how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

Guide on How to Write a Reflection Paper with Free Tips and Example

how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

A reflection paper is a very common type of paper among college students. Almost any subject you enroll in requires you to express your opinion on certain matters. In this article, we will explain how to write a reflection paper and provide examples and useful tips to make the essay writing process easier.

Reflection papers should have an academic tone yet be personal and subjective. In this paper, you should analyze and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception and thoughts on a subject.

Here is what you need to know about writing an effective critical reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the writing team at EssayPro — a research paper writing service

What Is a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper is a type of paper that requires you to write your opinion on a topic, supporting it with your observations and personal experiences. As opposed to presenting your reader with the views of other academics and writers, in this essay, you get an opportunity to write your point of view—and the best part is that there is no wrong answer. It is YOUR opinion, and it is your job to express your thoughts in a manner that will be understandable and clear for all readers that will read your paper. The topic range is endless. Here are some examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, your favorite TV show, or your opinion on the outcome of WWII. You can write about pretty much anything.

There are three types of reflection paper; depending on which one you end up with, the tone you write with can be slightly different. The first type is the educational reflective paper. Here your job is to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended—in a manner that teaches the reader about it. The second is the professional paper. Usually, it is written by people who study or work in education or psychology. For example, it can be a reflection of someone’s behavior. And the last is the personal type, which explores your thoughts and feelings about an individual subject.

However, reflection paper writing will stop eventually with one very important final paper to write - your resume. This is where you will need to reflect on your entire life leading up to that moment. To learn how to list education on resume perfectly, follow the link on our dissertation writing services .

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Free Reflection Paper Example

Now that we went over all of the essentials about a reflection paper and how to approach it, we would like to show you some examples that will definitely help you with getting started on your paper.

Reflection Paper Format

Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. Since it is your opinion, professors usually let you handle them in any comfortable way. It is best to write your thoughts freely, without guideline constraints. If a personal reflection paper was assigned to you, the format of your paper might depend on the criteria set by your professor. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range from about 400-800 words in length.

Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:

common reflection paper format

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The first thing to do when beginning to work on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for example, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.

You can start writing your reflection paper by summarizing the main concept of your notes to see if your essay includes all the information needed for your readers. It is helpful to add charts, diagrams, and lists to deliver your ideas to the audience in a better fashion.

After you have finished reading your article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the basic questions below:

  • How did the article affect you?
  • How does this article catch the reader’s attention (or does it all)?
  • Has the article changed your mind about something? If so, explain how.
  • Has the article left you with any questions?
  • Were there any unaddressed critical issues that didn’t appear in the article?
  • Does the article relate to anything from your past reading experiences?
  • Does the article agree with any of your past reading experiences?

Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind before preparing to write your own:

  • How my views on rap music have changed over time
  • My reflection and interpretation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Why my theory about the size of the universe has changed over time
  • How my observations for clinical psychological studies have developed in the last year

The result of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and appropriate organization.

Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.

how to write a reflection paper

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If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of our articles on how to format MLA, APA or Chicago style

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline

Reflection paper should contain few key elements:

Introduction

Your introduction should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject.

  • State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...)
  • Briefly summarize the work.
  • Write a thesis statement stating how your subject has affected you.

One way you can start your thesis is to write:

Example: “After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should examine your ideas and experiences in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.

Your reflection may include quotes and passages if you are writing about a book or an academic paper. They give your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.

Example: “I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”

As with any conclusion, you should summarize what you’ve learned from the experience. Next, tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Finally, describe the feeling and overall lesson you had from the reading or experience.

There are a few good ways to conclude a reflection paper:

  • Tie all the ideas from your body paragraphs together, and generalize the major insights you’ve experienced.
  • Restate your thesis and summarize the content of your paper.

We have a separate blog post dedicated to writing a great conclusion. Be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at how to make a good final impression on your reader.

Need a hand? Get help from our writers. Edit, proofread or buy essay .

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: create a main theme.

After you choose your topic, write a short summary about what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Then, let readers know how you feel about your case — and be honest. Chances are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your opinion or at least the way you form your perspective, which will help them better understand your reflection.

For example: After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I was able to reevaluate my preconceived notions about the negative effects of cold exposure.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic

You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you have, things that influenced you, or anything memorable. Be personal and explain, in simple words, how you felt.

For example: • A lot of people think that even a small amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight • A specific moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely • The consequences of my actions that gave rise to my research • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients • The influence of other people’s perceptions on the harm of carbohydrates, and the role their influence has had on me • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective

Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme

Pick an idea or experience you had from the last step, and analyze it further. Then, write your reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

For example, Idea: I was raised to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight.

Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of research to overcome my beliefs finally. Afterward, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key to a healthy lifestyle.

For example: Idea: I was brought up to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of my own research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key for having a healthy lifestyle.

Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions

Try to connect your ideas and insights to form a cohesive picture for your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

There are some subjects for reflection papers that are most commonly written about. They include:

  • Book – Start by writing some information about the author’s biography and summarize the plot—without revealing the ending to keep your readers interested. Make sure to include the names of the characters, the main themes, and any issues mentioned in the book. Finally, express your thoughts and reflect on the book itself.
  • Course – Including the course name and description is a good place to start. Then, you can write about the course flow, explain why you took this course, and tell readers what you learned from it. Since it is a reflection paper, express your opinion, supporting it with examples from the course.
  • Project – The structure for a reflection paper about a project has identical guidelines to that of a course. One of the things you might want to add would be the pros and cons of the course. Also, mention some changes you might want to see, and evaluate how relevant the skills you acquired are to real life.
  • Interview – First, introduce the person and briefly mention the discussion. Touch on the main points, controversies, and your opinion of that person.

Writing Tips

Everyone has their style of writing a reflective essay – and that's the beauty of it; you have plenty of leeway with this type of paper – but there are still a few tips everyone should incorporate.

Before you start your piece, read some examples of other papers; they will likely help you better understand what they are and how to approach yours. When picking your subject, try to write about something unusual and memorable — it is more likely to capture your readers' attention. Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections.

  • Short and Sweet – Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words. Don't go off on tangents. Only include relevant information.
  • Clear and Concise – Make your paper as clear and concise as possible. Use a strong thesis statement so your essay can follow it with the same strength.
  • Maintain the Right Tone – Use a professional and academic tone—even though the writing is personal.
  • Cite Your Sources – Try to cite authoritative sources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
  • Proofreading – Not only should you proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, but you should proofread to focus on your organization as well. Answer the question presented in the introduction.

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Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course.

A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course. Reflective writing assignments can be in the form of a single paper, essays, portfolios, journals, diaries, or blogs. In some cases, your professor may include a reflective writing assignment as a way to obtain student feedback that helps improve the course, either in the moment or for when the class is taught again.

How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8.

Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments

As the term implies, a reflective paper involves looking inward at oneself in contemplating and bringing meaning to the relationship between course content and the acquisition of new knowledge . Educational research [Bolton, 2010; Ryan, 2011; Tsingos-Lucas et al., 2017] demonstrates that assigning reflective writing tasks enhances learning because it challenges students to confront their own assumptions, biases, and belief systems around what is being taught in class and, in so doing, stimulate student’s decisions, actions, attitudes, and understanding about themselves as learners and in relation to having mastery over their learning. Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers.

Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously. In no particular order, here are some of reasons why professors assign reflection papers:

  • Enhances learning from previous knowledge and experience in order to improve future decision-making and reasoning in practice . Reflective writing in the applied social sciences enhances decision-making skills and academic performance in ways that can inform professional practice. The act of reflective writing creates self-awareness and understanding of others. This is particularly important in clinical and service-oriented professional settings.
  • Allows students to make sense of classroom content and overall learning experiences in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the content and classroom experiences . Reflective writing places you within the course content in ways that can deepen your understanding of the material. Because reflective thinking can help reveal hidden biases, it can help you critically interrogate moments when you do not like or agree with discussions, readings, or other aspects of the course.
  • Increases awareness of one’s cognitive abilities and the evidence for these attributes . Reflective writing can break down personal doubts about yourself as a learner and highlight specific abilities that may have been hidden or suppressed due to prior assumptions about the strength of your academic abilities [e.g., reading comprehension; problem-solving skills]. Reflective writing, therefore, can have a positive affective [i.e., emotional] impact on your sense of self-worth.
  • Applying theoretical knowledge and frameworks to real experiences . Reflective writing can help build a bridge of relevancy between theoretical knowledge and the real world. In so doing, this form of writing can lead to a better understanding of underlying theories and their analytical properties applied to professional practice.
  • Reveals shortcomings that the reader will identify . Evidence suggests that reflective writing can uncover your own shortcomings as a learner, thereby, creating opportunities to anticipate the responses of your professor may have about the quality of your coursework. This can be particularly productive if the reflective paper is written before final submission of an assignment.
  • Helps students identify their tacit [a.k.a., implicit] knowledge and possible gaps in that knowledge . Tacit knowledge refers to ways of knowing rooted in lived experience, insight, and intuition rather than formal, codified, categorical, or explicit knowledge. In so doing, reflective writing can stimulate students to question their beliefs about a research problem or an element of the course content beyond positivist modes of understanding and representation.
  • Encourages students to actively monitor their learning processes over a period of time . On-going reflective writing in journals or blogs, for example, can help you maintain or adapt learning strategies in other contexts. The regular, purposeful act of reflection can facilitate continuous deep thinking about the course content as it evolves and changes throughout the term. This, in turn, can increase your overall confidence as a learner.
  • Relates a student’s personal experience to a wider perspective . Reflection papers can help you see the big picture associated with the content of a course by forcing you to think about the connections between scholarly content and your lived experiences outside of school. It can provide a macro-level understanding of one’s own experiences in relation to the specifics of what is being taught.
  • If reflective writing is shared, students can exchange stories about their learning experiences, thereby, creating an opportunity to reevaluate their original assumptions or perspectives . In most cases, reflective writing is only viewed by your professor in order to ensure candid feedback from students. However, occasionally, reflective writing is shared and openly discussed in class. During these discussions, new or different perspectives and alternative approaches to solving problems can be generated that would otherwise be hidden. Sharing student's reflections can also reveal collective patterns of thought and emotions about a particular element of the course.

Bolton, Gillie. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development . London: Sage, 2010; Chang, Bo. "Reflection in Learning." Online Learning 23 (2019), 95-110; Cavilla, Derek. "The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and Motivation." Sage Open 7 (July-September 2017): 1–13; Culbert, Patrick. “Better Teaching? You Can Write On It “ Liberal Education (February 2022); McCabe, Gavin and Tobias Thejll-Madsen. The Reflection Toolkit . University of Edinburgh; The Purpose of Reflection . Introductory Composition at Purdue University; Practice-based and Reflective Learning . Study Advice Study Guides, University of Reading; Ryan, Mary. "Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective." Teaching in Higher Education 16 (2011): 99-111; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8; What Benefits Might Reflective Writing Have for My Students? Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse; Rykkje, Linda. "The Tacit Care Knowledge in Reflective Writing: A Practical Wisdom." International Practice Development Journal 7 (September 2017): Article 5; Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning . Center for Writing, University of Minnesota.

How to Approach Writing a Reflection Paper

Thinking About Reflective Thinking

Educational theorists have developed numerous models of reflective thinking that your professor may use to frame a reflective writing assignment. These models can help you systematically interpret your learning experiences, thereby ensuring that you ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of what should be covered. A model can also represent the overall structure of a reflective paper. Each model establishes a different approach to reflection and will require you to think about your writing differently. If you are unclear how to fit your writing within a particular reflective model, seek clarification from your professor. There are generally two types of reflective writing assignments, each approached in slightly different ways.

1.  Reflective Thinking about Course Readings

This type of reflective writing focuses on thoughtfully thinking about the course readings that underpin how most students acquire new knowledge and understanding about the subject of a course. Reflecting on course readings is often assigned in freshmen-level, interdisciplinary courses where the required readings examine topics viewed from multiple perspectives and, as such, provide different ways of analyzing a topic, issue, event, or phenomenon. The purpose of reflective thinking about course readings in the social and behavioral sciences is to elicit your opinions, beliefs, and feelings about the research and its significance. This type of writing can provide an opportunity to break down key assumptions you may have and, in so doing, reveal potential biases in how you interpret the scholarship.

If you are assigned to reflect on course readings, consider the following methods of analysis as prompts that can help you get started :

  • Examine carefully the main introductory elements of the reading, including the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework being used to test assumptions, and the research questions being addressed. Think about what ideas stood out to you. Why did they? Were these ideas new to you or familiar in some way based on your own lived experiences or prior knowledge?
  • Develop your ideas around the readings by asking yourself, what do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge about this topic come from? What are the observations or experiences in my life that influence my understanding of the topic? Do I agree or disagree with the main arguments, recommended course of actions, or conclusions made by the author(s)? Why do I feel this way and what is the basis of these feelings?
  • Make connections between the text and your own beliefs, opinions, or feelings by considering questions like, how do the readings reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How the readings challenge these ideas or assumptions? How does this text help me to better understand this topic or research in ways that motivate me to learn more about this area of study?

2.  Reflective Thinking about Course Experiences

This type of reflective writing asks you to critically reflect on locating yourself at the conceptual intersection of theory and practice. The purpose of experiential reflection is to evaluate theories or disciplinary-based analytical models based on your introspective assessment of the relationship between hypothetical thinking and practical reality; it offers a way to consider how your own knowledge and skills fit within professional practice. This type of writing also provides an opportunity to evaluate your decisions and actions, as well as how you managed your subsequent successes and failures, within a specific theoretical framework. As a result, abstract concepts can crystallize and become more relevant to you when considered within your own experiences. This can help you formulate plans for self-improvement as you learn.

If you are assigned to reflect on your experiences, consider the following questions as prompts to help you get started :

  • Contextualize your reflection in relation to the overarching purpose of the course by asking yourself, what did you hope to learn from this course? What were the learning objectives for the course and how did I fit within each of them? How did these goals relate to the main themes or concepts of the course?
  • Analyze how you experienced the course by asking yourself, what did I learn from this experience? What did I learn about myself? About working in this area of research and study? About how the course relates to my place in society? What assumptions about the course were supported or refuted?
  • Think introspectively about the ways you experienced learning during the course by asking yourself, did your learning experiences align with the goals or concepts of the course? Why or why do you not feel this way? What was successful and why do you believe this? What would you do differently and why is this important? How will you prepare for a future experience in this area of study?

NOTE: If you are assigned to write a journal or other type of on-going reflection exercise, a helpful approach is to reflect on your reflections by re-reading what you have already written. In other words, review your previous entries as a way to contextualize your feelings, opinions, or beliefs regarding your overall learning experiences. Over time, this can also help reveal hidden patterns or themes related to how you processed your learning experiences. Consider concluding your reflective journal with a summary of how you felt about your learning experiences at critical junctures throughout the course, then use these to write about how you grew as a student learner and how the act of reflecting helped you gain new understanding about the subject of the course and its content.

ANOTHER NOTE: Regardless of whether you write a reflection paper or a journal, do not focus your writing on the past. The act of reflection is intended to think introspectively about previous learning experiences. However, reflective thinking should document the ways in which you progressed in obtaining new insights and understandings about your growth as a learner that can be carried forward in subsequent coursework or in future professional practice. Your writing should reflect a furtherance of increasing personal autonomy and confidence gained from understanding more about yourself as a learner.

Structure and Writing Style

There are no strict academic rules for writing a reflective paper. Reflective writing may be assigned in any class taught in the social and behavioral sciences and, therefore, requirements for the assignment can vary depending on disciplinary-based models of inquiry and learning. The organization of content can also depend on what your professor wants you to write about or based on the type of reflective model used to frame the writing assignment. Despite these possible variations, below is a basic approach to organizing and writing a good reflective paper, followed by a list of problems to avoid.

Pre-flection

In most cases, it's helpful to begin by thinking about your learning experiences and outline what you want to focus on before you begin to write the paper. This can help you organize your thoughts around what was most important to you and what experiences [good or bad] had the most impact on your learning. As described by the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre, preparing to write a reflective paper involves a process of self-analysis that can help organize your thoughts around significant moments of in-class knowledge discovery.

  • Using a thesis statement as a guide, note what experiences or course content stood out to you , then place these within the context of your observations, reactions, feelings, and opinions. This will help you develop a rough outline of key moments during the course that reflect your growth as a learner. To identify these moments, pose these questions to yourself: What happened? What was my reaction? What were my expectations and how were they different from what transpired? What did I learn?
  • Critically think about your learning experiences and the course content . This will help you develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding about why these moments were significant or relevant to you. Use the ideas you formulated during the first stage of reflecting to help you think through these moments from both an academic and personal perspective. From an academic perspective, contemplate how the experience enhanced your understanding of a concept, theory, or skill. Ask yourself, did the experience confirm my previous understanding or challenge it in some way. As a result, did this highlight strengths or gaps in your current knowledge? From a personal perspective, think introspectively about why these experiences mattered, if previous expectations or assumptions were confirmed or refuted, and if this surprised, confused, or unnerved you in some way.
  • Analyze how these experiences and your reactions to them will shape your future thinking and behavior . Reflection implies looking back, but the most important act of reflective writing is considering how beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and feelings were transformed in ways that better prepare you as a learner in the future. Note how this reflective analysis can lead to actions you will take as a result of your experiences, what you will do differently, and how you will apply what you learned in other courses or in professional practice.

Basic Structure and Writing Style

Reflective Background and Context

The first part of your reflection paper should briefly provide background and context in relation to the content or experiences that stood out to you. Highlight the settings, summarize the key readings, or narrate the experiences in relation to the course objectives. Provide background that sets the stage for your reflection. You do not need to go into great detail, but you should provide enough information for the reader to understand what sources of learning you are writing about [e.g., course readings, field experience, guest lecture, class discussions] and why they were important. This section should end with an explanatory thesis statement that expresses the central ideas of your paper and what you want the readers to know, believe, or understand after they finish reading your paper.

Reflective Interpretation

Drawing from your reflective analysis, this is where you can be personal, critical, and creative in expressing how you felt about the course content and learning experiences and how they influenced or altered your feelings, beliefs, assumptions, or biases about the subject of the course. This section is also where you explore the meaning of these experiences in the context of the course and how you gained an awareness of the connections between these moments and your own prior knowledge.

Guided by your thesis statement, a helpful approach is to interpret your learning throughout the course with a series of specific examples drawn from the course content and your learning experiences. These examples should be arranged in sequential order that illustrate your growth as a learner. Reflecting on each example can be done by: 1)  introducing a theme or moment that was meaningful to you, 2) describing your previous position about the learning moment and what you thought about it, 3) explaining how your perspective was challenged and/or changed and why, and 4) introspectively stating your current or new feelings, opinions, or beliefs about that experience in class.

