A reflective paper grants you the chance to better understand and absorb something you’ve experienced or learned. In an academic setting, it’s often a piece of literature read in class, or assigned as homework. Professors assign such papers encouraging students to put their thoughts and observations on paper.
Reflective papers are also commonly found within a work environment. They can be evaluations of colleagues or a better way to make sense of newly learned material for work.
There are several ways to approach this kind of paper. In this article, we will look at the types of reflective writing that could be useful for your paper. We will also give you a simple explanation and guide on making reflective papers, and what should be included in them.
Reflecting On A Reading
- The most common type of reflection is a written response to a piece of literature or reading material. These are also present in various academic placement tests, where you’re given a piece of academic writing and asked to respond to it. For instance, the TOEFL test writing section has an essay writing reviews task, where you read a small passage or listen to a small lecture, and then respond to it. This can be considered a form of reflective writing.
Most often, such responses do not require any criticism of the given text. Merely a thorough description of your personal interpretation. Whether it’s a piece of literature or an academic journal, your job is to read and understand the piece thoroughly. Then give your personal thoughts on it. Professors enjoy assigning passages that stir some emotions in students, hoping to get an enthusiastic piece.
Reflecting On An Experience
A literature teacher from my high school asked us to write short reflective pieces every day. We’d come into class, and he’d give us five minutes to respond to a popular subject (usually written on the board), or just free write a short reflection of our day. Before the end of the school year, each student who left that class was a better writer, having sharpened their skill of putting thoughts on paper.
Free-writing can also be considered a form of reflection, as most people draw from experience. If the experience was somehow negative, or you dislike how you handled a certain situation, putting it to text can help you perform better in this kind of situation in the future.
What To Include In Your Piece
The key to making a good reflective paper is critical thinking. After having read your passage, it’s important to revisit it and assess how it makes you feel. Then, you’d be looking at it more academically, examining possible assumptions the author has made, or possible beliefs they hold.
For the conclusion of your paper, you’d offer your personal thought on how you could (for instance) solve the problem presented in the passage, suggest a different course of action, or call for a deeper analysis due to a lack of thorough meaning.
Here are all the elements which are essential to include in your piece:
- Your personal response to the passage you’ve read, the experience or event you’ve encountered
- Show that you’ve engaged in critical thinking
- Show that you’ve taken time to learn what the author intended to say (in case of a passage)
- Assess the author’s choice of tone and style
- Finally, state how the passage made you feel, and what you’ve taken from it
Almost all academic papers use the same structure, as it’s the easiest way to get your point across. This structure consists of an introduction, several body paragraphs (usually three), and a conclusion. To begin writing your paper, grab an essay outline sheet, and use it to structure what you are going to say.
What Reflective Writing Is Not
People tend to get these papers confused with other types of writing, such as argumentative or descriptive writing. While it’s important to give the reader context, description and argumentation are not essential elements of reflective writing. Other students tend to summarize what they’ve read, seen, or experienced, showing the reader that they’ve indeed ‘read the passage’, which is also not the right way to do it. A good paper includes barely any info from the text itself and more personal thoughts from the reader.
Theory And Practice
As we’ve already said, reflections are not a description or a summary. It is a tool for describing, analyzing, and evaluating, with the intention of assessing thoughts and experiences and developing new insights into the given subject. The outcome of a good reflective writing piece is that you assess your own knowledge of the subject, building upon what you already know. Hence, the true value of a reflective paper is gained through articulation or conveying complex thoughts and experiences into a clear piece of writing. Like taking an abstract theory, and giving it a clear real-life application.
Sometimes when studying theory, it’s hard to see how it can be implemented in practice. That’s why you can often find such papers in professional work environments as they help with work-based learning.
We’ve all been to math class in school and asked ourselves “how am I going to implement this in my life?” Another helpful aspect of these papers is that they help you find the connection between theory and practice. So if you were to sit down and respond to the knowledge you’ve gained from your math classes in high school, chances are that you’d find applications of what you’ve already learned in real life.
Examples Of When You’d Already Written A Reflective Paper
There are many examples of such writing that you’ve definitely come across. This type of writing appears frequently in a professional environment, especially when it comes to analyzing the outcome of group work, or evaluating a boss or teacher. Here are some frequent examples of this kind of writing that you definitely had already done:
- Reviewing your professor at the end of the semester;
- Critiquing a piece of academic work;
- Reviewing your experience in a certain workplace;
- Penning a journal or a diary;
- Writing test essays on topics like, ‘How did you spend your summer vacation’
- Writing an admission essay for college, specifying why you chose this specific school;
- Assessing passages in written tests such as the TOEFL or SAT;