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.