It is important to include specific examples drawn from the course and placed within the context of your assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. A reflective narrative without specific examples does not provide an effective way for the reader to understand the relationship between the course content and how you grew as a learner.

Reflective Conclusions

The conclusion of your reflective paper should provide a summary of your thoughts, feelings, or opinions regarding what you learned about yourself as a result of taking the course. Here are several ways you can frame your conclusions based on the examples you interpreted and reflected on what they meant to you. Each example would need to be tied to the basic theme [thesis statement] of your reflective background section.

  • Your reflective conclusions can be described in relation to any expectations you had before taking the class [e.g., “I expected the readings to not be relevant to my own experiences growing up in a rural community, but the research actually helped me see that the challenges of developing my identity as a child of immigrants was not that unusual...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can explain how what you learned about yourself will change your actions in the future [e.g., “During a discussion in class about the challenges of helping homeless people, I realized that many of these people hate living on the street but lack the ability to see a way out. This made me realize that I wanted to take more classes in psychology...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can describe major insights you experienced a critical junctures during the course and how these moments enhanced how you see yourself as a student learner [e.g., "The guest speaker from the Head Start program made me realize why I wanted to pursue a career in elementary education..."].
  • Your reflective conclusions can reconfigure or reframe how you will approach professional practice and your understanding of your future career aspirations [e.g.,, "The course changed my perceptions about seeking a career in business finance because it made me realize I want to be more engaged in customer service..."]
  • Your reflective conclusions can explore any learning you derived from the act of reflecting itself [e.g., “Reflecting on the course readings that described how minority students perceive campus activities helped me identify my own biases about the benefits of those activities in acclimating to campus life...”].

NOTE: The length of a reflective paper in the social sciences is usually less than a traditional research paper. However, don’t assume that writing a reflective paper is easier than writing a research paper. A well-conceived critical reflection paper often requires as much time and effort as a research paper because you must purposeful engage in thinking about your learning in ways that you may not be comfortable with or used to. This is particular true while preparing to write because reflective papers are not as structured as a traditional research paper and, therefore, you have to think deliberately about how you want to organize the paper and what elements of the course you want to reflect upon.

ANOTHER NOTE: Do not limit yourself to using only text in reflecting on your learning. If you believe it would be helpful, consider using creative modes of thought or expression such as, illustrations, photographs, or material objects that reflects an experience related to the subject of the course that was important to you [e.g., like a ticket stub to a renowned speaker on campus]. Whatever non-textual element you include, be sure to describe the object's relevance to your personal relationship to the course content.

Problems to Avoid

A reflective paper is not a “mind dump” . Reflective papers document your personal and emotional experiences and, therefore, they do not conform to rigid structures, or schema, to organize information. However, the paper should not be a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness narrative. Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone , and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance.

A reflective paper is not a research paper . If you are asked to reflect on a course reading, the reflection will obviously include some description of the research. However, the goal of reflective writing is not to present extraneous ideas to the reader or to "educate" them about the course. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the learning objectives of the course. Therefore, unlike research papers, you are expected to write from a first person point of view which includes an introspective examination of your own opinions, feelings, and personal assumptions.

A reflection paper is not a book review . Descriptions of the course readings using your own words is not a reflective paper. Reflective writing should focus on how you understood the implications of and were challenged by the course in relation to your own lived experiences or personal assumptions, combined with explanations of how you grew as a student learner based on this internal dialogue. Remember that you are the central object of the paper, not the research materials.

A reflective paper is not an all-inclusive meditation. Do not try to cover everything. The scope of your paper should be well-defined and limited to your specific opinions, feelings, and beliefs about what you determine to be the most significant content of the course and in relation to the learning that took place. Reflections should be detailed enough to covey what you think is important, but your thoughts should be expressed concisely and coherently [as is true for any academic writing assignment].

Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Critical Reflection: Journals, Opinions, & Reactions . University Writing Center, Texas A&M University; Connor-Greene, Patricia A. “Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 27 (2000): 44-46; Good vs. Bad Reflection Papers , Franklin University; Dyment, Janet E. and Timothy S. O’Connell. "The Quality of Reflection in Student Journals: A Review of Limiting and Enabling Factors." Innovative Higher Education 35 (2010): 233-244: How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Amelia TaraJane House. Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas; Ramlal, Alana, and Désirée S. Augustin. “Engaging Students in Reflective Writing: An Action Research Project.” Educational Action Research 28 (2020): 518-533; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; McGuire, Lisa, Kathy Lay, and Jon Peters. “Pedagogy of Reflective Writing in Professional Education.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2009): 93-107; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; How Do I Write Reflectively? Academic Skills Toolkit, University of New South Wales Sydney; Reflective Writing . Skills@Library. University of Leeds; Walling, Anne, Johanna Shapiro, and Terry Ast. “What Makes a Good Reflective Paper?” Family Medicine 45 (2013): 7-12; Williams, Kate, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro. Reflective Writing . 2nd edition. London: Red Globe Press, 2020; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. “Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing.” Higher Education Research and Development (2022): 1-16.

Writing Tip

Focus on Reflecting, Not on Describing

Minimal time and effort should be spent describing the course content you are asked to reflect upon. The purpose of a reflection assignment is to introspectively contemplate your reactions to and feeling about an element of the course. D eflecting the focus away from your own feelings by concentrating on describing the course content can happen particularly if "talking about yourself" [i.e., reflecting] makes you uncomfortable or it is intimidating. However, the intent of reflective writing is to overcome these inhibitions so as to maximize the benefits of introspectively assessing your learning experiences. Keep in mind that, if it is relevant, your feelings of discomfort could be a part of how you critically reflect on any challenges you had during the course [e.g., you realize this discomfort inhibited your willingness to ask questions during class, it fed into your propensity to procrastinate, or it made it difficult participating in groups].

Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas.

Another Writing Tip

Helpful Videos about Reflective Writing

These two short videos succinctly describe how to approach a reflective writing assignment. They are produced by the Academic Skills department at the University of Melbourne and the Skills Team of the University of Hull, respectively.

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How to Write a Reflection Paper: An Easy-to-Follow Guide

Last Updated: June 6, 2024 Fact Checked

Sample Outline and Paper

Brainstorming, organizing a reflection paper, as you write, expert q&a.

This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,834,510 times.

Reflection papers allow you to communicate with your instructor about how a specific article, lesson, lecture, or experience shapes your understanding of class-related material. Reflection papers are personal and subjective [1] X Research source , but they must still maintain a somewhat academic tone and must still be thoroughly and cohesively organized. Here's what you need to know about writing an effective reflection.

How to Start a Reflection Paper

To write a reflection paper, first write an introduction that outlines your expectations and thesis. Then, state your conclusions in the body paragraphs, explaining your findings with concrete details. Finally, conclude with a summary of your experience.

how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

  • These sentences should be both descriptive yet straight to the point.

Step 2 Jot down material that stands out in your mind.

  • For lectures or readings, you can write down specific quotations or summarize passages.
  • For experiences, make a note of specific portions of your experience. You could even write a small summary or story of an event that happened during the experience that stands out. Images, sounds, or other sensory portions of your experience work, as well.

Alicia Cook

  • In the first column, list the main points or key experiences. These points can include anything that the author or speaker treated with importance as well as any specific details you found to be important. Divide each point into its own separate row.
  • In the second column, list your personal response to the points you brought up in the first column. Mention how your subjective values, experiences, and beliefs influence your response.
  • In the third and last column, describe how much of your personal response to share in your reflection paper.

Step 4 Ask yourself questions to guide your response.

  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience challenge you socially, culturally, emotionally, or theologically? If so, where and how? Why does it bother you or catch your attention?
  • Has the reading, lecture, or experience changed your way of thinking? Did it conflict with beliefs you held previously, and what evidence did it provide you with in order to change your thought process on the topic?
  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience leave you with any questions? Were these questions ones you had previously or ones you developed only after finishing?
  • Did the author, speaker, or those involved in the experience fail to address any important issues? Could a certain fact or idea have dramatically changed the impact or conclusion of the reading, lecture, or experience?
  • How do the issues or ideas brought up in this reading, lecture, or experience mesh with past experiences or readings? Do the ideas contradict or support each other?

Step 1 Keep it short and sweet.

  • Verify whether or not your instructor specified a word count for the paper instead of merely following this average.
  • If your instructor demands a word count outside of this range, meet your instructor's requirements.

Step 2 Introduce your expectations.

  • For a reading or lecture, indicate what you expected based on the title, abstract, or introduction.
  • For an experience, indicate what you expected based on prior knowledge provided by similar experiences or information from others.

Step 3 Develop a thesis...

  • This is essentially a brief explanation of whether or not your expectations were met.
  • A thesis provides focus and cohesion for your reflection paper.
  • You could structure a reflection thesis along the following lines: “From this reading/experience, I learned...”

Step 4 Explain your conclusions in the body.

  • Your conclusions must be explained. You should provide details on how you arrived at those conclusions using logic and concrete details.
  • The focus of the paper is not a summary of the text, but you still need to draw concrete, specific details from the text or experience in order to provide context for your conclusions.
  • Write a separate paragraph for each conclusion or idea you developed.
  • Each paragraph should have its own topic sentence. This topic sentence should clearly identify your major points, conclusions, or understandings.

Step 5 Conclude with a summary.

  • The conclusions or understandings explained in your body paragraphs should support your overall conclusion. One or two may conflict, but the majority should support your final conclusion.

Step 1 Reveal information wisely.

  • If you feel uncomfortable about a personal issue that affects the conclusions you reached, it is wisest not to include personal details about it.
  • If a certain issue is unavoidable but you feel uncomfortable revealing your personal experiences or feelings regarding it, write about the issue in more general terms. Identify the issue itself and indicate concerns you have professionally or academically.

Step 2 Maintain a professional or academic tone.

  • Avoid dragging someone else down in your writing. If a particular person made the experience you are reflecting on difficult, unpleasant, or uncomfortable, you must still maintain a level of detachment as you describe that person's influence. Instead of stating something like, “Bob was such a rude jerk,” say something more along the lines of, “One man was abrupt and spoke harshly, making me feel as though I was not welcome there.” Describe the actions, not the person, and frame those actions within the context of how they influenced your conclusions.
  • A reflection paper is one of the few pieces of academic writing in which you can get away with using the first person pronoun “I.” That said, you should still relate your subjective feelings and opinions using specific evidence to explain them. [8] X Research source
  • Avoid slang and always use correct spelling and grammar. Internet abbreviations like “LOL” or “OMG” are fine to use personally among friends and family, but this is still an academic paper, so you need to treat it with the grammatical respect it deserves. Do not treat it as a personal journal entry.
  • Check and double-check your spelling and grammar after you finish your paper.

Step 3 Review your reflection paper at the sentence level.

  • Keep your sentences focused. Avoid squeezing multiple ideas into one sentence.
  • Avoid sentence fragments. Make sure that each sentence has a subject and a verb.
  • Vary your sentence length. Include both simple sentences with a single subject and verb and complex sentences with multiple clauses. Doing so makes your paper sound more conversational and natural, and prevents the writing from becoming too wooden. [9] X Research source

Step 4 Use transitions.

  • Common transitional phrases include "for example," "for instance," "as a result," "an opposite view is," and "a different perspective is."

Step 5 Relate relevant classroom information to the experience or reading.

  • For instance, if reflecting on a piece of literary criticism, you could mention how your beliefs and ideas about the literary theory addressed in the article relate to what your instructor taught you about it or how it applies to prose and poetry read in class.
  • As another example, if reflecting on a new social experience for a sociology class, you could relate that experience to specific ideas or social patterns discussed in class.

Alicia Cook

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  • ↑ https://www.csuohio.edu/writing-center/reflection-papers
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/assignments/reflectionpaper
  • ↑ Alicia Cook. Professional Writer. Expert Interview. 11 December 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.trentu.ca/academicskills/how-guides/how-write-university/how-approach-any-assignment/how-write-reflection-paper
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://www.anu.edu.au/students/academic-skills/writing-assessment/reflective-writing/reflective-essays
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarlyvoice/sentencestructure

About This Article

Alicia Cook

To write a reflection paper, start with an introduction where you state any expectations you had for the reading, lesson, or experience you're reflecting on. At the end of your intro, include a thesis statement that explains how your views have changed. In the body of your essay, explain the conclusions you reached after the reading, lesson, or experience and discuss how you arrived at them. Finally, finish your paper with a succinct conclusion that explains what you've learned. To learn how to brainstorm for your paper, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Reflection Paper

Why reflective writing, experiential reflection, reading reflection.

  • A note on mechanics

Reflection offers you the opportunity to consider how your personal experiences and observations shape your thinking and your acceptance of new ideas.  Professors often ask students to write reading reflections.  They do this to encourage you to explore your own ideas about a text, to express your opinion rather than summarize the opinions of others.  Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and more significantly, how and why you think that way.  In addition, reflective analysis asks you to acknowledge that your thoughts are shaped by your assumptions and preconceived ideas; in doing so, you can appreciate the ideas of others, notice how their assumptions and preconceived ideas may have shaped their thoughts, and perhaps recognize how your ideas support or oppose what you read.

Types of Reflective Writing

Popular in professional programs, like business, nursing, social work, forensics and education, reflection is an important part of making connections between theory and practice.  When you are asked to reflect upon experience in a placement, you do not only describe your experience, but you evaluate it based on ideas from class.  You can assess a theory or approach based on your observations and practice and evaluate your own knowledge and skills within your professional field.   This opportunity to take the time to think about your choices, your actions, your successes and your failures is best done within a specific framework, like course themes or work placement objectives.  Abstract concepts can become concrete and real to you when considered within your own experiences, and reflection on your experiences allows you to make plans for improvement.

To encourage thoughtful and balanced assessment of readings, many interdisciplinary courses may ask you to submit a reading reflection.  Often instructors will indicate to students what they expect of a reflection, but the general purpose is to elicit your informed opinions about ideas presented in the text and to consider how they affect your interpretation.   Reading reflections offer an opportunity to recognize – and perhaps break down – your assumptions which may be challenged by the text(s). 

Approaches to Reflective Inquiry

You may wonder how your professors assess your reflective writing.  What are they looking for? How can my experiences or ideas be right or wrong?  Your instructors expect you to critically engage with concepts from your course by making connections between your observations, experiences, and opinions.   They expect you to explain and analyse these concepts from your own point of view, eliciting original ideas and encouraging active interest in the course material.

It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a critical reflection.  First, know that – like any other academic piece of writing – a reflection requires a narrow focus and strong analysis.  The best approach for identifying a focus and for reflective analysis is interrogation.   The following offers suggestions for your line of inquiry when developing a reflective response.

It is best to discuss your experiences in a work placement or practicum within the context of personal or organizational goals; doing so provides important insights and perspective for your own growth in the profession. For reflective writing, it is important to balance reporting or descriptive writing with critical reflection and analysis.

Consider these questions:

  • Contextualize your reflection:  What are your learning goals? What are the objectives of the organization?  How do these goals fit with the themes or concepts from the course?
  • Provide important information: What is the name of the host organization? What is their mission? Who do they serve? What was your role? What did you do?
  • Analytical Reflection: What did you learn from this experience? About yourself? About working in the field? About society?
  • Lessons from reflection: Did your experience fit with the goals or concepts of the course or organization?  Why or why not? What are your lessons for the future? What was successful? Why? What would you do differently? Why? How will you prepare for a future experience in the field?

Consider the purpose of reflection: to demonstrate your learning in the course.  It is important to actively and directly connect concepts from class to your personal or experiential reflection.  The following example shows how a student’s observations from a classroom can be analysed using a theoretical concept and how the experience can help a student to evaluate this concept.

For Example My observations from the classroom demonstrate that the hierarchical structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy is problematic, a concept also explored by Paul (1993).  The students often combined activities like application and synthesis or analysis and evaluation to build their knowledge and comprehension of unfamiliar concepts.  This challenges my understanding of traditional teaching methods where knowledge is the basis for inquiry.  Perhaps higher-order learning strategies like inquiry and evaluation can also be the basis for knowledge and comprehension, which are classified as lower-order skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Critical reflection requires thoughtful and persistent inquiry.  Although basic questions like “what is the thesis?” and “what is the evidence?” are important to demonstrate your understanding, you need to interrogate your own assumptions and knowledge to deepen your analysis and focus your assessment of the text.

Assess the text(s):

  • What is the main point? How is it developed? Identify the purpose, impact and/or theoretical framework of the text.
  • What ideas stood out to me? Why? Were they new or in opposition to existing scholarship?

Develop your ideas:

  • What do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge come from? What are the observations or experiences that shape my understanding?
  • Do I agree or disagree with this argument?  Why?

Make connections:

  • How does this text reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How does this text challenge my existing ideas or assumptions?
  • How does this text help me to better understand this topic or explore this field of study/discipline?

A Note on Mechanics

As with all written assignments or reports, it is important to have a clear focus for your writing.  You do not need to discuss every experience or element of your placement.  Pick a few that you can explore within the context of your learning.  For reflective responses, identify the main arguments or important elements of the text to develop a stronger analysis which integrates relevant ideas from course materials.

Furthermore, your writing must be organized.  Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning.  Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.

You should maintain a formal tone, but it is acceptable to write in the first person and to use personal pronouns.  Note, however, that it is important that you maintain confidentiality and anonymity of clients, patients or students from work or volunteer placements by using pseudonyms and masking identifying factors. 

The value of reflection: Critical reflection is a meaningful exercise which can require as much time and work as traditional essays and reports because it asks students to be purposeful and engaged participants, readers, and thinkers.

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Reflective writing.

  • Academic writing
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Writing reflectively is essential to many academic programmes and also to completing applications for employment. This page considers what reflective writing is and how to do it. 

What is reflection?

Reflection is something that we do everyday as part of being human. We plan and undertake actions, then think about whether each was successful or not, and how we might improve next time. We can also feel reflection as emotions, such as satisfaction and regret, or as a need to talk over happenings with friends. See below for an introduction to reflection as a concept. 

Reflection in everyday life [Google Slides]

Google Doc

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing should be thought of as recording reflective thinking. This can be done in an everyday diary entry, or instruction in a recipe book to change a cooking method next time. In academic courses, reflective is more complex and focussed. This section considers the main features of reflective writing. 

