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Tips on Writing a Reflection Paper

By Ann Trent

A reflection paper asks the writer to call on her own experiences and reactions

A reflection essay focuses on the reader’s personal responses to a text or experience, such as a piece of art or a class. A reflection essay is more casual than a research essay, but it still requires clear focus and organization. Although this type of essay might seem easy, it’s important to focus your topic, provide your reader with your reactions and explain how they relate to the text itself and what you learned from them.

Keep a Journal

A reflection paper should center around the writer’s reactions to a text. Keep a journal or notes to chronicle your reactions. As you gather your thoughts, begin to notice any repetition of ideas or related ideas. Use your favorite brainstorming technique to identify the responses that most interest you and identify two or three that seem the most generative. These topics can create the backbone of your essay and provide you with focus.

Refer Back to the Text

Connect your ideas back to the text. For example, if you are reading a book and you report reactions of sadness or distress, connect your reactions to what prompted them in the text. Write down how your reactions relate to the text and what specific passages or prompted those reactions. If you are writing about an experience, such as a particular class or event, use the same principles. Consider what where your primary responses to the event and what prompted them.

Provide Analysis

Reflective essays generally contain three elements: analysis, synthesis and evaluation. After you have gathered your ideas and thought about how your responses relate to the text or experience, work on analyzing the text or experience. This provides a basis for your reflection and allows your reader some context for understanding your reactions. Tell your reader what primary aspect of the text or experience you are responding to and explain any underlying ideas or concepts you will be discussing in your reflection. For example, if you are reflecting on issues of gender in a novel, provide your reader with an analysis of gender dynamics first.

Synthesize Your Thoughts

Synthesis asks you to see how the various parts of the text work together and how your reflection relates to the text: This is where you will discuss how your reflections relate to the analysis you’ve already done. This is also where you will point out any surprising reactions you had to the text or experience that might not align with your analysis. The synthesis makes up the major part of the reflective essay and should discuss both your personal reactions and the text itself.

Provide Evaluation

The evaluation is where you can further reflect on your learning and tell your reader what you have taken away from the experience or text. This is where you take your synthesis a step further and tell the reader how you will apply what you have learned from your various reactions and reflections. Give your reader insight into how your thinking has changed upon reflection, and what, overall, you have learned from the text or experience.

References

  • International Institute for Restorative Practices: IIRP Tips on Writing Reflection Papers
  • DePaul: The University Center for Writing-Based Learning: Reflective Essay
  • Saint Mary’s University: Writing Center: Reflective Writing

About the Author

Ann Trent has been publishing her writing since 2001. Her work has appeared in “Fence,” the “Black Warrior Review” and the “Denver Quarterly.” Trent received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Ohio State University and has attended the Macdowell Colony. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in counseling.

Photo Credits

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Reflective Essay Example on the Novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Date: April 15, 2017

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What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of essay that requires you to analyze your own ideas, experiences, and insights and then put them together in writing. Essentially, writing reflective essays is all based on reflection and self-reflection: human’s capacity to exercise introspection and willingness to explore one’s inner thoughts and/or experiences.


HOW TO WRITE A REFLECTIVE ESSAY


If you are looking for the reflective essay examples you can read a great one below.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of the most famous books in the American literature. Like a lot of books, it is inspired by the author’s personal experiences, but not so much so that it becomes a semi-biographical narrative rather than something that manages to stand up on its own. Since it is a bildungsroman, it should come as no surprise to learn that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ focuses on the loss of innocence, with particular emphasis on racial issues that were prevalent in those times but remain relevant in the present.

To Kill a Mockingbird Book Cover

In brief, Scout is a six-year-old girl growing up in a Southern town during the Great Depression with her father Atticus Finch. Much of the novel focuses on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who is put on trial for the supposed rape of a white woman. Although Scout manages to prevent him from being lynched while Atticus manages to show that he was innocent, Tom is nonetheless convicted of the crime and then shot while attempting to escape. Afterward, Bob Ewell, the man who had accused Tom of rape, attempts to kill Scout and her brother as revenge against Atticus for unraveling his lies on the witness stand but is foiled by the town recluse, Boo Radley.

Who Are the Main Characters in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’?

There are a number of important characters in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, but the most important is Scout, whose real name is Jean Louise Finch. After all, the narrative is based on her narrative. Furthermore, she is the one who is living through a coming-of-age story, albeit she is far from being the sole character to change as the narrative unfolds.

Scout’s father, Atticus, is the character who is brought up most often. In part, this is because of his enormous role in the narrative since he is the one who volunteers to serve as Tom’s defense attorney based on nothing more than his personal sense of right and wrong. However, it is interesting to note that Atticus is so respected that he becomes more a symbol than a man both inside the narrative and outside the narrative, though he remains human enough that he can still be shaken by what happens in the novel.

Next, there is Boo, whose reclusive nature makes him a focus for both the fear and the interest of the town’s children. However, the conclusion of the narrative makes it clear that while Boo is a little strange from the perspective of most characters, he is not a bad man and his motivations are not incomprehensible. As a result, this makes him one of the most important characters in the novel because he is so central to one of its most important themes.

Finally, there is Tom, whose trial is the engine that provides the rest of the narrative with its momentum. His treatment as well as how other characters react to his treatment are integral to the setting, which in turn, makes it integral to the narrative.

What Are the Main Ideas of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’?

Courage is one of the main ideas of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, though it takes more than one form. For example, Scout is willing to defend her father by fighting her bullies. In contrast, Atticus is willing to take on a case that will pit him against all of the racial prejudice that dominates the town, which will not hesitate to lash out at him as well should he get in its way. This willingness to stand up for what is right is what has made Atticus a hero for generation after generation, which is all the more impressive because it is tied to his compassion for others.

The loss of innocence is another main idea of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. In fact, it is actually tied to the name of the novel, since ‘it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’ because mockingbird is nothing but helpful and harmless. However, Scout learns that in spite of this statement, neither the legal system nor the rest of the world is perfect, meaning that people can and do kill ‘mockingbirds’, with Tom being the prime example.

Moving on, the novel makes the point that it is dangerous to make judgments without having evidence. After all, while Boo seems scary to the town children, his reclusive nature makes him harmless. As Scout realizes that he is not a bad person, she realizes that it is premature to judge other people based on their initial appearances.

Finally, since this is a bildungsroman, the narrative also touches on issues such as race, class, as well as both written and unwritten laws. In a real sense, this is Scout becoming more and more aware of all the currents that exist within a society, which is a natural part of growing up.

It is difficult to comment on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ without also commenting on ‘Go Set a Watchman’, which is something between a first draft and a sequel to the novel. However, the two novels combined create a rather interesting them. In the first, protagonist becomes aware of the currents that move societies, while centering upon her father as her beacon of guidance. In the second, the protagonist becomes aware that even her father is not as perfect as she had imagined, but instead of rejecting him because of it, she chooses to accept him as being a mix of good and bad without ever succumbing to his beliefs at the same time.


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