How to Write a Reflection Paper: Definition, Writing Tips, Examples

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Definition, Writing Tips, Examples
Table of Contents
  1. How to Write a Reflection Paper: Definition, Writing Tips, Examples
  2. What is a reflective paper
  3. Types of reflective papers
  4. 1. A journal reflection
  5. 2. A logbook reflection
  6. 3. A learning diary reflection
  7. 4. A reflective note
  8. 5. An essay diary
  9. 6. A peer review
  10. 7. A self-assessment paper
  11. Reflective paper format
  12. APA Formatting
  13. MLA Formatting
  14. How to write a good reflective paper
  15. How to start a reflective paper
  16. How to organize the main body in a reflective essay
  17. How to conclude a reflective essay
  18. Choosing a good topic
  19. Great reflective paper topic ideas
  20. Memories
  21. Significant events
  22. Human relationships
  23. Reflective Essay Examples
  24. Tips for a compelling reflection essay

Studying in college, students often get assignments that require them to share their own thoughts about a particular thing, event, or person. In other words, students are asked to write a reflective essay. As far as reflective essays have a particular grading rubric to follow, it is necessary to study all the aspects of writing such essay types. Mostly, it is easier to understand what is needed to do and how it should look like by simply following a particular example. This guide is devoted to defining nature, format, and the types of reflective papers. If you struggle with choosing the most suitable topic for such an assignment, we have also prepared a list of the freshest reflective essay topics for you to write an excellent paper and impress your professor.   

What is a reflective paper

Writing a reflection paper is academic writing, in which a student has to examine his or her life experiences. Then, the writer writes about such experiences and explores how those experiences affected how he or she has changed. Reflective essays can be formatted slightly differently, depending on the audience. Most often, professors ask students to prepare reading reflections, but there are several types of reflective essays. 


   Types of reflective papers

Among the most widespread reflective papers' types, there are reading and experiential types of reflection. The first type refers to the readings and provides personal interpretation of the quality of ideas represented in the text. The second type is mostly used when it is needed to connect theory and practice. Taking a closer look at the list of the reflective writing assignments that students receive in college, there are:


        1. A journal reflection 

 This type of reflective essay is mostly based on course materials. It requires a student to write weekly journal entries throughout the whole semester. 

        2. A logbook reflection

This type of reflection is mostly used in science or any other discipline based on experimental work. Students note down everything they have done. Such a log gives them the opportunity to have a detailed record of a process. As a result, students can easily reflect on their past actions. A logbook reflection aims to help students make better decisions regarding their reflective writing in the future.

        3. A learning diary reflection

 A learning diary reflection is similar to a journal entry, but may this assignment may require group participation. Sometimes, the diaries may become a place for communicating with group members in writing.

        4. A reflective note

A reflective note assignment is often required in law. Such paper encourages students to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.

        5. An essay diary

Sometimes, a reflective paper can require to examine sources and, therefore, take the form of an annotated bibliography or a critique. An essay diary usually is devoted to the reflection on a student's own writing or research processes.

        6. A peer review

A reflective paper in the form of a peer review in most common ways involves showing personal work to peers for getting objective feedback.

        7. A self-assessment paper

Sometimes, professors ask students to make self-assessments, which is another form of a reflective essay that requires students to comment on their own works.

Reflective paper format 

Reflective paper format greatly differs from such essays as a research paper, problem-solution, or argumentative papers. Concerning the format of a reflective essay, students may consider it as a diary entry or a well-structured personal story that is based on personal insight and reflection. Some professors ask to arrange the paper using the APA style while others prefer to use the MLA format. The length of the typical reflective paper varies between 250 and 600 words. Anyway, students should pay attention to the assignment instruction to strictly follow the professor's requirements and get a high grade. Although this type of academic writing is rather personal, students should avoid the overuse of informal language. If the requirements ask the writer to follow APA or MLA formatting style, you can use shortcuts about each of the formatting styles illustrated below.

APA Formatting

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font;
  • Double spaced indent;
  • 1" margins;
  • Page header on the top of each page;
  • Page numbers on the right;
  • Structural parts:
  1. Title Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Main Body
  4. References.

