Chapter 13: Reflection Writing

Part 3: Chapter 13

The textbook Rhetoric and Composition discusses how in many composition courses, your teachers may stress to you the importance of the writing process over the final writing product. An important component of the writing process is reflection or the act of stepping back and considering your writing choices. In English 1110 or 1120, you might be asked to reflect on your writing process, and the by-product of this, or what your teachers hope you glean is a type of learning called reflective learning. The goal with reflective writing is to help students become more self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Self-awareness helps students tune in to what lessons/concepts they need to study the most. But reflective writing is not only limited to reflecting on your writing process.

Adapted from “Chapter Seven” of Rhetoric and Composition, 2013, used under creative commons CC BY-SA 3.0 US

Tree water reflection at sunset
Photo by Kevin Eddy, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You can write a reflection to help you develop an idea, think about an experience, consider the impact of your actions or choices, illustrate your understanding of a concept, or reflect on a moment. This genre of writing provides you with the opportunity to learn from an experience and ponder the elements of your actions, the outcomes, and other influences.

There are many different types of reflection assignments. Some instructors will ask you to think about an experience while considering your purpose, audience, and goals for a piece of writing. Other reflection assignments might ask you to think about your writing stages including the inventing, outlining, drafting, and revision process. These types of assignments often ask you to display your knowledge of a concept or self-assess your writing strategies while addressing the impact of those strategies. For example, did the use of outlining help you create an essay that was more organized? Did the peer review process help you look at your writing through the reader’s perspective? Evaluating your writing process is important because you can work to enhance your writing techniques for future assignments and strengthen your final submissions. Reflection is also a great way to solidify your understanding of the information you gathered and learned during the multi-step writing process.

Reflection writing, specifically reflecting on your own writing process, is a common assignment in English courses because it encourages you to think through and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your writing process. Once you receive a reflective writing prompt, you might ask yourself some of the following questions: Did a specific pre-writing tool benefit your final assignment? Were any of your writing strategies unsuccessful? What did you learn about your writing through the assignment process? Reflective writing helps solidify what you learned while completing an assignment.

How to Write a Reflection

The best way to begin a reflection is with an open mind so you can develop a thoughtful response. You will likely receive an assignment prompt from your instructor. Begin by reading the prompt and determine your goals for the assignment. Then, with an open mind, start free-writing your initial responses to the questions posed in the prompt. These initial reactions can act as a rough outline for your assignment. A reflection doesn’t have to follow a pre-determined structure, but it should have a clear focus. Once you’ve determined the focus for your writing, essentially a draft thesis statement, you can continue thinking about the development of your assignment.


Allow your prewriting to be exploratory. Reflective writing encourages you to explore an experience and explain or ponder the individual choices you have made.

Stand back and view the experience from an objective point of view.

While reflective writing asks you to write about your own experience, you should be as thorough as you would for any other writing task. Remember to keep your reader in mind. Try to remove your emotions from the experience. Rather than blame yourself for a specific choice, consider the reasoning for that decision and explore what you’ve learned.

Avoid focusing on writing about every moment of the event or process. Reflective writing should focus on specific snapshots of your experience, so avoid spending too much time narrating. Instead, reflect on how a specific choice impacted the experience. Ultimately, your essay’s goal is not to create a narrative but to speculate about the significance of your experience.


While reflective writing can seem complex, students often enjoy the freedom to use first person since you are writing about your own experience. You are also free to use past tense since you are describing events that occurred in the past. These two elements will help you create an inquisitive tone while looking back at your experience.

Like most academic writing, you will want to structure your essay by including a detailed thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic sentences that connect to your thesis, smooth transitions between paragraphs, and an engaging and thoughtful conclusion. Reflective writing is a creative genre, and you have the flexibility to add dialog, hindsight, and speculation to your writing. Think about your audience while you’re writing and work to include vivid imagery that helps your reader envision your experience. Together, these strategies will help you introduce, reflect, and explain your experience while solidifying what you’ve learned and engaging your reader.

Sections of this chapter written by Tammy Wolf. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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