Reaction and reflection papers both contain a student's feelings about a topic.
Reaction and reflection papers both contain a student's feelings about a topic.

The differences between writing a reaction paper and a reflection paper may not, at first, be obvious; however, ignoring the variations in composition can make the difference between you getting an A on your essay or scrambling in a panic at semester’s end to make up for lost points due to not following directions. Both types of papers feature a student’s reaction, thoughts or feelings in regards to a poem, play, short story, book or film. The primary difference lays in the writer's approach in assessing and connecting to the literature or film at hand. While writing a reaction essay, the student first needs to use critical thinking skills to analyze the work being discussed. Next, the writer provides specific examples and and evidence to support the main points of the student's analysis. Conversely, a reflection paper revolves around the student's opinion and individual response while pointing out examples from the work and the writer's connection to the work based on personal experience.

Format

Instructors often have students write reaction or reflection papers after reading and discussing a piece of literature in-depth. The literature or film, and their themes, may be studied throughout the semester along with emphasizing important details regarding the overall meaning. Both papers should be organized the same as any other essay; the writer needs to include an introduction that incorporates the thesis statement, or main point, of the essay as well as body paragraphs in which he supports his main points with evidence. Lastly, a concluding paragraph restates the main points and any final observations.

Reaction Paper

While writing a reaction essay, the student first needs to use critical thinking skills to analyze the work being discussed. Next, she should provide specific examples and evidence to support the main points of the student's analysis. The student may be given questions to answer as a starting point regarding her feelings about the work or topic as well as her assessment and evaluation. The reaction paper focuses more on the analysis of the work than personal opinion.

Reflection Paper

A reflection paper involves a student’s feelings, response and analysis of an experience using a more personal approach then its reaction paper counterpart. The goal when writing this type of essay is to present one's thoughts and responses to the literature, or film, being discussed. In this kind of essay, a student shares his personal opinions about the literature while also making connections between his life and background and the work he's reflecting upon. In contrast to the reaction essay, the reflection paper is more about a student's opinions while also highlighting relevant examples from the text or film to back up those opinions.

Assignment

Because the two types of papers are quite similar, a student's thorough understanding of the essay assignment and the writing process is imperative to composing effective reaction and reflection papers. In addition, details such as formatting (APA or MLA), word count and the inclusion of a works cited, or reference page, are significant; failure to follow the assignment instructions can result in an unnecessary lowering of the writer's grade.