasoning.

Writing a reflective paper requires critical thinking and analysis
Photo of a man thinking.

That means a reflection paper requires you to think hard about a topic or reading assignment. You need to question your existing knowledge and beliefs. This questioning is called analysis. Dig for more information. When you analyze a topic, you have to pull it apart and break it down into smaller units.

Analyzing something requires looking at each of these separate, smaller units to see what they contribute to the whole. Then, write that new information down in your paper and explain your reasoning for any new conclusion you've drawn or your reasoning for maintaining your previous opinion on the matter. However, reflection should evoke some kind of new insight, even if your overall opinion is unchanged.

Examples of Reflection

A reflection paper should not be all facts and citations. Certainly, you should use some kind of logical information as the backbone of your paper, but the point of reflection is to write down what you think. Your opinions are encouraged here, so long as you have some kind of evidence to back them up.

One way to go about writing a reflection paper is to revisit a subject that you thought was insignificant, unimportant or just plain uninteresting. The purpose is to find the usefulness or interesting part of the topic. For instance, let's say you hate bugs. You are happy to squish any spider, ant or beetle that you come across, and you regularly have your house sprayed for pests.

Upon researching the topic, you may come to find a few facts such as:

  • Less than one percent of all spiders are capable of killing a human.
  • Entomologists (scientists who study insects) have made significant contributions to human health and medicine.
  • The ingredients in pesticides can also be harmful to human nervous systems.

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