Reflective writing for employability

When applying for jobs, or further academic study, students are required to think through what they have done in their degrees and translate it into evaluative writing that fulfils the criteria of job descriptions and person specifications. This is a different style of writing, the resource below will enable you to think about how to begin this transition. 

There are also lots of resources available through the university's careers service and elsewhere on the Skills Guides. The links below are to pages that can offer further support and guidance. 

how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

  • Careers and Placements Service resources Lots of resources that relate to all aspects of job applications, including tailored writing styles and techniques.

The language of reflective writing

Reflective academic writing is: 

  • almost always written in the first person.
  • evaluative - you are judging something.
  • partly personal, partly based on criteria.
  • analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events.
  • formal - it is for an academic audience.
  • carefully constructed. 

Look at the sections below to see specific vocabulary types and sentence constructions that can be useful when writing reflectively. 

Language for exploring outcomes

A key element of writing reflectively is being able to explain to the reader what the results of your actions were. This requires careful grading of language to ensure that what you write reflects the evidence of what happened and to convey clearly what you achieved or did not achieve. 

Below are some ideas and prompts of how you can write reflectively about outcomes, using clarity and graded language. 

Expressing uncertainty when writing about outcomes:

  • It is not yet clear that…
  • I do not yet (fully) understand...
  • It is unclear...
  • It is not yet fully clear...
  • It is not yet (fully?) known… 
  • It appears to be the case that…
  • It is too soon to tell....

Often, in academic learning, the uncertainty in the outcomes is a key part of the learning and development that you undertake. It is vital therefore that you explain this clearly to the reader using careful choices in your language. 

Writing about how the outcome relates to you:

  • I gained (xxxx) skills… 
  • I developed… 
  • The experience/task/process taught me… 
  • I achieved…
  • I learned that…
  • I found that… 

In each case you can add in words like, ‘significantly’, ‘greatly’, ‘less importantly’ etc. The use of evaluative adjectives enables you to express to the reader the importance and significance of your learning in terms of the outcomes achieved. 

Describing how you reached your outcomes:

  • Having read....
  • Having completed (xxxx)...
  • I analysed…
  • I applied… 
  • I learned…
  • I experienced… 
  • Having reflected…

This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the reflection they are reading. How and why you reach the conclusions and learning that you express in your reflective writing is important so the reader can assess the validity and strength of your reflections. 

Projecting your outcomes into the future:

  • If I completed a similar task in the future I would…
  • Having learned through this process I would… 
  • Next time I will…
  • I will need to develop…. (in light of the outcomes)
  • Next time my responses would be different....

When showing the reader how you will use your learning in the future, it is important to be specific and again, to use accurate graded language to show how and why what you choose to highlight matters. Check carefully against task instructions to see what you are expected to reflect into the future about. 

When reflecting in academic writing on outcomes, this can mean either the results of the task you have completed, for example, the accuracy of a titration in a Chemistry lab session, or what you have learned/developed within the task, for example, ensuring that an interview question is written clearly enough to produce a response that reflects what you wished to find out. 

Language choices are important in ensuring the reader can see what you think in relation to the reflection you have done. 

Language for interpretation

When you interpret something you are telling the reader how important it is, or what meaning is attached to it. 

You may wish to indicate the value of something:

  • superfluous
  • non-essential

E.g. 'the accuracy of the transcription was essential to the accuracy of the eventual coding and analysis of the interviews undertaken. The training I undertook was critical to enabling me to transcribe quickly and accurately' 

You may wish to show how ideas, actions or some other aspect developed over time:

  • Initially 
  • subsequently
  • in sequence 

E.g. 'Before we could produce the final version of the presentation, we had to complete both the research and produce a plan. This was achieved later than expected, leading to subsequent rushing of creating slides, and this contributed to a lower grade'. 

You may wish to show your viewpoint or that of others:

  • did not think
  • articulated
  • did/did not do something

Each of these could be preceded by 'we' or 'I'.

E.g. 'I noticed that the model of the bridge was sagging. I expressed this to the group, and as I did so I noticed that two members did not seem to grasp how serious the problem was. I proposed a break and a meeting, during which I intervened to show the results of inaction.'

There is a huge range of language that can be used for interpretation, the most important thing is to remember your reader and be clear with them about what your interpretation is, so they can see your thinking and agree or disagree with you. 

Language for analysis

When reflecting, it is important to show the reader that you have analysed the tasks, outcomes, learning and all other aspects that you are writing about. In most cases, you are using categories to provide structure to your reflection. Some suggestions of language to use when analysing in reflective writing are below:

Signposting that you are breaking down a task or learning into categories:

  • An aspect of…
  • An element of…
  • An example of…
  • A key feature of the task was... (e.g. teamwork)
  • The task was multifaceted… (then go on to list or describe the facets)
  • There were several experiences…
  • ‘X’ is related to ‘y’

There may be specific categories that you should consider in your reflection. In teamwork, it could be individual and team performance, in lab work it could be accuracy and the reliability of results. It is important that the reader can see the categories you have used for your analysis. 

Analysis by chronology:

  • Subsequently
  • Consequently
  • Stage 1 (or other)

In many tasks the order in which they were completed matters. This can be a key part of your reflection, as it is possible that you may learn to do things in a different order next time or that the chronology influenced the outcomes. 

Analysis by perspective:

  • I considered

These language choices show that you are analysing purely by your own personal perspective. You may provide evidence to support your thinking, but it is your viewpoint that matters. 

  • What I expected from the reading did not happen…
  • The Theory did not appear in our results…
  • The predictions made were not fulfilled…
  • The outcome was surprising because… (and link to what was expected)

These language choices show that you are analysing by making reference to academic learning (from an academic perspective). This means you have read or otherwise learned something and used it to form expectations, ideas and/or predictions. You can then reflect on what you found vs what you expected. The reader needs to know what has informed our reflections. 

  • Organisation X should therefore…
  • A key recommendation is… 
  • I now know that organisation x is… 
  • Theory A can be applied to organisation X

These language choices show that analysis is being completed from a systems perspective. You are telling the reader how your learning links into the bigger picture of systems, for example, what an organisation or entity might do in response to what you have learned. 

Analysing is a key element of being reflective. You must think through the task, ideas, or learning you are reflecting on and use categories to provide structure to your thought. This then translates into structure and language choices in your writing, so your reader can see clearly how you have used analysis to provide sense and structure to your reflections. 

Language for evaluation

Reflecting is fundamentally an evaluative activity. Writing about reflection is therefore replete with evaluative language. A skillful reflective writer is able to grade their language to match the thinking it is expressing to the reader. 

Language to show how significant something is:

  • Most importantly
  • Significantly 
  • The principal lesson was… 
  • Consequential
  • Fundamental
  • Insignificant
  • In each case the language is quantifying the significance of the element you are describing, telling the reader the product of your evaluative thought. 

For example, ‘when team working I initially thought that we would succeed by setting out a plan and then working independently, but in fact, constant communication and collaboration were crucial to success. This was the most significant thing I learned.’ 

Language to show the strength of relationships:

  • X is strongly associated with Y
  • A is a consequence of B
  • There is a probable relationship between… 
  • C does not cause D
  • A may influence B
  • I learn most strongly when doing A

In each case the language used can show how significant and strong the relationship between two factors are. 

For example, ‘I learned, as part of my research methods module, that the accuracy of the data gained through surveys is directly related to the quality of the questions. Quality can be improved by reading widely and looking at surveys in existing academic papers to inform making your own questions’

Language to evaluate your viewpoint:

  • I was convinced...
  • I have developed significantly…
  • I learned that...
  • The most significant thing that I learned was…
  • Next time, I would definitely…
  • I am unclear about… 
  • I was uncertain about… 

These language choices show that you are attaching a level of significance to your reflection. This enables the reader to see what you think about the learning you achieved and the level of significance you attach to each reflection. 

For example, ‘when using systematic sampling of a mixed woodland, I was convinced that method A would be most effective, but in reality, it was clear that method B produced the most accurate results. I learned that assumptions based on reading previous research can lead to inaccurate predictions. This is very important for me as I will be planning a similar sampling activity as part of my fourth year project’ 

Evaluating is the main element of reflecting. You need to evaluate the outcomes of the activities you have done, your part in them, the learning you achieved and the process/methods you used in your learning, among many other things. It is important that you carefully use language to show the evaluative thinking you have completed to the reader.

Varieties of reflective writing in academic studies

There are a huge variety of reflective writing tasks, which differ between programmes and modules. Some are required by the nature of the subject, like in Education, where reflection is a required standard in teaching.

Some are required by the industry area graduates are training for, such as 'Human Resources Management', where the industry accreditation body require evidence of reflective capabilities in graduates.

In some cases, reflection is about the 'learning to learn' element of degree studies, to help you to become a more effective learner. Below, some of the main reflective writing tasks found in University of York degrees are explored. In each case the advice, guidance and materials do not substitute for those provided within your modules. 

Reflective essay writing

Reflective essay tasks vary greatly in what they require of you. The most important thing to do is to read the assessment brief carefully, attend any sessions and read any materials provided as guidance and to allocate time to ensure you can do the task well.

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Reflective learning statements

Reflective learning statements are often attached to dissertations and projects, as well as practical activities. They are an opportunity to think about and tell the reader what you have learned, how you will use the learning, what you can do better next time and to link to other areas, such as your intended career. 

Making a judgement about academic performance

Think of this type of writing as producing your own feedback. How did you do? Why? What could you improve next time? These activities may be a part of modules, they could be attached to a bigger piece of work like a dissertation or essay, or could be just a part of your module learning. 

The four main questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your academic performance. 

  • Why exactly did you achieve the grade you have been awarded? Look at your feedback, the instructions, the marking scheme and talk to your tutors to find out if you don't know. 
  • How did your learning behaviours affect your academic performance? This covers aspects such as attendance, reading for lectures/seminars, asking questions, working with peers... the list goes on. 
  • How did your performance compare to others? Can you identify when others did better or worse? Can you talk to your peers to find out if they are doing something you are not or being more/less effective?
  • What can you do differently to improve your performance? In each case, how will you ensure you can do it? Do you need training? Do you need a guide book or resources? 

When writing about each of the above, you need to keep in mind the context of how you are being asked to judge your performance and ensure the reader gains the detail they need (and as this is usually a marker, this means they can give you a high grade!). 

Writing a learning diary/blog/record

A learning diary or blog has become a very common method of assessing and supporting learning in many degree programmes. The aim is to help you to think through your day-to-day learning and identify what you have and have not learned, why that is and what you can improve as you go along. You are also encouraged to link your learning to bigger thinking, like future careers or your overall degree. 

Other support for reflective writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reflective writing. Also check your department's guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for reflective writing:

how to write a reflection paper on a research paper

Appointments and workshops 

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How to Write a Reflection Paper: A Guide For Students

Here in our step-by-step guide, we take you through how to write a reflection paper.

Reflection papers are a common type of academic paper that help students learn to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Learning to write well is an essential part of honing your communication skills . Being able to express your own opinion on a topic in a structured format that makes your point of view and supporting evidence clear is a useful skill in nearly every career field. However, writing a reflective essay might seem intimidating, especially if you’re new to writing academic papers in general.

Below, we discuss several steps to writing a good reflection paper and answer your most frequently asked questions about reflective writing.

Before Getting Started

Step 2: start brainstorming, step 3: write the outline, step 4: format your reflection paper, step 7: compose the conclusion, tips for writing an outstanding reflection paper.

Before you start, it’s important to understand a reflection essay. A reflection paper is an essay or academic paper that offers a summary of the writer’s personal opinion or thoughts about a particular topic. It’s typically written in the first person and is a type of paper designed to communicate the writer’s opinion.

You can also:

  • Gather the materials you will need to write, such as a pen and paper, your laptop, and any books or other research materials you will be using.
  • Go somewhere quiet where you can work without interruption.
  • Set a time limit and schedule breaks for yourself in between.
  • Set goals for what you would like to finish during your writing session.
  • Make notes of anything left to do when your session is complete and return to it another time.

Step 1: Pick a Point of View 

How to write a reflection paper: Pick a point of view 

First and foremost, you should decide what point of view you want to present to the reader. What do you want the reader to learn from your reflective essay? How do you want them to feel while reading it, and what messages do you want to convey? Jot down your thoughts at this stage without worrying too much about structure or the order of your ideas. This first step aims to get the main points of your argument out so you know what angle you’re taking before you jump into brainstorming your supporting content. You might also be interested in learning how to write a book report .

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a fascinating self-help book packaged as a fantasy story.
  • It’s about a young boy named Santiago who turns from a life of Andalusian shepherding to travelling the world in search of treasure.
  • After finishing the book, I was compelled to look at my own life and what dreams and goals I had, and how I might be able to pursue those.
  • The most valuable lesson I learned was that each person should develop their ideas, goals, and objectives that they can work to pursue throughout their lifetime.
  • The main character finds even more than he is looking for by learning about himself and living genuinely regardless of the cost.
  • Overall, I found the book intriguing and engaging and could extrapolate several helpful ideas I could immediately apply to improve my life.

Begin the brainstorming process by thinking about personal experiences you’ve had that align with your main argument. Then, think about how these experiences and your response to them have impacted how you interpret the topic you’re presenting and why you have arrived at this point of view. This is particularly important if you’re writing an experiential reflection paper based on the opinions and ideas you developed from going through a specific experience or event.

Use the following techniques to brainstorm your reflection paper ideas:

  • Draw Venn diagrams to group and separate ideas.
  • Make bullet point lists of ideas.
  • Create a mind map for different topics.
  • Role play with other people.
  • Think of as many ideas as fast as possible and write them down, no matter what.
  • Write down ideas that start with specific letters of the alphabet.

A good outline will cover the main points of your paper so that the reader can come away with the intended meaning, even if they only scanned or skimmed the outline. Your essay should be written with a solid structure, and your thoughts should transition easily from one to the next. An excellent reflective paper will guide readers along your thought process, gently nudging them from one idea to another as they follow your cognitive journey around the topic.

Your reflection essay should have a clear:

  • Beginning — Set the stage for your readers using descriptive language. Use a topic sentence to convey the main points of your paper immediately and let readers know what they can expect from the rest of the article.
  • Middle — Get into the meat of your ideas by presenting a problem or challenge and how it was resolved. While reflection papers might not have traditional climaxes, you can strategically build your ideas up to a conflict or problem and then to a revelation or epiphany.
  • End — Resolve conflicts and impart lessons learned at the end of your essay to wrap things up. Here is where the reflective part of the paper comes into play as you describe how you’ve gained a better understanding of the events described in the essay.

Your reflection paper format is essential if you write a personal reflection for high school or a thesis statement for college. Not only does formatting make your reflection essay easier to read, but it also ensures the piece meets submission criteria if the paper is for school, work, or publication. Most academic writing follows a predetermined format, and reflective essay writing is no different. Here are some formatting basics for a reflective essay:

  • The page should be double-spaced.
  • The first word in each new paragraph should be indented.
  • Your margins should be 1” on the top, bottom, and sides of the page.
  • The font should be set to Times New Roman 12 pt.
  • The page should be 8 1/2” x 11”.
  • Most reflective essays are between 250 to 750 words.

Step 5: Write Your Introduction

Finally, it’s time to do the bulk of the writing. You don’t need to go in any particular order, and it’s perfectly okay to write the conclusion or body paragraphs before the introduction or even a few sentences. There’s no wrong answer to how the words get from your mind onto the paper or computer screen, but the writing tips below can help you figure out which process you like best.

Your introduction is the first part of your research paper and what readers will engage with first. Your introduction should include the paper’s topic sentence, expressing the main themes you will discuss. They should know what to expect as they read the paper and what benefits they might get from continuing. You might also be wondering how to write a preface .

Throughout my life, I’ve wondered why some people seem to have an easier time than others. No matter what happens, these people seem to bounce back quickly or even might seem unaffected at all. As someone who has always been curious to learn about why other people do, say, or think certain things, this was naturally of great interest to me.

As I began to study various social, behavioural, and psychological textbooks, I realized that there were some common denominators between people who seemed to fare well emotionally, regardless of their circumstances. First and foremost, I noticed that extreme hardships at an early age resulted in less resilience to everyday stressors later in life.

Step 6: Create the Body Paragraphs

Next, write the body of your paper. This should be the largest portion of your paper and longer than the introduction and conclusion combined. The body will usually be at least a few paragraphs long but could be lengthier depending on the total word count of the paper. Be sure that your introduction, body, and conclusion contain smooth transitions from one to the other in a way that guides the reader through the paper. You might also be interested in these articles about assessment .

As I watched the sky where the Twin Towers once stood filled with smoke on the television screen, I remembered a scene from my childhood that I had thought was long forgotten. We were on a family road trip and drove past a car accident on the side of the highway. Someone’s van had collided with the guardrail and burst into flames, and thick, black pillars of smoke poured out of the engine.

Seeing the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks with my eyes was a surreal experience that I’ll never forget. It didn’t matter where people were or what religion they were — people just helped others. Firefighters dug survivors out of the rubble, and nearby shop owners provided first responders with food and water as they worked to clean up what was left of Ground Zero. It’s an event that impacted me profoundly and inspired me to help my fellow neighbors whenever I get the chance.

Finally, wrap up your reflection paper with a solid conclusion summarizing the paper already covered. Don’t use this space to introduce new information — if you still have something to say, it should be included in your body paragraphs. Your conclusion should be succinct and straightforward, providing a great segue from the body of your paper to the end. Write your conclusion in a way that leaves readers thinking about the point of view you were trying to convey or how they might apply the moral of your story to their own lives.

My experience with social media has left a lot to be desired, and I see many young people struggling to navigate public spaces on the internet. I’ve found it challenging to find genuine people or those interested in forming legitimate, long-term friendships or relationships.

As I became increasingly frustrated with my online life, I began investing more time in my real life. I looked for ways to improve my day-to-day routine and make time for things that gave me joy. Over time, I realized that social media brought me more stress and anxiety than it resolved and there just weren’t very many benefits in it for me anymore. I think many young people would find that their lives would be improved by spending less time on social media sites.

There are many ways to write a good reflection paper, depending on your topic and personal preferences. Still, some reflective writing strategies have stood the test of time and come highly recommended by other writers. 

