Reflective Paper Ideas: Basic Writing Guide & Clever Hints

In the course of your study, you are bound to write a paper explaining an encounter you had with an event, a person, or an idea. These essays, also known as reflective essays, are aimed to test your understanding of a subject. 

Unlike many papers, this sort of essay requires that you maintain an academic tone and express your personal views. This article will guide you on your reflection paper assignment and highlight some reflection paper topics to guide your topic selection. 

What is a reflective essay?

As the name suggests, a reflective essay is an analytical essay of a previous encounter with a person/ an idea. The essay may analyze your standpoint before your experience, the conflict that was encountered, and the lessons learned from this encounter. 

Since this essay is based on thought and emotion, you ought to express your emotions and expose your biases and character in the paper. However, since it is academic, you should maintain a formal tone and format your paper as per the style your tutor has recommended. 

Reflective paper format

Often, your reflective paper essay will be edited in APA format. When writing your paper, you should:

  • Apply double line spacing  
  • Indent the first word in every paragraph by 0.5”
  • Use times new roman font size 12
  • Customize your pages to 8.5” by 11”
  • Insert a 1” margin on all sides of the paper

Be keen when reading the instructions to determine the style your tutor has recommended. 

Reflective paper outline

Like most papers, the reflective paper is divided into an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.


The introduction of a reflective paper should cover the background of your topic and hook the reader into reading your paper. This section should highlight your disposition before an experience and introduce your thesis in a manner that grabs your reader’s attention.

e.g., All my life, I felt that I deserved the best if I worked for it. My first day on campus proved how mistaken my perception was. Nothing, not even years of training would ready me for my freshman year. 

The body

The body should then break down the experience, the conflict, and your lesson in separate paragraphs. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence, giving your readers a flow of ideas.

Ideally, use transitional words to build a sense of sequence in the events. In your last paragraph, highlight the change that was inspired by an event, and your possible cause of action in retrospect. 

The conclusion

Here, tie down the key takeaways of your paper and summarize the lesson you learned from the encounter. 

Reflective paper rubric

If you are looking to revise your paper, the following rubric ought to guide you in gauging your paper. 


Very good



Below average


Paper elaborates an encountered experience and its effect on the writer. Paper meets the word count

Paper has explained a substantial amount of detail but omits some ideas. Word length has been met

Paper shows a mastery of a reflective paper but has barely analysed the experiences and change inspired by an event

Paper does not explain the occurrences relating to the title


Learner clearly connects the facts to their prejudices. properly expresses their key ideas and lessons in the conclusion

Learner has backed some ideas with facts and concluded their paper properly. Some key claims have not been supported and thus may be conjecture

It is unclear how the learner has connected relevant facts to their experiences and personality

Paper is entirely based on a student’s biases and does not back their arguments with any facts


Writer has provided a detailed narration of the background, the conflict, its resolution and the lessons learned from the experience

Writer narrates the background and conflict but fails to clearly express the lessons learned from the experience

Writer has touched on each section but barely connects each section with the other to bring out a smooth flow of ideas

Learner does not explain the background, conflict and/or resolution encountered in an experience


Reflective paper ideas

If you are struggling with selecting your reflection paper title, here are some ideas to aid your brainstorming efforts:

  1. Difficulties I encountered as a college freshman.
  2. When your parents harshly punished you. 
  3. A period in your life when you felt lost. 
  4. When you meet someone for the first time or begin a new relationship. 
  5. When you were pleased with yourself. 

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