Before we move to the actual writing tips, let’s start from a reflection paper definition: this is an academic essay, your personal reflection on a particular topic (in most cases, a book, movie, article or an idea). Even though it`s considered an academic work, it is less formal than other types and has a casual tone of first-person writing style giving your opinion on a specific topic. In other words, it is a detailed description of what you think about the thing you picked.
Reflection and its types
Reflection papers do not require a topic to be fully explored from all angles. Despite the essay being your personal opinion, you should also focus on a back up of strong evidence that can prove your point of view. Research for related studies and other experts` knowledge can make you sure you are putting it right. Remember that the most effective reflection essays are based on your opinion but still cite authoritative sources to support it.
There are three main types of papers to consider:
- Personal (expressing your thoughts and feelings on a personal topic);
- Educational (reflection on a book or movie watched by the group);
- Professional (analysis of your behavior at work).
One of the often used reflection paper types is considered a compare and contrast reflection essay when you compare two things and provide your opinion on both of them.
How to write a compare and contrast essay
Now when we learned the basics, it is time to move to the preparation stage of your paper writing. Before you start:
- Brainstorm the main themes. If this is a book, summarize it in a few sentences sticking to the point. What is it about?
- Define moments that stand out. What was special about this book? You can provide the quotations if needed or making notes when reading and then include it in the essay. What things here stand out in your opinion?
- Draw charts. Sometimes it is helpful to structure information in a chart to organize your ideas. Write down the key points and then your reaction to them (in other words, subjective response): later you can decide what of that can be included in the essay;
- Ask questions. If you struggle to cover lots of information, try asking yourself questions about the specific moment and your attitude to them. Why did this moment catch your attention? Do you feel this topic impacts your social experience? Has it changed the way you think now and how? Did this topic conflict with your beliefs or did it change them? What the important issues were described here and why were they involved?
- Compare and contrast. If you compare two topics, do all the same above for each of them and then provide arguments for its strong and weak points.
After you are done with this part, you have to create a structure you will follow describing all the thoughts from the previous list. Usually, it works like this:
- Introduction part (reflective question, pointing the main topic, providing thesis statement);
- Main body (discussing thesis, describing your personal experience with the topic, citing);
- Conclusion (responding to the reflective question, giving your overall experience, concluding with supportive arguments).
More suggestions on the organization:
- Keep it short (around 300-700 words). Pay attention to the instructor`s special requirements about the style, formatting, and number of words for an essay;
- Provide your expectations in the introduction part (based on the title, abstract, reviews state what you expect to get at the end);
- Work on a statement thesis (finish the introduction part with the result of your expectations, no more than one sentence to summarize whether or not your expectations were met);
- Make it clear and concise. Although it is a reflecting paper, you still have to stick to the point and overall structure of an essay. Keep your sentence level simple and do not try to fit a few ideas into one sentence. Make sure each one has a subject and the verb and work on the general conversational tone, mixing simple and complex sentences with different lengths. Thus your paper should sound natural;
- Focus on the main body. Before making conclusions, explain them in detail in the main body. How did you reach it? The purpose of the paper is not summarizing the topic but providing concrete and specific details that result in your conclusions. Divide all your ideas into paragraphs and clearly specify your main points and what you learned in the process thus providing conclusions;
- Stick to the right tone. Expressing your personal experience and opinion, keep it in a professional and academic tone. Avoid dragging other people down even if they made you feel the way you are describing. Describe the actions not naming the person;
- Summarize. Describe your overall experience with a few sentences supported by the main body evidence. If you compare two topics, mention their pros and cons and present the one you choose;
- Cite the sources. Do not forget to provide references for all the sources and scientists you mentioned in your paper according to the style picked;
- Edit and proofread. Check your paper for spelling, grammar and style errors, focus on the main structure and logical organization.
When writing, you have to think about how to present the material to make it easy to understand for the readers and also see all the logical connections in the text. Here are some tips that can help you organize them wisely:
- Reveal information about yourself. Although it is a personal essay that demonstrates your opinion, it does not mean you should describe all your emotions and feelings. Some things may be too personal so instead of writing everything just ask yourself what is appropriate and what is not. You should feel comfortable when sharing so avoid some topics and focus on more general expressions. Provide your professional and academic concerns on the issue;
- Avoid using the pronoun I too much. It is your opinion and story, but this is a type of paper where you can get away from using the first person pronoun and still express your feelings and emotions just providing evidence and explaining it. Slang is also forbidden here unless you want to sound not serious. No LOL or OMG in the essay;
- Use transitional phrases. This way you can shift the arguments and provide specific details that allow describing how the experience links to the understanding. Among common transitional phrases you can find for example/instance, in my opinion, as a result, etc;
- Connect classroom and topic information. You can use relevant info you learned in a class in your reflection essay (it works well for books and social experiences).
Remember that everyone has a style of writing. To get inspired, look for more compare and contrast essay example on the web and do not be afraid to experiment with your own providing it sounds professional and logical.