How to Write a Reaction & Reflection Essay

In writing a reflection essay you should avoid summarizing and focus instead on synthesizing.
... Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

A reaction and reflection essay asks for your opinion, reaction and analysis about a text, film, experience or issue. The key to writing this genre of essay is to think carefully about a topic, to express your thoughts on it and to provide evidence for every opinion you present.

1 Prepare

If you are writing a reaction to a text, read the text carefully. Take notes and jot down questions as you read. Agnes Scott College suggests to "write down ideas that are sparked by the text, so you won't forget your immediate reactions." If you are writing an essay about a memory, brainstorm about the experience using concept mapping, free writing or listing so that you can record everything that comes to mind -- you can sift through the material later to pick relevant content. Preparing the material before you write will save you time and stress when writing the essay.

2 Outline

Once you have the content gathered, you should make an outline to organize the points you wish to make before writing the essay. In the outline you can list the specific examples you will use to support those points. For example, if you are reacting to a short story, you might include quotations of the characters' dialogue or plot elements to which you are reacting. The outline allows you to avoid redundancy and summarization.

3 Don't Summarize, React

For this genre of essay the writer is expected to express his or her thoughts and ideas on a particular topic. Saint Mary's University Writing Center states that a reaction and reflection essay "requires higher order thinking skills" including analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Reaction and reflection involves exploring cause and effect, motivation, themes and correlations to other texts and events, rather than re-telling an experience or story. For example, if a student is writing about a particular film, she may draw connections between the film and other texts and films assigned in the course, evaluating both their structure and content.

4 Proof and Polish

After you have written a draft of the essay, in addition to checking for proper spelling and grammar, make certain that you have thoroughly reflected on and analyzed the topic. Questions to ask yourself include whether there are other points of view you can explore, whether you have given sufficient specific examples to support your ideas and whether there are social or moral issues you can explore in relation to the essay's topic. Revise the essay after proofreading and editing the first draft to produce a more complete and polished final draft.

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.