  • Make sure your essay is straightforward and concise. Use shorter sentences to convey the main points of your paper instead of long, convoluted phrases. Include only relevant information in the essay and leave out anything that doesn’t directly support or explain your main point of view.
  • Use an academic tone of voice. Most reflective essays are formal and require an academic or professional tone and style. However, a good trick to use is to match the tone of your writing to your target audience. For example, if your reflective essay is for a children’s show, you may want to use a more casual tone of voice, even though most reflective writing should sound professional.
  • Include credible sources, and make sure to cite them appropriately. Determine whether you should use MLA or APA formatting and follow the guidelines for citing sources you use to support your text. Don’t skip the research phase of reflective writing, even if your essay will be strictly experiential reflection. You should always include at least one to two supporting references.
  • Use tight paragraphs and stay on track. Because most reflective papers are less than 1000 words and may even be shorter than 500 words, it’s important that your writing is concise and that each sentence brings value to the paper. Conversely, padding your essay with fluff writing wastes valuable word space and waters down the overall impact your writing has on your target audience.
  • Proofread your essay thoroughly. Simple mistakes and typos can be detrimental to an otherwise perfect reflective essay. Most teachers will deduct marks for these issues, so be sure to proofread and edit your writing at least once or twice before turning it in.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

If you’re still stuck, check out our general resource of essay writing topics .

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How to Write a Reflection Paper: Definition, Outline, Steps & Examples

Reflection paper

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Reflection paper is an opportunity to look at a topic, concept or event and analyze it. It can involve personal introspection, observations of a particular situation or event, and even critical analysis of other works. Students should share their emotions, opinions, and reflections, exploring how the subject matter has impacted their thinking and personal growth. Unlike other types of essays, a reflection paper is usually written in the first person. 

Whether your teacher assigns an  internship reflection paper or any other type of a reflection paper, don't write about the image in the mirror. On the contrary,  study your thoughts on a given topic. Most students first encounter this type of writing when describing how they spent summer.  However, this type of academic writing can cover much more. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about this type of academic piece!

What Is a Reflection Paper: A Detailed Definition

Reflection paper refers to a type of academic writing where you should analyze your personal life, and explore specific ideas of how your changes, development, or growth turned out.  Consider this piece like diary entries. Except that others will be reading them. So it should have consistency, reasonable structure, and be easy to understand. In this respect, this work is very similar to any other academic assignment. Simply put, a reflective paper is a critique of life experiences. And with proper guidance, it is not very difficult to compose. Moreover, there are different types of reflection papers . After all, you can reflect on different things, not only your own experience. These types are:

  • Educational reflection paper In this type of work you must write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended.
  • Professional paper It is usually written by people who study or work in education or psychology.
  • Personal paper It goes without saying that this type is all about your own feelings and thoughts on a particular topic.

Reflection Paper Format: Which One to Choose

Reflection paper format can vary slightly depending on who your audience is. It is not uncommon that your paper format will be assigned specifically by your professor. However, some essential structural elements are typical for MLA, APA, or Chicago style formatting. These include introduction, body, and conclusion. You can find more information on paper formats in our blog. As always, paper writers for hire at StudyCrumb are at your hand 24/7.

How to Start a Reflection Paper: Guidelines

Here, we will explain how to begin a reflection paper. Working on how to start a body paragraph , review criteria for evaluation. This first step will help you concentrate on what is required. In the beginning, summarize brief information with no spoilers. Then professionally explain what thoughts you (if it is a personal paper) or a writer (if educational or professional paper) touch upon. But still, remember that essays should be written in first person and focus on "you."

Reflection Paper Outline

The best reflection paper outline consists of an introduction that attracts attention. After introduction, the plan includes the main body and, finally, conclusions. Adherence to this structure will allow you to clearly express your thinking. The detailed description of each part is right below.

Reflection Paper Introduction: Start With Hook

Reflection paper introduction starts with a hook. Find a way to intrigue your reader and make them interested in your assignment before they even read it. Also, you should briefly and informatively describe the background and thesis statement. Make it clear and concise, so neither you nor your reader would get confused later. Don't forget to state what it is you're writing about: an article, a personal experience, a book, or something else.

Number of Body Paragraphs in a Reflective Paper

Reflective paper body paragraphs explain how your thinking has changed according to something. Don't only share changes but also provide examples as supporting details. For example, if you discuss how to become more optimistic, describe what led to this change. Examples serve as supporting structure of your assignment. They are similar to evidence in, say, an argumentative essay.  Keep in mind that your work doesn't have to be disengaged and aloof. It is your own experience you're sharing, after all.

How to End a Reflection Paper

In the short reflection paper conclusion, you summarize the thesis and personal experience. It's fascinating that in this academic work, you can reflect forward or backward on your experience. In the first case, you share what role the essay plays in your future. In the second case, you focus more on the past. You acknowledge the impact that the essay's story has on your life. Reflect on how you changed bit by bit, or, maybe, grew as a person. Perhaps, you have witnessed something so fascinating it changed your outlook on certain aspects of your life. This is how to write conclusion in research paper in the best way possible.

How to Write Reflection Paper: Full Step-By-Step Guide

Writing reflection paper could be initiated by the teacher at college. Or we can even do it by ourselves to challenge our evaluation skills and see how we have changed. In any case, it's not an issue anymore since we've prepared a super handy guide. Just follow it step by step, and you will be amazed at the result.

Step 1. Answer the Main Questions Before Writing a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper means you should provide your thoughts on the specific topic and cover some responses. So before writing, research the information you want to apply and note every idea. If you're writing an educational or professional paper ask yourself several questions, for example:

  • What was my viewpoint before reading this book?
  • How do I consider this situation now?
  • What does this book teach me?

If your goal is to reflect on personal experience, you can start with asking questions like:

  • What was your viewpoint before the experience?
  • How did this experience change your viewpoint?

The more details you imagine, the better you can answer these questions. 

Step 2. Identify the Main Theme of Your Reflection Paper

Reflection papers' suggested topics can be varied. Generally, it could be divided into four main categories to discuss:

  • Articles or books.
  • Social events.
  • Persons or famous individuals.
  • Personal experiences.

In any case, it's good to show your own attitude to a topic, and that it affects yourself. It is also suited to write about your own negative experiences and mistakes. You need to show how you overcame some obstacle, or maybe you're still dealing with the consequences of your choices. Consider what you learnt through this experience, and how it makes you who you are now.

Step 3. Summarize the Material for Reflection Paper

At this step of reflective paper, you can wait for inspiration and brainstorm. Don't be afraid of a blank sheet. Carefully read the topic suggested for the essay. Think about associations, comparisons, facts that immediately come to mind. If the teacher recommended particular literature, find it. If not, check the previous topic's background. Remember how to quote a quote that you liked, but be sure to indicate its author and source. Think of relevant examples or look for statistics, and analyze them. Just start drafting a summary of everything you know regarding this topic. And keep in mind, that main task is to describe your own thoughts and feelings.

Step 4. Analyze Main Aspects of Reflection Paper

A whole reflection paper's meaning lies in putting theory and your experience together. So fill in different ideas in your piece step by step until you realize there's enough material. If you may find some particular quotes, you should focus on your viewpoint and feelings. Who knows, maybe there is some relatable literature (or video material) that can highlight your idea and make it sound more engaging?

The Best Tips on Writing a Reflection Paper

We prepared tips on writing reflection paper to help you find evidence that your work was excellently done! Some, of course, go without saying. Edit your piece for some time after writing, when you cooled down a bit. Pay attention to whether your readers would be interested in this material. Write about things that not only are interesting for you, but have a sufficient amount of literature to read about. Below you will find more tips on various types of writing!

Tips on Writing a Critical Reflection Paper

Role of a critical reflection paper is to change your opinion about a particular subject, thus changing your behaviour. You may ask yourself how your experience could have been improved and what you have to do in order to achieve that. It could be one of the most challenging tasks if you choose the wrong topic. Usually, such works are written at the subject's culmination. This requires intensive, clear, evaluative, and critical context thinking.

  • Describe experience in detail.
  • Study topic of work well.
  • Provide an in-depth analysis.
  • Tell readers how this experience changed you.
  • Find out how it will affect your future.

Tips on Writing a Course Reflection Paper

Course reflection paper is basically a personal experience of how a course at your college (or university) has affected you. It requires description and title of course, first of all. 

  • Clearly write information you discussed, how class went, and reasons you attended it.
  • Identify basic concepts, theories and instructions studied. Then interpret them using real-life examples.
  • Evaluate relevance and usefulness of course.

How to Write a Reflection Paper on a Book

A reflection paper on a book introduces relevant author's and piece's information. Focus on main characters. Explain what problems are revealed in work, their consequences, and their effectiveness. Share your experience or an example from your personal life. 

How to Write a Reflection Paper on a Project

Main point of a reflection paper on a project is to share your journey during a process. It has the same structure and approach as previous works. Tell all about the obstacles that you needed to overcome. Explain what it took to overcome them. Share your thoughts! Compare your experience with what could have been if there were another approach. But the main task here is to support the pros or cons of the path you've taken. Suggest changes and recognize complexity or relevance to the real world.

How to Write a Reflection Paper on an Interview

A reflection paper on an interview requires a conclusion already in your introduction.

  • Introduce the person.
  • Then emphasize known points of view, focusing on arguments.
  • Later, express what you like or dislike about this idea.

It is always a good idea to brainstorm and research certain interview questions you're planning on discussing with a person. Create an outline of how you want your interview to go. Also, don't digress from a standard 5-paragraph structure, keep your essay simple. You may need a guide on how to write a response paper as well. There is a blog with detailed steps on our website.

Reflection Paper Example

Before we've explained all fundamental basics to you. Now let's look at a reflection paper example. In this file, you'll find a visual structure model and way of thinking expressed.

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Reflection Paper: Main Takeaways

A reflection paper is your flow of thoughts in an organized manner concerning any research paper topics . Format is similar to any other academic work. Start with a strong introduction, develop the main body, and end with conclusions. With the help of our article, you can write this piece only in 4 steps.

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Our academic assistants are up for the task! Just pick a twitter to your liking, send them your paper requirements and they'll write your reflection paper for you!

Frequently Asked Questions About Reflection Paper

1. how long should a reflection paper be.

A reflection paper must be between 300 and 750 words. Still, it always depends on your previous research and original task requirements. The main task is to cover all essential questions in the narrative flow. So don't stick directly to the work's volume.

2. Do reflection papers need a cover sheet or title page?

A cover sheet or title page isn't necessary for reflection papers. But your teacher may directly require this page. Then you should include a front-page and format it accordingly.

3. Do I need to use citations and references with a reflection paper?

No, usually, you don't have to cite in your reflection paper. It should be only your personal experience and viewpoint. But in some cases, your teacher may require you to quote a certain number of sources. It's necessary that the previous research was completed, so check it beforehand.

4. What is the difference between a reflection paper and a reaction paper?

The research paper definition differs from reaction paper. Basically, the main point is in-depth of discussion. In the first case, you must fully describe how something affected you. While in the second one, it is just asked to provide a simple observation.

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Reflection Toolkit

General tips for academic reflections

An overview of key things to keep in mind for academic reflections.

Term How it is being used
Academic/professional reflection Any kind of reflection that is expected to be presented for assessment in an academic, professional, or skill development context. Academic reflection will be used primarily, but refer to all three areas.
Private reflection Reflection you do where you are the only intended audience.

Make sure you know what the assessor is asking for

Your main consideration when producing written or any kind of academic reflection is to know exactly what is expected of you. Therefore, you should ask your assessor what kind of language and structure they are expecting. With that in mind, the characteristics described here and in the sections on language and structure for academic reflections are what is often sought after.

Language of academic reflections

Structure of academic reflections

Using private reflections as foundations for academic reflections

Academic reflective writing is often used to evidence that you have done reflection. Therefore, it is often beneficial to first do a private reflection where you can be as informal and unstructured as you want, and then readapt that into a piece of academic writing.

By using a private reflection initially, you can ensure that you get the full learning opportunity without censoring yourself or being conscious of language, before deciding how best to present your reflections to your assessor. This is similar to figuring out what your argument is and taking notes before writing an essay, or to all the background work you do to solve a technical/mathematical problem that you do not include in your hand-in.

Just as developing your argument and working through each step of a problem can be essential for the final essay or hand-in, for some people doing a private reflection can be very helpful in writing an effective academic reflection. For others, writing their reflection in a formal and structured way from the outset helps them structure their thoughts.

The core elements of academic reflective writing

Academic reflective writing is a genre and just like an essay has characteristics, so does academic reflective writing.

Academic reflective writing requires critical and analytic thought, a clear line of argument, and the use of evidence through examples of personal experiences and thoughts and often also theoretical literature.

You should aim for a balance between personal experience, tone, and academic practice and rigor.

Academic reflective writing should:

  • develop a perspective or line of reasoning
  • develop a link between your experience or practice and existing knowledge (theoretical or personal)
  • show understanding and appreciation of different perspectives to your own
  • show recognition that your own understanding is likely incomplete and situations are rarely clear-cut and simplistic
  • show learning resulting from the reflection (either by discovering something new or confirming existing knowledge) and how you plan to use it
  • be written in an appropriate style with language relevant to your academic discipline
  • sometimes, but not always, use theoretical literature to inform your understanding. 

People can have misconceptions about academic reflective writing – some of the common ones are described below.

Just descriptions of what has happened Descriptions should be used as foundations for learning.
A personal diary where you can say anything and use any language Academic reflective writing require structure and formal language.
A place where you get marks for self-disclosure – while reflection is personal, you will not get a good mark by merely sharing challenging experiences or personal trauma The experiences you share must be used actively to promote learning be appropriate for the audience. An assessor will probably not be comfortable reading your darkest secrets. Private reflections may include such content, but for academic refection it is unlikely to be appropriate. Reflections should be appropriate both for your boundaries and the boundaries of the person reading them.
A place where you get marks for complementing the course or teacher assessing you Include the course and the teacher if they have affected you, but be sure to uncover what about them worked or did not work for you, and how you can use this knowledge in other contexts.
A place where you reference learning uncritically You should evidence how you have learned something, what it means for you, and how it will be used in the future.
A nuisance or waste of time Done correctly, formalising and structuring reflection can help you surface and evidence your personal learning and development, which in turn can help you to communicate your abilities and experiences effectively.

Developed from:

Ryan, M., 2011. Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 99-111.

University of Portsmouth, Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (date unavailable). Reflective Writing: a basic introduction [online].  Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.

Queen Margaret University, Effective Learning Service (date unavailable).  Reflection. [online].  Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.

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Speaking Your Mind: How to Write a Reflection Paper

Updated 08 Jul 2024

how to write a reflection paper

Whether you decide to go to a local college or Stanford University, at some point, you will need to deal with reflection paper. For every student, it is a chance to express some own thoughts regarding an issue – something you cannot often do due to strict laws of academic writing.

Among all the assignments you are to deal with during your college and university years, this one provides better opportunities for speaking your mind. It encourages us to look at things from your own perspective and share views with others. Without exaggeration, it is significant for both studying progress and your personal way of self-understanding. So let’s try to figure out how to write a reflection paper that will leave everyone amazed.

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What is a Reflection Paper: The Major Definition

A reflection paper allows you to take a personal approach and express thoughts on topic instead of just providing bare facts. It can be a discussion on any subject – from your favorite movie to visiting Grand Canyon and reflecting on a certain theory of evolution, so it is important to avoid redundancy in writing when creating one. A reflective paper can be educational, professional, and personal. Each has a slightly different tone:

  • educational is a response to some book, film or lecture studied in class;
  • professional is a common task for teachers and social workers, focused on analyzing their person’s behavior;
  • personal expresses your feelings regarding a more intimate subject.

If you're seeking further inspiration, you can find reflective essay examples for students online that can provide valuable insights and ideas for your own writing.

Tips on Writing a Reflection Paper

Your thoughts on the legacy of John F. Kennedy and the famous winter storm in New York City may need a different approach, but you can follow these steps regardless of the topic you are working on. Here are some nuances that may be useful for reflection writing.

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Critical reflection paper

This is one of the most challenging tasks when you are thinking about how to write a reflection topic. Critical reflection is a culmination of your studying process. It results in intensive thinking that presents your abilities to observe, question, evaluate, and apply personal experiences to the interpreting of the subject.

  • Describe an experience – provide some details on an object or an event.
  • Examine the experience – integrate personal and academic contexts.
  • Provide in-depth analysis of those experiences.
  • Tell readers what you learned after analysis.
  • Clarify how analyzed subject will be useful in your future.
  • You may also suppose how everyone else reading should feel about it.

Reflection paper on a book

  • Start with brief information about the author.
  • Give a summary with a minimum of spoilers.
  • Focus on the main characters.
  • Explain what issues a writer touches upon.
  • Explain the allusions and influences.
  • React to reading, share your impressions.

Course reflection paper

  • Write the course name and its short description.
  • Write a summary of discussed materials.
  • Tell about the course flow and the instructions.
  • Give a reason why you decided to take this course.
  • Define the main concepts and theories learned.
  • Interpret those theories on your own.
  • Express your opinion by using real-life examples.
  • Evaluate your course relevance.

Reflection on a project

  • You can use the same structure you use for a previous paper.
  • Try to talk about the task’s pros and cons and offer changes.
  • Estimate the difficulty and relevance in real-life conditions.

Reflection paper on an interview

  • Hint on a conclusion in the intro.
  • Introduce a person at the beginning.
  • Discuss notable viewpoints.
  • Focus on the controversies.
  • Express what you like or don’t like about the person.

Reflection paper outline

Reflective Paper

There are two approaches to writing a reflection paper – a traditional and an original (though a risky one):

1) Express the main idea in a thesis statement, develop it in body paragraphs by providing supportive arguments, and conclude facts by supporting the thesis statement once more.

2) Start a conversation on topic and hint on a conclusion. Suppose where the subject is going to lead but leave the room for some doubts. Provide an analysis in the body. Come up with a conclusion that is slightly or entirely different from what you expected at the beginning.

Introduction

Express your feelings on a subject is the most critical thing in how to write a reflection paper. Just don’t be too emotional. You should express your ideas in a reasonable, not sentimental way. It should fit the academic style. Provide insight: tell a reader what they are to expect in the following paragraphs. Build a strong idea: summarize the central claim in one sentence to drive attention.

  • It should be informative, brief, and catchy.
  • You can ask a reflective question in the text.
  • Don’t start from the thesis, come back to it later.

This is a part where you explore the thesis. You should explain the case in several paragraphs. Use a three-paragraph structure. In the first one, introduce the experience and how it influenced you. In the next one, compare the experiences of others. Then, tell what you learned from it.

  • You can start with the reasons for choosing the topic.
  • Dig into nuances to explain everything well.
  • Be logical.
  • Include solid examples and quote sources.
  • Show how the subject has affected you.

