A reflection paper illustrates the writer’s understanding of a personal experience. If you plan ahead, writing a reflection paper is not that hard. And creating an outline is the best way to arrange your thoughts and ideas.
The reflective aspect is what makes a reflection paper different from other types of papers. A reflection paper may have a topic like a special, place, a life experience, or something that has had a profound impact on your life. The focus is basically on personal experiences.
There are unique challenges of writing such a paper, and that is why you need a well-structured outline. Crafting an outline is the first step of the process. An outline serves as a clear roadmap and makes the entire process a lot easier.
Components of a Reflection Paper Outline
Before you start creating an essay outline, focus on the organization of ideas. No matter what your topic, you always have to remember a few rules. As a rule of thumb, the sections should include an introduction, body, and conclusion. Now, let’s dive into the components.
Start the paper with a catchy introduction. An introduction should include two important parts: the hook and the thesis statement.
- The Hook – The hook is the first sentence of the paper, intended to catch the attention of the reader. If you are describing an incident that happened to you in the past, start with the most exciting part of the incident. The goal is to make the beginning as interesting as possible and grab the attention of the reader.
- The Thesis Statement – This is a statement that says what the paper is about. As a rule of thumb, a thesis statement should not exceed two sentences. This statement is supposed to be expanded later. So, you should not provide too much information here.
You are expected to illustrate your thoughts and reflections in the body paragraphs. The body is the main section of the paper, and it is important to think deeply when making an outline for the body.
The first sentence of each body paragraph is referred to as a topic sentence that states the idea you are going to express in the paragraph. In the following sentences, you just have to expand the idea.
Assuming that you are describing an event or incident in your paper, here is how you should outline the body paragraphs:
|First Body Paragraph||Describe the event in this paragraph. One way to approach the description is to answer the who, what, why, where, and when questions. Make sure the essential information is included in this paragraph. When describing an incident, consider following the chronological order. Also, be careful about the description. It should flow smoothly|
|Second Body Paragraph||In this paragraph, mention the main points that are related to the incident being described. If needed, cite sources. Insert quotations to make the text more engaging.|
|Third Body Paragraph||In the third part, focus on your thoughts. Let the readers know what you have learned from the incident. Describe how the event has influenced you.
This is the last part of your essay, and it should be written in a memorable and engaging way. Make sure the ending is not boring. In this part, restate the main idea originally stated in the thesis statement, but avoid redundancy by all means. Review the main ideas and then write a closing sentence. To leave an impression on the reader, consider ending the paper with a question.
Assembling the Details
Knowing the components of a reflective essay outline is not enough. The actual writing process involved assembling the details. Now we will discuss how you can actually approach the process of writing.
The first thing you have to do is to determine the word count of the paper. It should not be too long or too short. Avoid using filler. When it comes to essay writing, the ability to say more things in fewer words is a very important skill.
In the same way, decide how many paragraphs there will be in the body. By determining the number of paragraphs, you will have more control over the length of the essay. Make sure the paragraphs are not too long.
By all means, avoid repetition. Do not mention the same information multiple times. The briefings should be compact and precise. Another common mistake is dithering in tense. Readers find it disturbing, so avoid it.
Try your best to make the introduction thought-provoking and interesting. Read other reflection paper samples to learn what a catchy introduction should read like. If appropriate, start the essay with an anecdote, question, or lesser-known fact.
Also, be careful about how you write the conclusion. Make the concluding paragraph as thought-provoking and memorable as possible.
Reflection Paper Outline Format and Style
It is very important to be careful about the format in which you write your reflection paper. View the paper as a story with personal reflection and insight. You can arrange your reflection paper either in APA format or MLA format.
In general, the length of a reflection paper is between 500 and 800 words. When you get an assignment, talk to your instructor about the recommended word count.
Below are some general guidelines for APA and MLA formats.
Guidelines for APA Format
- Font: Time New Roman
- Font Size: 12
- Margin: One inch on all sides
- Page Header: On top of every page
- Page Number: On the right side
- Divide the essay into four parts: 1. Title page 2. Abstract 3. Main body 4. References
Guidelines for MLA Format
- Font: Times New Roman
- Font Size: 12
- Spacing: Double spaced
- Margin: One inch on all sides
- Titles: Centered
- In the header, include your name, course name, your instructor’s name, and date
Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay
The beauty of a reflective essay is that it gives you room for your own creativity, your own style. The room for this creative freedom makes a reflective essay different from other types of essays. With that said, there are some tips that every writer is expected to keep in mind.
Before you get started, read as many other reflection papers as possible. They will give you a better idea of how you should approach the task.
When picking a subject, choose something memorable and unusual. And do not try to write everything at once. Spend about 2-3 days to write the paper. A flexible deadline will allow you to find innovative ways to articulate your thoughts and reflections.
Here are some more things to keep in mind:
- Keep it short and sweet – As a rule of thumb, the word count should not exceed 800 words. Do not make the essay lengthy with irrelevant information.
- Maintain clarity and precision – A reflection paper should be clear and concise. Make every word count and let it shine.
- Maintain the right tone – Try to maintain an academic tone even though the subject is personal. Treating a personal essay as an academic writing project requires talent. Take the project as an opportunity to prove your talent.
- Cite your sources – back up your opinions with authoritative sources and cite them appropriately.
- Edit and proofread your essay – Proofreading an essay should receive as much attention as writing it. Do not just focus on grammatical and spelling errors. Pay attention to the organization as well. Above all, make sure the original question in the introduction has been answered appropriately.
An outline is basically a skeleton of your essay. The more detailed the outline the easier you will find the writing process. A well-prepared outline gives you a sense of predictability. And you are more likely to write well when you know what you are going to write.