How to write a reflection paper | 5 must-have elements

How to Write a Reflection Paper

Figuring out how to write a reflection paper can sometimes be difficult, especially because it’s focused on you and your own life experiences, but here are some options that will help you start the process.


There are five must-have elements in every reflection paper. 


1. Brief Introduction

Start with three to four sentences that introduce a situation from your life experience that you will be writing about. The introduction should set the context for your reflection, and include an overview of the key concepts that will be discussed.



2. Trigger Event

The trigger event is the positive or negative impression that you have, based on this experience. It is evoked by behaviours, ideas, or feelings that intrigue you (puzzlement, surprise, or shock, something that aroused curiosity or makes you say ‘a-ha’. This section should include a few sentences that tell the reader why you have chosen to write about this particular situation or experience.



3. Appraisal

This section offers you the opportunity to identify and clarify a concern about your experience, and engage in self-examination. Perhaps begin with those who face a similar contradiction. This section needs to be one to two paragraphs in length. In this section you return to the situation and ask: What is generally known about this issue? What does the literature say about it? Using scholarly journal to support your thoughts and ideas is recommended.



4. Exploration

This section provides you with the opportunity to take the time and begin searching for new ways of explaining discrepancies in your understanding or new ways to live with them. Test options and search for new meanings – develop alternative perspectives: come to way of thinking and acting that you feel make sense of a situation – it is a transition stage. Leaving behind a familiar but inappropriate assumption can be a wrenching experience. A common tendency is to hang onto the assumption or behavior. Try to modify it to fit the situation more closely. Include two to three paragraphs describing how this process has affected your understanding, your ‘sense-making’ of what you wrote in the initial paragraphs. Are there other ways to look at the situation? What did you read in the literature that led you to think differently about the experience?



5. Integration

Integration refers to integrating new ways of understanding into the fabric of your life. It includes integration of cognitive and affective domains. In this phase, there is a connecting of the present with the past and with the future. This section should be one to two paragraphs in length. You may begin by asking yourself: Have I learned something that I think will inform/further my personal, academic, or professional development? Try to discover something you had not thought of before. Link what you knew before to what you know now and to how this might affect your thinking and/or your responses in the future.


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