The conclusion should be solid, even striking. It is the bottom line of the paper which demonstrates that your ideas have been fully formed. Wrap up the discussion by placing the strong accents. Leave the conceivable image of your experience, so readers get some food for reflection. If you want to read more information, we can show you how to write a conclusion .

  • Highlight the main points.
  • Make it effective and sound persuasive
  • Answer what you asked in the intro.

A Little Bit of Formatting

Reflection paper format is familiar for everyone who has written at least one academic paper.

  • Standard A4 paper.
  • 1-inch margins on each side.
  • 12-point text size.
  • Readable font (Arial, Times New Roma, Calibri, Helvetica, etc.)
  • Double spaces between the lines.
  • Citation according to APA, Chicago style, etc. (defined by a teacher).
  • Word count – between 250 and 750.

This is everything you should remember when you prepare to write a reflective paper.

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15 Topics for a Good Paper

If you want to write my college paper well, you should choose a good topic – something that is familiar for you, bothers you, stimulates to share your viewpoint with others. Very often you don’t have an opportunity to choose. That’s when you need to rely on your skills. To learn how to write a proper paper, you need some practice. Here are some topics for you as an exercise or at least for understanding what people speak about in such papers.

  • The things that inspire you.
  • How to deal with stress.
  • Are we alone in the space?
  • Your favorite place in the world.
  • How to admit you were wrong.
  • What do you feel when telling lies.
  • The biggest challenge in your life.
  • Top ten qualities that are important in people.
  • The most unusual place you have been to / wished to visit.
  • The role of school/college/university in your life.
  • A person/event/situation that has changed your life.
  • An outstanding person (you choose) and their role in history.
  • How social media and television affect how we make decisions.
  • How technologies will alter the future in 100 years.
  • What is your childish dream that has come true and which one never will?

Still thinking about how to write a good reflection paper?

This paper highlights a student’s understanding of learned material. But what if you cannot reflect on a topic for some reasons? Or you don't know how to write a reaction paper ? It may be stress that doesn’t let you create anything, lack of time or interest in the subject. We are all humans and face similar troubles occasionally. In this case, buy college research paper from EduBirdie is the best thing you can do. Give us a chance to provide you with reflective essay writing help on some interesting subjects.

Hire writer

- How long should a reflection paper be? As a rule, it will always depend on your reading and original task requirements, yet it will be between 300 and 750 words, sometimes longer. Since you may have to provide specific information about the book or an article, it is recommended to include brief background about your subject, which may increase the final word count. Some poetic and literary work reflections may go up to 1200 words in exceptional cases.  - What does a reflection paper consist of? While every subject will differ, the majority of reflection papers will contain five important parts, which are Introduction with a hook and Thesis Statement, First Body Paragraph with a general description of your subject, Second Body Paragraph with your thoughts, and the reflective effect that the writing had on you, Third Body Paragraph with the lessons you have learned, and the Conclusion with a brief summary. - How do you start a reflection paper? Always start with a strong thesis statement or a list of lessons you have learned. Since your purpose is to reflect, it is crucial to talk about it and use descriptive language to explain how the author’s writing has influenced you and what you think about it. You can compose an outline by writing down your main argument and coming up with at least three points to support your opinion. 

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Written by Meredith Anderson

Meredith, a dedicated editor at EduBirdie, specializes in academic writing. Her keen eye for grammar and structure ensures flawless papers, while her insightful feedback helps students improve their writing skills and achieve higher grades.

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How to write a reflection paper

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Students studying in the library

What is a reflection paper?

A reflection paper is an essay that requires you to express your opinion on a topic. In the paper, you will analyse and reflect upon how a book, experience or academic lecture shaped your thoughts and opinions on a subject.   

It is one of the only academic essays where you get to discuss your own opinion and, the best part is, there is no wrong answer.  

Types of reflection papers

There are two main types of reflection papers. The first type is experiential – which is an analysis of a personal experience or observation. In the paper, you will summarise and highlight underlying principles that support your analysis of the experience.  

The second type is textual. This type of paper analyses a written text, which can be an article, essay or book. Your opinion, analysis and interpretation of the material will be backed up using specific quotations. 

Tips on writing a reflection paper

Choose an interesting topic.

Having an interesting topic is important for both you and the reader. Having an interest in what you are writing about will make the paper more enjoyable for you to write. An interesting topic will also make the paper more engaging for the reader.  

An example of a reflection paper theme is: how my views on pop music have changed over time.  

Keep information relevant

Typically, reflection papers are between 250 and 800 words long, and because of the short length it is important to only include relevant information. Avoid tangents and lengthy summaries to ensure you get your points across in the allotted word count.

Keep your tone professional

Although you will be talking about your thoughts and opinions, it is important to remember that writing a reflection paper requires you to use a professional tone suitable for an academic environment.  

Before you can begin writing, it is important to understand how to start a reflection paper. These simple steps will take you from beginning to end through careful planning and thorough analysis.  

Select a topic and summarise the material or experience

To begin your reflection paper, you must first decide on the topic you want to write about. Once you have done this, write a short summary about what you have learned from your experience with the topic. This can include memorable information or specific quotes, pre-existing thoughts and feelings and ways in which it has influenced you.  

Review and analyse the material

Once you have chosen a topic, you need to review and analyse the material. This will allow you to form coherent themes by looking deeper into the meaning and thought behind the text.  

Some good questions to ask yourself when reviewing and analysing material are: 

  • How has the material affected me? 
  • What have I learned? 
  • How does the material catch the reader’s attention? 
  • Are there unsolved questions or critical issues? 
  • How will the material affect my future thinking? 

These questions will help to streamline your thoughts and opinions of your subject. They will also ensure that your reflection paper flows and is well organised. 

Select a theme

After analysing the material, you can use what you found to select a main theme for your paper. To do so, you should find common points and arguments that incited strong opinions from your analysis.  

Choosing an interesting main theme is important as it will set the tone for your paper and will also make it more engaging for the reader. 

Make connections between your opinions

To give your reflection paper a coherent structure, you should make connections between our opinions. Doing so will give you a clear outline of what to include in the body paragraphs and will ensure your paper flows well.  

Write the paper 

The last thing you will need to do is write the paper. This should be done in three sections: an introduction, the body paragraphs and a conclusion.  

Express your opinions in a concise and academic manner and remember to proofread multiple times to avoid factual and grammatical errors.  

Reflection paper format

Despite unlimited subject options, the typical format of a reflection paper is the same for every essay. 

Introduction

The introduction of your reflection paper will contain the purpose and topic of the essay. You will state the thesis of the paper and give the reader an insight into the reasoning behind your choice of topic. 

The main purpose of a reflection paper is to discuss your thoughts and opinions, so make sure you clearly state your feelings towards your subject. This must be done in a professional manner. 

In the introduction you can include a brief summary of the book, article or experience you are analysing and the themes and topics you are going to explore.

Body paragraphs 

The body paragraphs are where you will present an in-depth analysis of your thesis statement. In them you can include direct quotations and references, examples and supporting arguments.  

If you are reflecting on an experience, use the body paragraphs to introduce the experience, talk about how it has influenced you and what you have learned from it.   

Each body paragraph should introduce a new idea. It is best practice to start each paragraph with a topic sentence. This ensures your paper will have good flow and organisation.  

Conclusion 

Your conclusion should summarise the ideas and opinions you have described in the body paragraphs. You should describe what you have learned through your analysis of the experience or text and areas for further learning.   

It is important to never introduce new ideas in the conclusion of a reflection paper. This section should only be used to restate your original thesis statement.   

If you include quotes or information from secondary sources, you will need to correctly reference them at the end of your reflection paper. This list will need to be formatted accurately to your university/organisation standard.   

Writing a reflection paper can be a common part of your university experience. If you are an international student looking to study a degree in the UK,  Royal Holloway International Study Centre  has a range of pathway programmes to prepare you for university study. As well as pathway programmes, you can also study our introductory  Prepare for Success programme  to further develop your study skills.  

How can you include references in a reflection paper?

Including references in a reflection paper is not mandatory. However, if you want to support your arguments using secondary sources you can do so by citing them correctly within the reflection paper text and including a reference list at the end of the essay.   

How long should a reflection paper be?

Typically, a reflection paper is around 250-800 words. However, the length can vary depending on your level of study and what you are studying.  

What does a reflection paper consist of? 

The format of a reflection paper consists of three parts. These are: 

  • The introduction – this is where you will state your subject of reflection and thesis 
  • The body paragraphs – here you will describe your subject including your thoughts, feelings and how the material has affected you 
  • The conclusion – a summary of what you have found out, bringing your arguments and opinions together to restate your original thesis.   

How to Write a Reflection Paper? Steps and Examples

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Nowadays, one of the most frequently asked questions at the high school, college, and university levels is how to write a reflection paper. You might be thinking, ‘Is it similar to the fundamental essay writing that students learn at the elementary and junior high school level?’ Yes, it is. However, the senior reflection essay and semester reflection essay are specifically designed for high-level students.

According to the Gibbs reflective cycle, this type of academic writing lets students reflect on their experiences, growth, and learning as they progress through their academic journey.

However, many students often struggle with expressing their thoughts and opinions on a given subject. Therefore, in this particular topic, we will reflect upon the challenges that some of our previous students encountered while writing a reflection paper during their last semester of graduation. The aim is to address each challenge and provide solutions on how to overcome them while adhering to the standard format and structure.

Table :  Changes in Student Grades and Missing Assignments After Implementation of Self Reflection.

One (n = 15)75.2069.572.933.27
Two (n = 15)74.1674.021.932.40
Three (n = 12)78.7081.400.831.17
Four (n = 7)74.8771.592.293.14
Five (n = 12)76.6476.581.171.50
Six (n = 13)69.6970.863.232.85

Source: Sage Journals

Table of Contents

What is a Final Reflection Essay?

Reflective writing is a form of  academic writing  that helps you learn and grow as a writer, thinker, and person. It explores the writer’s personal opinion or experience, thoughts, and emotions.

And involves introspection and critical analysis of one’s own experience.Reflective writing can be done in many different ways and purposes.

In an academic setting, this type of writing is used in essays, journals, or portfolios where individuals are asked to reflect on their learning experiences or professional development critically.

However, learning how to write a reflection paper is also valuable for personal growth, self-expression, and a deeper understanding of oneself and the world around them.

Challenges of Writing the Senior Reflection Essay

ChallengesHow to Tackle Them
Self-ReflectionInvest some time in self analysis and introspection. Ask yourself thought-provoking questions that ignite your thinking and emotions. 
Formulating Clarity and CoherenceBefore you start writing, create a proper outline to make sections and sections. Introduce your main arguments and make use of transitional words to smoothly switch between ideas and paragraphs. 
Maintaining Balance in Personal and Academic Perspective.Connect your personal experience with the current topic, theories, and concepts. Discuss how your personal experience aligns with the academic journey and knowledge. 
Providing Deep and Meaningful ReflectionRecall your underlying observations, thoughts, and growth associated with the experience. Include narrow and focused examples. 
Time ManagementBreak down your task into manageable chunks . Set a deadline for each section to complete the entire work timely. 
Maintaining Objectivity and SubjectivityMaintain a balance between personal experience and academic insights. Make use of evidence, examples, and quotes to backup your reflections while maintaining the personal voice. 

What’s the Purpose of Writing a Essay Reflection?

The purpose of writing final reflection essay is to help stimulate self-reflection, introspection, and the unfolding of one’s perceptions and beliefs.

Reflecting writing goes beyond just describing or writing the literature it goes into depth about how an experience influences someone’s thoughts and emotions.

Writing the paper of reflection is itself an opportunity to introspect and assess your experience to bring personal improvements. 

💡 Feel Free to Mold As Per Your Assignment of High School Reflection Essay

There are various types of reflective writing and which form you will adopt is entirely subject to the goals and objectives of your assignment. The professor or mentor can ask you to come up with a particular experience in your life or any special moments of the class while learning how to write a reflection paper.

In addition to this, there may be a case of asking you to  write a paper  on any topic or the ideas that you sometimes discussed with your teacher or fellow.

In a nutshell, whatever the topic and assignment you will work on, just remember these tips. 

  • Be clear about what type of reflective writing you’re doing—you might need to explain what kind of reflection you’re doing at the start of your paper (e.g., personal reflection vs. academic reflection).
  • Define terms—if there are words or concepts that are unfamiliar to readers (or yourself), define them before using them later in the paper so they have

Types of Senior Essay of Reflection and Writing

There are three major types senior reflection essay : personal reflective essays, educational reflections, and professional reflections.

Personal Reflective Writing

Explores the writer’s own experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Personal reflection is often used as a tool for self-improvement or self-exploration. 

Educators often use it to help students reflect on their learning experiences to improve them in the future.

💡 Example for Your Convenience

A student might use personal reflection after reading about the Civil War era to explore what they learned about that period. A teacher could use this type of writing to assess student understanding after reading a chapter in their textbook or participating in an activity during class time.

Educational Reflective Paper 

Educational reflection focuses on learning experiences like courses, assignments, or projects. These papers are typically written by high school or college students reflecting on what they’ve learned during an academic course or class project. 

Teachers can also use educational reflection as part of a course evaluation process by asking students specific questions related to each course component (i.e., classroom activities) and then having them answer those questions using.

Professional Reflective Writing

Professional reflection involves reflecting on work experiences, internships, or professional development activities. 

These papers are typically written by professionals who have been working in their field for some time and are sharing their thoughts about how they learned certain skills or techniques while doing their job. 

How to Write a Reflection Paper with Proper Outline?

When it comes to writing the semester reflection essay, most teachers tend to give “total freedom” to their students. But this sudden abundance of freedom can lead to massive confusion and late submissions. 

Most of the time, teachers leave it entirely to the students to write their reflective papers. But this abrupt abundance of freedom often confuses them. And instead of easing their way into writing, they are left wondering where to start and how to write a reflection paper. 

When engaging in reflective writing, we should adhere to a similar structure as other forms of academic writing, ensuring our content remains within the boundaries of academic discourse.

To combat this issue, the  expert essay writers  have developed an easy prompt that will help you with outlining your paper. So let’s get straight to it. 

Introduction of Final Reflective Essay

The introduction of a final reflection essay is quite similar to introductions in other academic writings. It includes important elements like providing background information, stating the main idea (thesis), and capturing the reader’s attention with a hook or interesting opening.

To make it easier to understand, think of the introduction as the beginning of your paper, where you introduce the topic and grab the reader’s interest. 

You also share some background information to set the stage for what you’ll be reflecting upon. Finally, you present your main idea or argument, which is a roadmap for the rest of your paper. 

So, remember, the introduction is like the opening chapter of your reflective paper. It sets the scene, captures attention, and tells the reader what you’ll discuss.

Must have three elements; 

: Sentence to grab the reader’s attention 

: A limited and relevant backdrop/ summary of the article or circumstance you’re writing on 

: A statement that reflects your main idea 

Body Paragraphs 

Body paragraphs are the muscle of any academic paper because they serve as the supporting framework for your ideas and experiences. You must keep in mind while you learn how to write a reflection paper that the body of a reflective paper provides the key points that contribute to your overall assessment.

  • It helps in describing the experience or the article of writing
  • Your emotional or cognitive response to it
  • Your critical analysis
  • The lesson you might have learned due to the phenomenon you’re writing about
  • Your application and the relevance of your experience

How you tackle your body paragraph of a high school reflection essay can make or break your reflective writing. While writing the main section of your paper, ways to connect all the paragraphs.

You must use transitional words and a topic sentence for each paragraph. The number of paragraphs you’re to write depends on the required  length of the research paper  you are writing about. 

Conclusions are important for almost all academic writing pieces as they allow you to tie all loose ends and reinforce your ideas.

Now, most of you must be thinking, “Do we need to reinforce our opinions on our readers when we are going through how to write a reflection paper?” The answer is “No”; we don’t necessarily need to impose our opinion.

But writing an impacting conclusion of a semester reflection essay that makes your reader consider your opinion on a topic is crucial.

Your reflective essay conclusion must provide us

Do Reflective Papers Have Citations? 

There is a common misconception that reflective papers do not require citations, but this belief can be misleading. It is important to remember that while reflective writing allows for personal opinions, it still follows the framework and standards of academic writing.

In academic writing,  citing a paper  is not only appreciated but often required. Therefore, referencing your reflective paper adds to its credibility and reliability.

For example:

A prevalent form of reflective writing among students involves referencing the context of their experiences.

How to Format your Semester Reflection Essay?

When writing a final reflection essay, there is typically no strict format. What matters the most is your comfort and expression. 

It is best to write freely without feeling restricted. However, too much freedom can sometimes confuse people. If a reflection paper is assigned to you, the format will usually depend on the criteria set by your professor.

For college reflection papers, also known as high school reflection essay, the length typically ranges from 500 to 1000 words.

In terms of a common senior reflection essay Format, here are some guidelines to consider when we are discussing how to write a reflection paper:

  • Double-space the entire paper or text,  leaving a blank line between each line  of writing.
  • Indent the  first word of each paragraph , which means starting each new paragraph  slightly inward from the left margin .
  • Use a  one-inch margin  on all sides of the paper.
  • Choose  “Times New Roman” with a 12-point font , which means the letters are medium size.

💡  Remember, these formatting guidelines generated by  ai essay writer  provide a cohesive and organized structure for your reflection paper, making it easier for readers to follow. It ensures that your paper looks neat and professional.

How to Write a Reflection Paper? Tips Based Steps

Now, let’s jump into the final reflection essay part and learn 9 simple yet powerful steps for writing the reflection paper. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into it.

Analyze the Material

  • Play the role of Examiner:  Examine the overall thesis statement and overall content structure.
  • Establish Your Perspective:  After you have done your due diligence, now take a clear stance or position.
  • Formulate Important Questions:  Look for the loopholes and limitations in the content and develop key questions surrounding the main theme.

Make Connections

  • Develop connection:  Find out the ways how you can link your life experience and opinions to the entire content.
  • Connect the Dots:  Organize your thoughts while identifying similar patterns and concepts.
  • Extract Valuable Insights:  Go into the details to reveal the profound interpretation of the connections.

Understand and Summarize

  • Revision and Synthesize:  Highlight the important points and ideas.
  • Formulate the Outline:  Make a proper outline to follow for the entire writing.
  • Differentiate the content:  Adopt the dynamic strategies depending upon the content. 

Select a Theme

  • Define Your Approach:  Pinpoint the crux of your high school reflection essay that sees eye to eye with your experience.
  • Divide the Theme:  Make sections and subsections of your main theme and then do an in-depth exploration of each part to illuminate your reflection.
  • Visualize:  Craft a clear yet simple narrative by using your main theme. 

Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences

  • Let the Ideas Come in:  Make use of the online thesis statement generator  in case you are stuck with some novel ideas concerning your thesis statement.
  • Do Note Taking:  Write down the personal experiences that somehow relate to the content at hand.
  • Evoke Your Motivation:  Take motivation from experience and thoughts to bring creativity and intrigue in your reflection. 

Craft an Introduction

  • Hook the Reader:  Open the sentence with some catchy and attention-grabbing words.
  • Make the Context:  Provide brief background data related to your topic that make a context.
  • Define Your Thesis Statement:  Use simple and clear words to highlight your main points of reflection. 

Write the Body

  • Analyze Key Ideas:  Formulate the crucial part of your reflection paper.
  • Use Examples:  Link relevant examples and stories that are most specific.
  • Navigate the Reader:  Create imagination and walk your readers through your thoughts and experiences.

Conclude Effectively

  • Close with Powerful Thoughts:  Restate your main arguments and ideas to reinforce in the reader’s mind.
  • Signify the Importance:  Use strong words and language to showcase how your experiences and reflections influence your personal development.
  • Leave the Readers with a Strong Impression:  Leave the readers with thought-provoking questions, words, or any statements that mark a lasting impression on their minds.

Proofread and Edit

  • Proofread, Edit, and Improve:  Seek feedback from fellows, proofread, and revise to rectify grammatical and technical mistakes.
  • Remove Redundancy:  Declutter your paper by removing the irrelevant and unnecessary content.
  • Bring Perfection:  After you are finished with proofreading and redundant data, have a bird’s eye view of your content once to bring it to the perfect.

In conclusion, we are sure that our detailed guide on how to write a reflection paper has covered all of your questions. We have discussed all the ins and outs of reflection paper writing such as meaning, types, mind-mapping steps, etc. If you are still finding yourself struggling to come up with your reflective research paper writing service, don’t hesitate to contact us now. We will take care of everything for you!

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  • Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning

Research in learning sciences illustrates the many benefits of reflective writing. When provided with clear and authentic prompts and given repeated opportunities to think about their course work and educational, professional, or clinical experiences, students are better able to retain and transfer learning to new contexts. Reflective writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously, enabling students to deepen their component skills and conceptual understanding within a specific field of study while also developing their metacognitive knowledge of their own learning habits and practices. In effect, while reflection involves looking back, it also serves as a mental rehearsal for future practice.

Why should I assign reflective writing?

Because the act of reflecting requires retrieval, elaboration, and generation of information, it can make learning more durable for students, as Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel demonstrate in Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014). Simply worded prompts—such as What went well? What could have gone better? What other knowledge or experiences does this remind you of? and What other strategies might you use next time to get better results? (210)— encourage students to actively monitor their learning processes, which can then cue them to maintain or adapt their strategies in other contexts. Reflective writing prompts can also be used to cue students to think about their conceptual learning: What do I already know? What do I wonder? What do I want to find out? How does this new information relate to the old stuff I thought I knew? How does this new knowledge impact other things I think I know? As detailed by Ambrose et al. (2010 ), becoming more “consciously competent''—developing component skills, becoming fluent with them, and applying them to relevant contexts—enables mastery of concepts (95).

Beyond the rich gains it provides students, reflective writing can also yield valuable insights for instructors about how to adjust their teaching, their course designs, and their assignments to address student-identified areas of struggle. 

How and when should I use reflective writing?

Reflective writing can take many different forms, including routine entries in lab, design, or fieldwork notebooks, revision memos , and blog and video postings; and it can range from brief, informal assignments (such as one-minute papers , muddiest points , or exit slips ) to formal components of large capstone-level projects. Reflective writing can even be used beyond one’s course to integrate and deepen learning across the curriculum when integrated with eportfolios . 

Building window reflection

Regardless of its form or length, reflective writing is most effective when it is integrated into the design of a course, when it supports key learning aims, and when it is intentionally sequenced within an assignment—that is, when its purpose and relevance are clear to students. If students are asked to reflect on their learning experiences only once at the end of a course, they might approach such a task as a course evaluation or a generic description of their learning experiences. 

Providing specific and purposeful reflective activities throughout the semester—before a unit of study, during or after a course lecture or class discussion, or before and after an exam—can help students identify challenges and setbacks along with developing strategies for overcoming them. For example, Dr. Mary Pat Wenderoth assigns weekly learning paragraphs in her large physiology class in order to (1) have students identify their preconceptions about biological systems so those preconceptions can be challenged and prevented from interfering with their learning; (2) develop students’ conceptual frameworks to better retain factual knowledge; and (3) offer practice in metacognition.

Here are seven ways to integrate authentic and purposeful reflective writing.

  • Ask students to combine reflective writing with goal setting. Prior to reviewing for a test or drafting an essay, ask students to anticipate concerns and challenges they may face and the strategies they might use to overcome them. For example, if students identify procrastination as a key challenge to producing a full draft of a paper or project, they can then identify strategies such as turning off their phones, working in wi-fi cold spots, or meeting with a consultant at  Student Writing Support —strategies that may help them to get started with their drafts. Inviting students to share their methods for overcoming procrastination can also be an easy, useful, and inclusive way to crowdsource effective strategies.  
  • Ask students to reflect on their work before they revise it . When students write a reflective or revision memo to themselves, they can better process the feedback they have received and determine how they are going to use it. Likewise, asking students to insert a reflective comment (pdf) on a draft of their paper that they are going to discuss with others, either in a peer response session , an appointment with Student Writing Support , or a conference with the instructor, can establish more agency for the student writer.  
  • Ask students to reflect throughout the process of writing a paper, preparing for and taking an exam, or during a group project. Jose Bowen (2012) provides a number of examples for how to integrate exam or cognitive wrappers into assignments that can help students to process and self-regulate their learning experiences over the course of a project.  
  • Ask students to reflect on their learning throughout the entire term . Learning logs with simple prompts that ask students to summarize their learning at the end of class, identify points of insight and confusion, and establish connections between key concepts can motivate students to participate more actively in their learning and provide instructors with an important gauge for modifying their teaching.  
  • Ask students to reflect at the end of the term on their development as a writer. An end-of-the term reflective essay that requires students to cite passages from their own work and to reflect on the ways those passages indicate growth, struggle, and learning can provide a strong impetus for writing transfer .  
  • Ask students to reflect upon completion of a major task or learning event. Many reflective writing tasks can take just a few minutes to complete. However, a significant learning milestone, such as an internship, a mentorship project, or a capstone assignment, will likely benefit from a more extensive reflective writing task. For these kinds of reflective writing tasks, it is helpful to offer guidelines and a series of open-ended prompts, such as those provided by Grose, Burke and Toston (2017) , that will encourage students to elaborate on and synthesize their learning experiences.   
  • Ask students to reflect on their learning for future students of your course. As recounted by James Lang (2014) , a professor at the University of Richmond invites students to share their most effective learning strategies with future students in their accounting course. The incoming students read the former students’ reflections and use those insights to guide their study habits. Adapting this practice to your own course has two vital benefits: it acknowledges the hard work and successes of current students, and it clearly signals the importance and value of reflective writing in your course.
How do I respond to and assess reflective writing?

Reflective writing can generate quite a bit of reading for instructors. However, responses to reflective writing can be brief, synthetic, and periodic. For more developed reflective writing assignments, such as those described in five and six above, instructors will want to allot more time for providing feedback, and they should consider developing a rubric that identifies the key criteria used to evaluate the reflective writing. Members of the Writing Across the Curriculum team are pleased to consult with instructors on developing reflective assignments and assessments.

For the majority of reflective tasks students do, instructors can respond with a strategy of minimal marking (pdf) and a simplified grading scheme (credit/partial credit/no credit). Since a primary goal of reflective writing is for the student writer to become more aware of their own learning and writing processes, instructors can respond in ways that affirm students' insights and encourage their ongoing efforts of reflection and transfer. While such responses can be brief, they are vital and should be timely. Responses can be written, oral, or presented in audio-video formats, depending on the medium.

Here are four ways to ensure responses to reflective writing are timely and manageable.

  • Afterclass, quickly read student responses and then summarize key themes from the responses at the start of the next class . If instructors are teaching a large class, they and their teaching assistants can read and respond to half of the class responses and then read and respond to the other half in subsequent reflective responses.  
  • Upon completion of in-class reflective writing tasks, invite students to share their responses with a partner or in small groups.  
  • For reflective pieces submitted through Canvas, instructors can provide brief responses that use the audio feedback tool , which can take less than a minute while also establishing instructor presence .   
  • For multimodal reflections using tools such as flipgrid , instructors can respond in writing or video and encourage classmates to respond to each other’s postings as well . 
How can I foster authentic reflective writing?

For some students, reflecting on their learning may be difficult, and it may be an unfamiliar practice based on socio-cultural backgrounds and schooling histories. For neurodivergent students, reflective activities may require additional or modified instructions and different ways of responding to a prompt. To accommodate all learners and to demonstrate the value of reflective writing, instructors should consider the following:

  • Signal the importance of reflective writing by including a rationale for its use in the course syllabus. When students know in advance that they will be asked occasionally to reflect on their learning, they can seek out clarification and accommodations based on their needs.   
  • Model reflective practice in your class. For flipgrid assignments , for example, where responses are visible to the entire class, it is useful for instructors to post their own responses. Likewise, similar to metateaching , modelling reflective practice in class can demonstrate its utility to students.  
  • For most reflective activities, particularly informal ones, simplify the assessment schema. Grading students on their use of grammar, mechanics, and standard written conventions may undercut the purpose of a quick reflective activity.  
  • When possible, allow students the opportunity to opt out of sharing their reflections. If students do share their reflections in class, a quick word of thanks for sharing is valuable.  
  • When conferring with students about their work, call attention to the insights they have generated about their learning and experiences. Building on the reflective work of students can be a powerful way to leverage feedback.
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Failing forward: the transformative power of writing in interdisciplinary ethnographic research

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN : 2046-6749

Article publication date: 5 July 2024

To address complex societal challenges, particularly in the context of climate change, there is a growing interest in employing interdisciplinary ethnographic research (IER). This paper examines the experiences associated with participating in IER, drawing insights from a collaboration project that integrates organization studies with energy management research.

Design/methodology/approach

Within the context of a three-year interdisciplinary collaboration, the paper focuses on the performance of an interview and the analysis thereof. It draws from this example to highlight the difficulties in translating discipline-specific language and understanding failures in IER. Including an exploration of the process of recovery, involving analyzing research results and the subsequent collaborative writing of a paper.

The primary findings revolve around the challenges inherent in ethnography as an interdisciplinary method. These challenges include language barriers between disciplines and the complexities of comprehending and learning from failures in interdisciplinary research.

Originality/value

The contribution lies in its exploration of abductive reasoning in IER, shedding light on the complexities and opportunities associated with interdisciplinary collaboration in the making. By emphasizing the importance of going into the field before negotiating common ground, the approach presented provides a unique perspective that not only addresses challenges but also facilitates the development of involved disciplines and scholars through self-reflection.

The paper shows the importance of both expertise and experience knowledge in interdisciplinary ethnographic research.

By using different writing styles, the importance of language and translations between disciplines is exemplified.

The paper provides an example of how to engage in abductive reasoning in interdisciplinary ethnographic research.

The paper calls for a broad understanding of failure and success in interdisciplinary ethnographic research.

  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Energy management
  • Organization studies
  • Knowledge creation

Varvne, H. and Andrei, M. (2024), "Failing forward: the transformative power of writing in interdisciplinary ethnographic research", Journal of Organizational Ethnography , Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOE-01-2024-0005

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Hanna Varvne and Mariana Andrei

Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode

Introduction

Let us tell you a story, a story about ethnographic interdisciplinary work as it proceeds. We invite you to follow the process of two scholars from different academic disciplines, organization studies (OS) and an energy management (EM), trying to find a common ground on how to engage in a joint research project and develop a theory on energy management. We wish to tell this story in our own way, a way we consider fitting to the message. The aim is to explore the process of conducting interdisciplinary ethnographic research (IER) and the challenges encountered along the way. This means highlighting the struggle of wordings and dissimilar epistemological beliefs, which commonly are smoothed out in published papers. By writing in this way, we are hoping that our fellow scholars will recognize themselves in our struggles, as similar problems have occurred to them in their ethnographic and interdisciplinary endeavors. We draw from our own experiences in a three-year interdisciplinary research project (one might call it an autoethnography of sorts). We reflect on the process of conducting interdisciplinary research by delving into the research design process, the performance of an interview and the analysis thereof. More precisely, we evaluate the failures encountered in conducting IER. We do this by exploring the challenges arising from the application of ethnography as an interdisciplinary method. These challenges include difficulties in translating the specialized language of different disciplines, understanding failures in interdisciplinary research, and the knowledge that comes from these experiences. Our approach is based on the concepts of knowledge creation to increase an understanding of ethnographic interdisciplinary research projects.

Engaging in ethnography involves immersing oneself in the field and collecting unfiltered data shaped by the practitioners being studied ( Czarniawska, 2014 ). In this case, those practitioners were us as researchers. To clarify, Silverman (2013) breaks down the term ethnography, connecting “ethno” (people) and “graph” (writing), emphasizing its essence. Ethnography simply means writing about a specific group or groups of people. In this way, Silverman (2013) linked the observations to the field notes, which serve as the raw material gathered, resulting in the finalized description known as ethnography. Within the field of ethnography, autoethnographies are commonly used by academics as a means to critically evaluate ourselves and communicate our experiences to others ( Alvesson and Einola, 2018 ; Zawadzki and Jensen, 2020 ; Wright, 2024 ). This includes a discussion on the practice of writing ( Essén and Värlander, 2013 ), an aspect whose importance increases when collaborating ( Erickson and Stull, 1998 ).

To embrace the importance of writing this paper embraces an unconventional style, inspired by Pullen and Rhodes (2008) and Gilmore et al. (2019) , who advocated “dirty writing” to illuminate interdisciplinary processes and unlock novel insights in science. Since the style of writing guides the type of knowledge identified, this paper disrupts the writing style to follow a path toward the search for the knowledge identified by different writing styles. By doing this, we aim to avoid what Helin (2023 , p. 2) described as “a need to be strong and write texts in which all forms of weakness are edited out.” Instead, we engage in describing our struggles and failures openly. Another motivation for writing in a simple and unconventional style is grounded in the experience of co-authoring, where polished writing may hinder the sensemaking of the other research discipline, its worldviews and definitions. This experience was also acknowledged by Grey and Sinclair (2006 , p. 449) who claimed that by “[writing] more stylishly and accessibly and the writing becomes less exclusionary and more potentially influential.” Further inspired by Grey and Sinclair’s style of writing, it is written with a mix of short stories and analysis, following the argument for writing that evokes feelings and gives the reader a new experience (another example of a similar writing style is Mol (2002) ). A more thorough exploration of how we have interpreted and applied dirty writing in this study is presented in the section named “Analyzing a failure”.

The idea to engage in IER was driven by the conviction that incorporating diverse disciplines leads to a deeper understanding of critical issues through dialogue and the integration of varied perspectives ( Eisenhardt et al. , 2016 ; George et al. , 2016 ). Our understanding of interdisciplinary research was based on Silvast and Foulds' (2022 , p. 10) definition where interdisciplinary research is seen as “integrated perspectives from different disciplines that add up to more than the sum of their parts”. For those who are considering embarking in IER endeavors, this paper may prove as a guide of what you may encounter on the way and gives you the possibility to prepare and avoid some of the pitfalls. Within Organization Studies (OS), the interest in IER projects stems from a desire to address complex societal challenges, known as “grand challenges” ( George et al. , 2016 ; Ferraro et al. , 2015 ). To tackle issues such as climate change in OS, integrating energy systems and Energy Management (EM) perspectives has been proposed ( Wittneben et al. , 2012 ; Wright et al. , 2018 ). Sovacool’s (2014) call for more interdisciplinarity in energy research marked a significant shift, echoed by others emphasizing the necessity of interdisciplinary approaches to combat climate change ( Roy et al. , 2019 ; Blondeel and Bradshaw, 2022 ; Baum and Bartkowski, 2020 ). Pellegrino and Musy (2017) highlight interdisciplinary energy research as not just a trendy term but a source of innovative methods and answers to unresolved questions. At the same time, OS scholars believe they can contribute to understanding challenges like climate change, with inductive methods deemed particularly valuable ( Eisenhardt et al. , 2016 ; George et al. , 2016 ).

The paper continues by exploring the experiences of IER, using the performance of an interview and subsequent analysis conducted within our interdisciplinary project as an example to highlight perceived struggles. Furthermore, it concludes with lessons learned from what could be considered a failure in conducting IER, combining OS with EM research. Previous research on incorporating social science into energy systems or EM studies reveals a gap between expectations and actual contributions ( Guy and Shove, 2014 ; Silvast et al. , 2020 ). While these studies offer valuable insights into interdisciplinary energy system research, they often observe from a distance, providing limited details on the workings of interdisciplinarity. Our paper dives deeper, drawing from jointly collected and analyzed field material across disciplines. This approach offers novel insights into interdisciplinary knowledge creation through ethnography.

The paper is presented in a chronological order, where each section starts with a short story in italics, which is discussed and related to relevant literature. The next section starts off by describing the complexities involved in conducting a joint interdisciplinary project.

Unveiling methodological complexities in IER

It is impossible for us to claim that we have been part of this story from its very beginning. We just stepped into the story as two Ph.D. students eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity to pursue our doctoral studies within our fields of interest. However, the story started much earlier, when our supervisors applied for funding in a call dedicated to interdisciplinary science in energy systems. And thus, our research project came into being. The aim of the project was to develop a theory that explains what EM is in practice for the shipping and manufacturing sectors, examining how it is being implemented, and the similarities and differences across industries. This was also how we perceived our aim as we embarked on a joint interdisciplinary study. As a mandatory part of our research project, we, as Ph.D. students, were required to participate in the Graduate School of Energy Systems, taught by our funding agency and focused on interdisciplinary energy system studies. This school comprised several interdisciplinary research projects carried out by Ph.D. students from several universities, together with a support structure aimed at strengthening the interdisciplinary cooperation through joint doctoral courses and seminars. Thus, one might argue that we were expected from the beginning to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, even before fully comprehending what disciplinary research entailed.