 MLA Formatting

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font;
  • Double spaced indent;
  • 1" margins;
  • Last name and page number on the top right corner of every page;
  • Centered titles;
  • Your name, your professor's name, course, the date on the header;
  • Works Cited page for references.

How to write a good reflective paper 

If you struggle to answer the question of how to write a reflective essay, you should remember that good reflective essays always follow the basic essay structure with its core elements like introduction, main body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

  How to start a reflective paper

Before the entire writing process of the reflection paper, a student should decide what he/she wants to write about. Also, it is necessary to understand how many paragraphs the whole paper will be. Then, the best way to plan the paper is to create a detailed outline. The first paragraph of the reflection paper is an introduction, which should involve:

  • hook sentence
  • an informative statement
  • the opening statement
  • thesis statement.

  How to organize the main body in a reflective essay

As far as the reflection paper is centered around the student's personal experience, it is highly important to make these experiences a key component of the entire reflection. The writer should describe the experience in detail to make the reader follow the analysis. Usually, it is helpful to explore one theme or learning outcome per paragraph in the main body section.

Each paragraph should cover:

  • highlights and exploration of the experience introduced in the opening paragraph
  • answers to a reflective prompt
  • each relevant experience exploration.

  How to conclude a reflective essay

The effective conclusion should follow the points listed below:

  • Restate/state learning/experience/question
  • Make a sum-up of the analysis and synthesis
  • Restate themes of reflection
  • Outline key plans for the future    
  • Discuss the role of new-found learnings in future practice
  • Answer the prompt 
  • Restate the thesis statement.

Choosing a good topic  

Since in the reflective type of essay, students are mostly talking about their own experiences, the best topics for such papers should be formed on the basis of certain personal experiences. Therefore, to choose a good topic, students should remember to:

a hand holding and writing

  • choose the most specific subject/ moment/ story 
  • explore the topic in more depth
  • do not run out of space
  • omit too broad topics
  • omit skimming the surface of the topic.

 Great reflective paper topic ideas 

Choosing a good topic is not the easiest part of essay writing, especially in terms of reflective assignments. To brainstorm the best topic, you may check the list of the freshest and useful topic ideas represented below. 


  1. My favorite mall in the city
  2. My hometown - the place where I grew up
  3. The best coffee shop nearby
  4. My former workplace
  5. The value of my grandparents' house
  6. Sweet memories about my school bus
  7. My favorite eating place in college
  8. The most impressive place for vacation based on personal experience
  9. Memories about the football field near school/home
  10. Online personal spaces

Significant events

  1. The last Valentine's Day
  2. My museum visiting experience
  3. A dinner prepared by me for the first time
  4. Total house renovation experience
  5. Neighborhood party memories
  6. The latest jazz concert that I have visited
  7. Going to another school experience
  8. Memories about being lost in childhood
  9. Everything that made me proud
  10. An exceptional date for me

Human relationships

  1. The last time I was angry because of the contradictory conversation
  2. The biggest disappointment in my life
  3. The moment of falling in love for the first time
  4. The moment when I was extremely embarrassed
  5. The last time of lying to myself
  6. The biggest dispute on work
  7. Times of big family reunion
  8. A memorable trip with a friend
  9. Uncontrolled laughing experience
  10. Experience in public speaking

Reflective Essay Examples

The reflective essay examples will help you get a clearer idea of how to correctly structure your paper and what is the most appropriate content of such essays. 


Example one: "Sample Journal Entry."

Example two: "Sample Reflection Paper."

Tips for a compelling reflection essay

If you are interested in getting the highest grade spending the least time on writing, these tips on how to write a reflection paper are for you. 

  1. Stay professional
  2. Follow the outline
  3. Include your feelings and opinions
  4. Always check twice
  5. Introduce specific details
  6. Make a mind-map before writing
  7. Illustrate a clear idea
  8. Give someone to read before submitting

Although some students are afraid of getting the assignment to write a reflective paper, there is no need for panic, as it is close to basic essay writing. These papers should follow a basic essay structure with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion; the only difference is in expressing their own experiences, goals, and feelings instead of facts. Anyway, if you have any problems or questions about how to write a reflective essay, feel free to ask for some academic assistance at any time you like. Our academic experts are always happy to answer all your questions about writing a reflection paper.