Teachers and professors assign reflection papers to their students to gauge what the students know and what observations they have made through completing class assignments. While each instructor has his own criteria and specifications, the majority of reflection papers are no more than one to two pages in length. To write an effective and successful reflection, a student must start his paper with an introduction that eases the reader into the topic and briefly states what will be discussed via a thesis statement.
Make an outline of your reflection paper. Decide what you want to write about and how many paragraphs the entire paper will be. Number each planned paragraph and write a one-sentence description of what the paragraph will talk about. For instance, Paragraph 3 – The role of suicide in “The Catcher in the Rye”. Compile a short list of any assigned reading, textbooks or online resources you want to use to back up the claims and opinions you write about in your reflection paper.
Start your introduction with an informative statement about the topic to get the reader interested in your paper. Make the statement specific to what you will be talking about in the rest of your paper and avoid making general or vague statements. For example, instead of writing “‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is one of the most controversial books written in the 20th century,” write something along the lines of “Since J.D. Salinger’s novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was first published in 1951, it has been surrounded by controversy due to the so-called offensive material presented in the book, including alcohol abuse, premarital sex and adult language.” Such an introduction lets your reader know that your overall paper is about “The Catcher in the Rye” but also that you will be writing specifically about the controversies and debates connected to the book.
Write another sentence or two continuing the thoughts you presented in the opening statement. You could present important facts that you picked up from the assignment you completed or talk about overarching themes. Continuing with the example of “The Catcher in the Rye,” you could now write a sentence or two containing statistics of how many libraries have banned the book over the years or name the groups and organizations that condemn the novel.
End your introduction with a one-sentence thesis statement. In any document, including a reflection paper, a thesis statement is used by the writer to state one striking observation or conclusion that he has come to and how he plans to defend that position throughout the rest of the paper. It is important to make your position clear in the thesis statement and to be unwavering in that position throughout the remainder of the paper. For example, a thesis statement for an introductory paragraph on the “offensive material” in “The Catcher in the Rye” could read something like: “It is my belief that without these supposed controversies ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ would not be the literary classic that it is considered to be today.”
Revise your entire reflection paper, including your introduction paragraph, once you have completed writing the paper. Analyze what you have written and determine if the body and the conclusion of the paper match your thesis statement and follow logically from the information you presented in the introduction. If it doesn't, either re-tool the body of the paper or edit your introduction to match the rest of the paper. Re-read through the entire paper carefully to catch any spelling or grammar errors. If you're using a word processing software on a computer, use the spell-check function to help you catch any misspellings.
- Teacher Web: Writing a Reflection Paper
- University of Richmond Writing Center: Preparing to Write An Introduction
- Hamilton College Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center: Introductions and Thesis Statements
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - The Writing Center: Thesis Statements
- Sandhills Community College: Revision Tips
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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