A few months into our project, we decided to investigate how energy efficiency initiatives are organized at refineries, thereby connecting manufacturing and supply chain with our respective disciplines. We hoped to follow the flow of oil all the way from the factory (refinery) to the ship, adopting an ethnographic stance of following an object. Our first step in exploring this avenue involved arranging an interview at a refinery. The plan was to engage in observations at the same time with the interview, focusing on the interview site, and thereby start collecting ethnographic material. We anticipated expanding this further through observations, interviews and other sources, depending on access. In this way, we hoped that our joint interview would satisfy our need to collaborate and create interdisciplinary research output.

Engaging in IER creates two methodological complexities: interdisciplinarity and conducting team ethnography. For the methodological aspects of team ethnography, there is a growing body of literature. Even with the increased attention, following Jarzabkowski et al. (2015) acknowledgment of the lack of knowledge regarding the actual performance of team ethnography including performance and methods, there is still room for further explorations of this field. Team ethnography typically involves multiple individuals, engaged in joint ventures, collaborating closely on fieldwork, analysis and interpretation ( Erickson and Stull, 1998 ).

Many studies in team ethnography utilize simultaneous observations at multiple sites, akin to multi-sited ethnography ( Marcus, 1995 ; Parkin et al ., 2021 ). For example, Huising and Silbey (2011) researched laboratory regulations, while Smets et al . (2014) examined the coordination challenges of team-video ethnography, emphasizing the importance of diverse team member backgrounds for exploring varied descriptions and dismissing less convincing ones. However, their discussions on the joint writing process in team ethnography are limited, with suggestions often emphasizing monographic writing. This is also acknowledged by Evans et al. , (2016) , who even recommend that each scholar write their own paper due to the difficulty of finding common interests for co-authorship ( Smets et al. , 2014 ). They briefly mention the possibility of having an editor smooth out the writing to ensure a unified voice in the final text production. This is a context where our study brings new insights into the team ethnographic writing process, particularly within IER. Further, Creese and Blackledge (2012) discussed team ethnographies, focusing on the inclusion and negotiation of multiple voices and the importance of reflexive language. However, they do not address interdisciplinarity, which adds complexity. Another challenge in team ethnography relates to goal setting ( Erickson and Stull, 1998 ), which becomes particularly prominent in this case due to the different interests in academic disciplines.

Interdisciplinary ethnography, particularly at the intersection of computer sciences and social sciences, was explored in studies by Rosenberg (2001) and Goulden et al . (2017) . These studies integrated ethnography into interdisciplinary projects but did not fully engage two disciplines in a joint ethnographic endeavor as we do. Rosenberg (2001) highlighted the potential of ethnography to provide insights into work settings and design dialogues in technology development. Goulden et al . (2017) identified challenges such as the physical separation of social scientists and computer scientists, recommending the inclusion of a computer scientist in fieldwork. Our research design goes further by involving both involved disciplines in all aspects of ethnography, including analysis and writing.

Adding another perspective to interdisciplinary ethnographies is the study by Ilkjær and Madsen (2020) , which highlighted the challenges of balancing roles in both the private sector and academia ethnographies through an auto-ethnography of a technology development team. However, they did not address disciplinary struggles. Piqueiras et al . (2023) discussed these struggles, referring to them as “collaborative science” and identified obstacles such as interpersonal dynamics, institutional structures and academic culture. They argued that ethnographic methods can enhance collaborations by improving theoretical understandings. Our paper builds on this by focusing on institutional structures and academic culture in knowledge creation within interdisciplinary teams, drawing on Efstathiou and Mirmalek’s (2014) framework, which categorizes these challenges into three main aspects.

The first aspect is the doctrine of the research conducted, in other words, the common understanding of the problem, described as what is being researched. The second aspect relates to the discipline and how to deal with the issue. The third aspect is ethos, the justification of why this research matters ( Efstathiou and Mirmalek, 2014 ). To overcome these difficulties, Efstathiou and Mirmalek (2014) suggest that interdisciplinary scholars should be transparent about their disciplines, immerse themselves in each other’s fields and reflect on their goals and motivations. However, they do not provide practical examples of implementing this in daily work. While this paper does not claim to offer a detailed plan applicable to all interdisciplinary projects, it does provide a more detailed description of the journey and relevant insights into the practicalities of interdisciplinary research, a topic seldom explored in the literature on interdisciplinary research.

To better understand the crossing of disciplinary boundaries and reflections on interdisciplinary knowledge creation, this paper explores different types of knowledge involved in knowledge creation, which is linked to the performance of interdisciplinary teams (e.g. Ma et al. , 2014 ). For example, Ma et al . (2014) created a model to explore how expertise and experience knowledge influence knowledge creation quality. Expertise knowledge, which is explicit and easily documented, relates to the doctrine issues highlighted by Efstathiou and Mirmalek (2014) . Explicit knowledge is formal and systematic and is typically associated with expertise gained through formal education and training ( Tranfield et al. , 2004 ). In contrast, experience knowledge is tacit, rooted in action, commitment and involvement ( Ma et al ., 2014 ), and gained through years of experience and practice, enhancing a team’s innovative capability ( Mascitelli, 2000 ).

The traditional focus of interdisciplinary teams has been to connect discipline variety or balance between team members in terms of social integration and performance ( Taylor and Greve, 2006 ; Gibson et al ., 2007 ; Ma et al. , 2014 ). In this way, expertise disparity among team members is supposed to provide access to different explicit knowledge ( Ma et al. , 2014 ). We also recognize the mixture of expertise knowledge in the different types of theories and perspectives of our diverse disciplines. However, as work progressed, we found that the expertise knowledge we possessed was closely linked to the experience of how to conduct research.

This means that we initially anticipated that our interdisciplinary project would primarily benefit from the diverse explicit knowledge brought by each of us from our respective disciplines. However, as the project progressed, we came to realize that our expertise knowledge was not solely derived from our disciplinary backgrounds but was also deeply intertwined with our experiential knowledge of conducting research.

This insight implies that successful interdisciplinary research goes beyond leveraging diverse disciplinary expertise alone. It underscores the importance of recognizing and harnessing the collective experience knowledge within the team, which contributes significantly to the quality and efficacy of the research process. By acknowledging the role of experience knowledge in shaping research practices, interdisciplinary teams can better leverage their diverse backgrounds to innovate, solve complex problems and enhance the quality of knowledge creation. Knowledge creation depends on the combination and sharing of experience knowledge ( Mcfadyen and Cannella, 2004 ). If a team possesses experience diversity, it can benefit from multiple sources of information, knowledge and perspectives in terms of innovation and solving complex problems ( van Knippenberg and Schippers, 2007 ). Therefore, a variety of experience produces output with high average performance ( Taylor and Greve, 2006 ). It entails a variety of skills and methods of doing things, resulting in diverse experience, which enhance the quality of knowledge creation ( Ma et al. , 2014 ).

The body of literature on interdisciplinary teamwork in knowledge creation (e.g. Mcfadyen and Cannella, 2004 ; Taylor and Greve, 2006 ) underscores the importance of collaboration across disciplines to encompass a full range of perspectives and issues ( Van Der Vegt and Bunderson, 2005 ). While interdisciplinary teams benefit from diverse perspectives, conflicts stemming from disciplinary differences and varying experience knowledge can impede performance ( Van Der Vegt and Bunderson, 2005 ; Efstathiou and Mirmalek, 2014 ; Ma et al ., 2014 ). Our project uncovered challenges including differing timelines, geographic dispersal and difficulties in joint analysis discussions, with disciplinary differences being the most prominent obstacle.

Two opposing research streams have been identified regarding interdisciplinary collaboration. One, based on the cognitive resource view, claimed that interdisciplinary teams possessed broader cognitive resources, wider vision and more extensive external contacts compared to homogeneous teams ( Miller et al ., 1998 ). The other, based on social identity and social categorization theory, argued that team diversity provoked conflicts, negatively affecting team performance ( O’Reilly et al ., 1989 ; Zenger and Lawrence, 1989 ; Ancona and Caldwell, 1992 ; Gibson and Gibbs, 2006 ). Both perspectives could be valid: interdisciplinary research might offer new insights while also increasing the risk of conflict and negative team performance. Maybe we should not be so afraid of this conflict. If we are brave and dare to take some risks, we might even argue that the conflict could be the foundation to what Kuhn (1996) described as a crisis, which is then the foundation for paradigm shifts in science. Without conflict and having our minds and worldviews challenged, how could we then discover new problems to solve. Since the way science is done is imbedded in the different disciplines, this includes but is not limited to methodology. Other aspects are different timelines, patterns and work activities. In this project, it is possible to detect traces of the varying timelines and geographic dispersal and the inability to meet to discuss the different aspects of the joint analysis. However, the most prominent challenge lies in the disciplinary differences, which are described in the next section.

Our disciplinary backgrounds and their combination

Energy systems consist of technical artefacts and processes as well as actors, organizations and institutions which are linked together in the conversion, transmission, management and utilization of energy. The view of energy as a sociotechnical system implies that also knowledge, practices and values need to be taken into account to understand the on-going operations and processes of change in such systems. ( Palm and Karlsson, 2007 , p. 12)

Based on this understanding of energy systems, an interdisciplinary approach seems almost inevitable to encompass the wide variety of perspectives, from energy conversion to social values within the system. In our project, these requisites were met by combining OS and EM as the two disciplines forming our interdisciplinarity. However, while OS often includes aspects of management, which is the second word within the field of EM, the joint use of the word management seems to be the greatest disciplinary similarity. Nonetheless, we question whether we and other OS and EM scholars mean the same thing by it. Therefore, a more thorough elaboration on our disciplines is necessary to clarify our stance.

We base our understanding of EM on the perception that it serves as an effective means to achieve energy efficiency and sustainable competitiveness in industrial organizations ( Monjurul Hasan et al. , 2022 ). The traditional model for improving energy efficiency is based on technology diffusion ( Jaffe and Stavins, 1994 ), where energy efficiency is reached through the diffusion of the best available technology. However, the model of technology diffusion has been criticized by social scientists; thus, it has become relevant to ask more “how” questions that delve into how companies are working with energy management and organizing their efforts. Therefore, a more grounded understanding of energy management practices is obtained, which is less dependent on the current model of technology diffusion and predetermined theoretical categories.

Within the field of EM, the perspective from OS is included when studying leadership, strategy, planning and organizational aspects related to industrial EM ( Andrei et al. , 2022 ). The leadership perspective includes studies on models for implementing EM and discusses how to get EM accepted within organizations, integrating it into a company’s business plan and production management ( Solnørdal and Nilsen, 2020 ). Strategies for implementing EM in organizations often address everyday behavioral changes. For example, reduction of idle electricity use can be achieved by implementing strategies for to alter everyday behaviors of production personnel ( Mahapatra et al. , 2018 ). A strategic and planning perspective is prevalent in studies analyzing EM, as the need to develop long-term energy strategies and having related energy target-setting are mandatory processes at the industrial company level ( Thollander and Ottosson, 2010 ). Regarding organizational barriers and drivers, one example is the study conducted by Soepardi and Thollander (2018) , where the managerial-organizational barriers to energy efficiency improvement were ranked, followed by identifying contextual relationships among them. This will help managers in manufacturing sectors in developing strategic plans to address these issues. Perspectives related to organizational aspects contribute to EM research by emphasizing the essential role and necessity of an accurate energy manager position. This was studied, for example, by Martin et al. (2012) who surveyed 190 manufacturing plants in the UK They found a strong empirical connection between climate-friendly management practices and organizational structure. It has been shown that organizations are more likely to adopt EM practices when an energy manager is in place, particularly if this manager is closely aligned with the CEO. Another perspective is culture, which provides contributions on education, training, staff motivation and internal communication as critical elements of EM. A study by Solnørdal and Thyholdt (2019) showed that highly educated staff are needed in order to reach a high level of energy efficiency implementation. Another empirical study by Suk et al. (2013) showed that internal factors, such as the willingness to save energy, support from top management and internal training on energy efficiency, significantly influence a company’s practice level of energy efficiency. There are also studies that draw heavily on OS theories of institutions to develop a framework of decision-making ( König, 2020 ).

From this, it is possible to detect not only the multitude of ways in which OS can contribute to EM, but also some of the richness within the field of OS. To understand the epistemological struggles encountered, it is therefore necessary to expand on which perspective of OS is adherent in the process of this project.

OS is understood as research that aims to increase the understanding of humans’ joint coordinated action and organizing activities, i.e. studying organizing rather than organizations ( Strannegård and Eriksson-Zetterquist, 2011 ). Within the project, OS perspectives have explored EM through theories such as sense-making combined with actor network theory, institutional theory and networked perceptions of decisions in shipping. Based on this understanding of the respective disciplines involved in the study, one can detect that EM research includes the OS perspective to a larger extent compared to the inclusion of EM perspectives in OS research. Although EM research touches upon similar issues (e.g. leadership) as OS, differences are noted in terms of the applied methods and theories. However, an increased inclusion of OS perspectives is an important part in EM research. Thus, through extensive collaboration, understanding how OS perspective can be applied will increase and develop the field. For OS research, the natural inclusion of technical artefacts in EM research, both tangible and non-tangible (energy), provide valuable components to develop OS theories on materiality. At the same time, the field of energy systems, which is closely linked to EM studies, constitutes a valuable arena for OS scholars to engage in research to address grand challenges ( George et al. , 2016 ; Ferraro et al. , 2015 ) of high societal value. Together, this provides a justification for why one should engage in a joint project at the core of energy systems, in a study drawing from the case of an oil company. The methodological approach we utilized is described in the next section.

Performing an interview

How do you work with energy management today? (Excerpt from discussion on interview guide, 2019-11-18)

Please specify the types of chemical processes performed in the company.

What is the energy balance per production process? Please specify the processes.

What are the annual greenhouse gas emissions?

(Excerpt from discussion on interview guide, 2019-11-18)
How do you work with energy management? People Department Strategy/saving goals
(Excerpt from interview guide, 2019-11-18)

The interview, performed in combination with the related material such as notes from access gaining, interview guide preparation and the joint analysis process, provides a solid foundation for making claims about IER projects. The interview was conducted as part of a three-year participation in an interdisciplinary project, involving monthly meetings with Ph.D. students, quarterly sessions with the entire project team (inclusive of senior scholars), email communications, informal discussions on courses and conferences and efforts to engage with other disciplines through research articles and textbooks.

Within the context of this interdisciplinary project, the decision to engage in a joint ethnographic exploration was made in August 2019. Negotiations for access took place during the fall, leading to the actual interview. The project faced disruptions due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in spring 2020, and it remained on hold until August 2020. The analysis of the interview occurred between August 2020 and January 2021. Unfortunately, the anticipated increased understanding did not materialize from this analysis, leading to the characterization of these initial results as a failure in the context of this paper. Nevertheless, the experiences accumulated during this period laid the foundation for the material used in analyzing the failure, essentially turning the failure into a second collection (or experience) of material.

In spring 2021, with the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid situation, the decision was made to abandon the idea of the joint project. However, over time, it became evident that the insights gained from the failed attempt at analyzing the interview were substantial enough to warrant a separate analysis. Thereby, it contained two phases of material collection and two analyses – one focused on the interview and the other on the failure (see Figure 1 ).

The interview was conducted on site at a fuel producing (oil) company, wherein the energy leader and a development engineer participated. The interview was recorded and transcribed word-for-word, as this was considered sufficiently precise based on the intended level of analysis. Regardless of the method used to record and the exactness of the transcript, information will be transformed when written down, and it will therefore only be a partial representation of the interaction ( Czarniawska, 2014 ). To capture more aspects of the interaction that occurred during the interview, both researchers took notes as if the interview was an observation.

The story and field-note above show several nuances in the performance of an interview. First, in the negotiation of how many questions to ask, and which questions to ask, this relates to the different styles and ideas of what an interview should be like. The structure of an interview can span from highly structured forms where the interviewer almost seems to be reading out a survey, and the interviewee’s answers can even be guided by pre-chosen alternatives ( Yin, 2015 ; Qu and Dumay, 2011 ). On the other end of the spectrum are open interviews where the interviewee can elaborate on what he or she finds interesting within the free frames of the research topic ( Qu and Dumay, 2011 ). The different forms of interviews build on diverse understandings of what one can learn from an interview and the underlying epistemic assumptions of what science is. Hence, interview styles are accepted and appreciated differently in different academic disciplines.

By engaging in a joint endeavor, there was a need to come to a decision on a mutual view of interviews and what they represent, enhancing the idea that interviews are a mutual dialogic creation of understanding ( Kvale, 2006 ). The idea of mutuality could be applied in relation to both the interviewees and the interviewers, as well as between the interviewers, for further perspectives of analysis. Interviews are further understood as manufactured data ( Silverman, 2013 ). Therefore, it is important not to take the accounts from the interviewees too literally, without interpretation and analysis. The goal with this view of interviews was to reduce the risk of an overreliance on the verbal report presented. Interviews do not provide a true history of an event (what happened); they only tell how people account for the event ( Czarniawska, 2014 ). It also means to extend the view, namely that interviews should be seen as an observation of an interaction between two people, i.e. the interviewer and the person interviewed. This negotiation on the interview interpretation turned out to be useful in the attempts to conduct a joint analysis of the interview content, but even more so when used as an example of IER in the making.

Analyzing an interview

[We] compiled a lot of different KPIs [1] , and we can compare the refineries globally and in north-west Europe. Similar configurations. We can measure ourselves against a variety of different peers. From that, we know we are quite good at energy and very efficient in CO 2 . (Interview transcript 2019-11-22)

Hanna Varvne coded: Competition, status (?), being best. Whereas Mariana Andrei coded: KPIs, benchmarking, good ranking in CO 2 efficiency and energy. No wonder we had such a hard time progressing during our online meetings. After numerous hours of discussions and negotiations, we decided to continue coding in parallel and then merge our coding. Unfortunately, we were a bit naive when we thought it would be easier to negotiate and reflect on what had taken place during the interview on a higher, more abstract level than on the detailed one where we had just failed.

The first analysis was performed as parallel discipline-specific analyses, with interactions occurring through e-mails and online meetings to monitor progress and discuss thoughts on coding. Hence, this first analysis revolved around the doctrine of the research conducted, or the common understanding of the problem, as highlighted by Efstathiou and Mirmalek (2014) .

In this phase, we used the same literature to grasp the concept of grounded theory methods and analysis, supporting our process of theory development. This led to an understanding of grounded theory as a method for constructing theory from systematically obtained and analyzed data, using comparative analysis. Grounded theory is described as a “qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory about a phenomenon” ( Strauss and Corbin, 1990 , p. 24). Grounded theory was introduced as a systematic, inductive, iterative and comparative method for data analysis with the aim of theory construction.

The use of grounded theory in our project was motivated by the belief that theories built inductively from empirical grounds are more useful and interesting than those deduced solely from existing theories. Furthermore, it was argued that it is more important to build new theories than to verify existing ones, as social reality changes constantly, and every social scientist should aim for a “reality-fit.” This perspective is now taken for granted, and grounded theory can be understood to align with the percepts of abduction ( Charmaz, 2006 ), also called “the logic of discovery,” and it does a “set of double-back steps.” This means that it moves from the field to the desk and back, step-by-step, refining the “emerging theory.”

When the two analyses were complete, the text documents were shared and a search for common ground started, with the ambition of merging the two analyses into one. However, the analyses were so different from each other that it was impossible to find a common middle ground. A second challenge was identified, i.e. the understanding of each other’s discipline and how to deal with the issue (also described by Efstathiou and Mirmalek (2014) ). Perhaps this was due to the different paths of analysis. One being positive, in search of an objective explanation which could result in the formulation of universal laws, and the other being hermeneutic, looking for a subjective interpretation ending with a celebration of the particular and the unique ( Czarniawska and Joerges, 1996 ). Differences between the disciplines resulting in the two different paths could provide one explanation for the failure.

In other papers on interdisciplinary methods ( Tobi and Kampen, 2018 ; Cohen et al. , 2021 ), the discussion on the method seems polished, and the same can be said for discussions on team ethnography ( Jarzabkowski et al. , 2015 ; Parkin et al. , 2021 ). However, this level of refinement may not help to develop the reality of IER methods. Even when applying methods for developing a common project vocabulary and framework for planning and conducting effective structured discussions during project meetings ( Cohen et al. , 2021 ), this does not exclude the different epistemological beliefs of disciplines and the different interpretations of the same interview transcript. Compared to the reality experienced in this project, it is possible to read how they suggest, i.e. agreeing on why and what matters, such as what problem to study and why difficulties ( Efstathiou and Mirmalek, 2014 ; Tobi and Kampen, 2018 ).

Even though one might think there is an agreement upon what matters to study and investigate, there are still two problems with the previously suggested methods ( Tobi and Kampen, 2018 ; Cohen et al. , 2021 ) First, one might agree and then still realize that one has different interpretations of the agreement. Second, their suggested research methods seem unsuitable for abductive reasoning, which we used. Abductive reasoning is useful when there is little or no pre-existing theory, and one wishes to explore a puzzling phenomenon from reality by new theory development ( Bamberger, 2018 ). For this project, explorative abduction was used as the material was collected first and then used to try to identify or develop a theory to explain it. A final point related to previously suggested methods for interdisciplinary research is that our real struggle came after what they described as their final stage. Analyzing and jointly writing seems to us to be a stage which is seldom addressed.

Analyzing a failure

After the first attempt to analyze our interdisciplinary work, it took us almost a year to find the motivation to revisit our shortcomings (to be clear, at that point, we stopped our analysis at the third step, as described in Figure 1 ). How could we make sense of our material when the comparison between our two analyses revealed several notable differences? First, in the overview section, the OS analysis employed a figure to illustrate connections and interactions, while the EM analysis presented information in a bullet-point format, focusing on describing the theory’s starting point. These differences likely stem from our distinct academic disciplinary perspectives. The EM analysis emphasized tools, methods, KPIs and platforms throughout the analysis, whereas the OS analysis included insights from interviews at the beginning, focusing on the company’s vision and employee divisions. The analyses also differed in their treatment of technical details. The EM analysis provided rich descriptions of production processes and technologies, while the OS analysis offered fewer technical specifications. The use of quotations varied, with the EM analysis interpreting quotes extensively, while the OS analysis utilized more extensive quotes to illustrate points, reflecting our different methodologies and disciplinary traditions. Lastly, the EM analysis included a section on leadership skills, which was absent in the OS analysis, indicating that personal interests and individual research views influenced the analysis, as well as disciplinary belonging.

As time passed, the stress and aversion associated with our initial failure diminished. As in all academic life, both of us were exposed to new learnings and insights. The most profound moment came when Hanna Varvne was exposed to the concept of dirty writing. As if a revelation, [2] she suddenly knew what they could do with their failure. She called Mariana Andrei to share her crazy idea. With approval from both, we initiated the second analysis.

The second analysis, the analysis of the failure, was more fluent and guided less by control and pre-planned ideas of what to discover. Instead, this paper was written together, and by writing and sending the text back and forth, a co-creation was developed to understand the failure.

Thus, we adopted this approach as our means of co-creating meaning from the material, an important aspect of team ethnography (previously discussed by Jarzabkowski et al. (2015) , Parkin et al. (2021) , Piqueiras et al. (2023) to mention some). Our stylistic choice, inspired by dirty writing, was primarily from Grey and Sinclair (2006) , who mixed vignettes and reflections. Hence, the first writing step in our second analysis became to write the vignettes based on what we had experienced as fundamental moments in our collaboration. The field of dirty and different writing provides opportunities to engage in a wide variety of styles and author perspectives, incorporating texts featuring non-human beings, such as animals and insects ( Sayers et al ., 2019 ; Davies and Riach, 2019 ; Valtonen et al ., 2020 ), other earth compounds such as compost, rocks and rivers ( Kalonaityte, 2018 ; Valtonen and Pullen, 2021 ). Despite the wide array of possibilities included in this writing style, we decided to keep it simple and focused on our own story, written in a way that our family and friends outside academia would understand. This was our way to grasp and make sense of the simplistic wording we chose. We wrote a few vignettes each and sent them to each other. Subsequently, we edited the received texts to match our own interpretations of the situations and discussed any potential differences during online meetings.

When conducting team ethnographies with an autoethnographic approach, collaborative writing is one of the major obstacles, as previously discussed. There are numerous ways to overcome this obstacle. For example, Zawadzki and Jensen (2020) approached it by writing separate stories and engaging in joint discussions, while Essén and Värlander (2013) combined their own experiences with discussions with other scholars and wrote as one voice giving voice to the others. We have chosen to write as one voice. We motivate this choice by emphasizing the joint sense-making process involved in the writing process, as well as the notion that even “dirty writing” styles ( Pullen and Rhodes, 2008 ) can be co-authored as one voice. We also believe that the use of one voice makes the text more interdisciplinary, as it requires the integration and merging of our discipline-specific languages.

Following the writing of the vignettes, we sorted them in chronological order and started to explore their themes by reading texts relating to the issues they raised from different angles and re-visiting old notes and e-mail conversations. This created our body of text at the same time as it developed our understanding of the progress made. Writing together without thinking too much of the polished form became a tool for overcoming challenges related to each other’s doctrines and disciplines. Throughout this process, the vignettes and their related body of text were re-evaluated, expanded and removed in the process of telling a coherent and interesting story for the reader. These improvements and reflections were further reinforced by presenting the text at seminars and conferences, where we received feedback, and finally, through anonymous reviews after submission to journals, we received additional insights and critiques (for further discussion on this part of scientific processes see, for example, Rowley-Jolivet (2002) and ( Seibert, 2006 )). In contrast to Pullen and Rhodes (2008) , who added an additional chapter at the end of their text replying to address these reviews while keeping their original dirty text intact, we decided to integrate the feedback directly into our text, making it our own. We consider this yet another aspect of our joint voice and the process of co-creating meaning in our IER.

A reflection on IER through abductive reasoning is that one might not always discover what was initially sought. This project failed to do a joint study on EM in practice at a refinery, drawing from the respective disciplines to engage in novel theory development. A failure, in this sense, can be classified in many ways. For example, failure can be classified as conceptually bound to something negative or value-destroying ( Kjeldgaard et al. , 2021 ). This particular failure is something else; it must have some value ( O'Gorman and Werry, 2012 ). It could also be considered a failure that has resulted in a productive outcome through “competent recovery” ( Kjeldgaard et al. , 2021 , p. 279). Perhaps this is the classification or type of failure that best suits this example because, instead of the intended outcome, it discovered something else. Specifically, the project revealed a need for discussing different scientific perspectives within the respective disciplines and the implications for joint research projects.

This is in line with one of the challenges identified by Mallaband et al. (2017) for interdisciplinary energy-related projects, in particular comprehension between disciplines. Furthermore, Mallaband et al. (2017) defined what success is in interdisciplinary energy research, starting with external success (e.g. project results are presented in the academic circle in plain language), internal project success (e.g. all team members feel valued, respected and equal) and personal success (e.g. researchers have opportunities for medium- and long-term career development). In a similar manner, failures in ethnographic research were recently acknowledged by Verbuyst and Galazka (2023) as a great teacher, helping researchers develop a reflexive approach. Thus, it is possible to see that even a failed attempt can be viewed as a success story. However, one needs to be careful in how success and failures are defined and interpreted.

Continuing the discussion on classification and order, it might be worth mentioning that these concepts are not only relevant for classifying failure but also play a significant role in the daily work within academic disciplines. The different academic disciplines of order and classification of reality were discussed thoroughly by Knorr-Cetina (1999) . She argued that the meaning of the same words, such as laboratory, varies across different disciplines (high energy physics and molecular biology in her study). These different meanings to the same word can also be discovered while engaging in interdisciplinary projects. The misalignment between disciplines can perhaps be easily explained by the concepts of epistemic and academic cultures ( Knorr-Cetina, 1999 ; Piqueiras et al. , 2023 ). However, to move beyond the comparison of disciplines and delve into the discussion of interdisciplinarity, there is a need to incorporate other perspectives. One scholar who previously addressed many aspects of interdisciplinary research is Haythornthwaite (2008) , who approached learning from a social network perspective.

From a social network perspective, the transfer of information involved in learning, feedback and questioning are important aspects of meaning creation and negotiation. Within the academic community, scholars “… learn academic and professional norms, and disciplinary and local norms for appropriate use of language, writing styles, equipment, and procedures” ( Haythornthwaite, 2008 , p. 141). Communication is a key issue and is an essential ingredient for translating our disciplines ( Mallaband et al. , 2017 ). In this context, the concept of translation relates to the definition provided by Czarniawska and Joerges (1996) , referring to translation as a means to communicate knowledge and ideas. This understanding also meant that we understand language within this context to represent particular disciplines, rather than adhering strictly to linguistic norms (for a further elaboration on different views of translation between knowledge and linguistics, see, for example, Zwischenberger (2023) ). This understanding highlights how language becomes an integral part of disciplinary-specific learning, which in our context, made it hard to agree on a joint language and writing style. To address this, inspiration was drawn from scholars who have argued for different and sometimes even dirty writing styles (e.g. Grey and Sinclair, 2006 ; Pullen and Rhodes, 2008 ). By adhering to a different and dirty writing style, it might become easier to navigate the inherent language differences between disciplines. However, there is still a need to negotiate which aspects of language are important to maintain the integrity of each discipline.

To know when to give in

Studies of failures are rare and perhaps even more so when it comes to critically examining one’s own shortfalls. In our context, interdisciplinary projects are thought of as something great; they shall provide new perspectives and interesting discussions. The only negative aspects of interdisciplinary research which we find to be socially accepted to discuss are those of publications and funding difficulties. So, how do we come to a discussion on the difficulty of doing IER, the method or craft, as we might call it? Can we as scholars be as self-reflexive about our own work that we can compare these findings to those who have spent years observing how science is performed?

This paper contributes to the discussion on the actual implementation of ethnography in interdisciplinary science, focusing, in particular, on the process of performing an interview, analysis and writing. It explores what could be considered as a failure in conducting IER. However, by utilizing the knowledge gained from it, rather than dismissing this failure, it offers new perspectives on failures and success in IER. Specifically, it draws insights from three years of interdisciplinary collaboration, resulting in one interview, to explore the challenges associated with designing IER, from method to analysis, interpretation of results and writing. The main challenges relate to the doctrine of the research and with crossing the disciplinary boundaries to understand each other’s discipline. This was approached in a truly interdisciplinary agenda, drawing from the idea that interdisciplinary research results in something greater than the sum of its parts; in this case, the parts were made up of OS and EM.

This paper contextualizes the notions of knowledge creation as a mixture of expertise and experience knowledge to provide new perspectives on IER projects. One important aspect of this combination is the notion of discipline and language. To cross disciplinary boundaries, scholars need to be aware of and adopt navigation strategies, such as learning from each other, learning from the other field as well as developing new language skills and interpretation skills between disciplines. Language is imbedded in both expertise and experience knowledge creation.

There is a pressing need to explore new ways of proceeding with IER projects, particularly when employing abductive reasoning. In such settings, it is a necessity to venture into the field and collect data before engaging in negotiations to establish common ground. This approach differs from the advice provided in previous literature on the structure of interdisciplinary research projects, which suggests that you should have discussed and negotiated the troublesome aspects of the joint research project before it starts. This approach is surely tricky, and the “failure” used as an example in this paper should illustrate nothing less. However, the learning that can arise from such an approach paves the path for new knowledge creation within each other’s disciplines and fosters reflective scholarship among those involved. Consequently, we suggest that our approach not only offers the opportunity to develop the disciplines involved but also promotes self-reflection among participating scholars.

The process of our study

Key Performance Indicators'

More likely, the idea was already “out there”; it just needed to be objectified to be acted upon (see: Czarniawska and Joerges, 1996 ).

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Further reading

Baumann , H. ( 2009 ), “ Don't fence me in ....”, in Boons , F. and Howard-Greenville , J. (Eds), The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology , Edward Elgar , Northampton, MA .

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IEA ( 2012 ), World Energy Outlook 2012 , International Energy Agency , Paris .

Simons , T. , Pelled , L.H. and Smith , K.A. ( 1999 ), “ Making use of difference: diversity, debate, and decision comprehensiveness in top management teams ”, Academy of Management Journal , Vol.  42 No.  6 , pp.  662 - 673 , doi: 10.5465/256987 .

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to colleagues, who provided feedback to earlier version of our paper while presented at EGOS 2022. We would also like to thank our supervisors Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist and Patrik Thollander and the anonymous reviewers.

Funding: This research was funded by the Swedish Energy Agency through the Graduate School in Energy Systems (Project No. 302881).

Corresponding author

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How to Write A Report - A Guide to Report Format with Examples

A report is a major aspect of every academic's life, serving as a vital reflection of the depth and quality of your research. For those in research, the report is especially crucial, as it details the thoroughness of your work. Ensuring that your report is comprehensive and perfectly formatted is essential, particularly for university students, where it can define your greatest achievements. In this article, I will guide you on how to write a report properly, detailing everything you should include to ensure it meets high standards.

Types of Report Formats

Reports serve various purposes across different contexts, each tailored to meet specific needs and audiences. Here's a detailed breakdown of their classifications:

1.Academic Reports:

Academic reports are meticulously created by students or researchers to present findings on a specific topic. They typically include sections like an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Examples include research papers, thesis reports, and lab reports.

2.Business Reports:

These reports facilitate communication within or between businesses, offering insights into market research, financial analysis, project progress, and more. Examples encompass financial reports, market analysis reports, and project status updates.

3.Scientific Reports:

Scientific reports are comprehensive documents that detail research and experiments, structured to ensure clarity and reproducibility. Examples range from research articles and clinical study reports to technical reports.

Classification of Reports:

1.Formal and Informal Reports:

Formal Reports: Structured and detailed, adhering to specific formats for official use. Examples include annual business reports.

Informal Reports: Less structured and straightforward, often used for internal updates like project status emails.

2.Short and Long Reports:

Short Reports: Concise documents providing essential information swiftly, such as executive summaries.

Long Reports: Detailed and extensive documents offering comprehensive insights, like in-depth research studies.

3.Internal and External Reports:

Internal Reports: Used within organizations to communicate among employees or departments, such as internal audit reports.

External Reports: Shared outside the organization with stakeholders or the public, such as annual financial statements.

4.Vertical and Lateral Reports:

Vertical Reports: Communicate vertically within organizational hierarchies, either upward (e.g., from employees to management) or downward (e.g., from management to employees). Examples include performance review reports.

Lateral Reports: Shared horizontally among peers or departments at the same hierarchical level within an organization, facilitating inter-departmental collaboration on projects.

Structure and Organization

When it comes to writing reports, the structure and organization can vary depending on the type of report you're creating. Let's explore some common report outlines to help you understand the differences and choose the right structure for your needs.

First, it's important to note that there's a basic outline that many reports follow, which typically includes:

Now, let's dive into specific types of reports and their unique structures:

Scientific Report

Scientific reports follow a specific structure designed to present research methods and findings clearly:

Book Report

Book reports, often assigned in school, have their own unique structure:

Business Report

Business reports are used to communicate information within an organization:

Newspaper or School Assignment Report

Newspaper articles and some school assignments follow a more concise structure:

These outlines provide a general guide, so it's best to always check your specific assignment requirements or organizational guidelines. The key is to choose a structure that best presents your information in a logical, easy-to-follow manner for your intended audience.

How to Write a Report Faster in 5 Steps- Using WPS AI

Learning how to write a report with the proper format and structure can be valuable in your academics. Not only will this help you with your assignments, but following a report structure can also make describing events or incidents with more clarity much easier in other situations.

Now, since we are just setting off on what report writing is, we will be taking help from WPS AI. It is a major resource for me whenever I start writing a report for an assignment, while writing my research papers, or even a simple class assignment. Its AI features make every task easier for me. With the help of AI, I can research better, get better ideas, and even improve my writing. So, let's begin learning how to write a report and also look at a few examples along the way.

1.Choose a topic

So, the first step in starting our report writing is selecting a topic for our research. Choosing the right topic is crucial for a successful report. It should align with your assignment requirements or your audience's expectations. Additionally, selecting a topic at the beginning gives us a clear direction—what to research and what keywords to use—making our research more focused and concise.

Now, this can be a bit challenging. Let's say our assignment requires us to write about battery-powered cars. This requirement is quite broad, and there are many different topics within battery-powered cars. The traditional approach would be to learn about the topic first, conduct a Google search, and read various articles to select a topic for our report. However, this process can be lengthy. Let's make it quicker by using WPS Office :

Step 1: Open WPS Office and create a new blank document by clicking on New > Docs > Blank.

Step 2: In WPS Writer's blank document, simply type "@ai" and then press Enter to activate the WPS AI assistant.

Step 3: Since we want topic ideas for our report, we'll click on "Brainstorm" and ask WPS AI to generate a few topic ideas for our report with a prompt. Here's an example:

"Generate ideas for a report topic focused on battery-powered cars, exploring recent advancements in electric vehicle technology and their environmental impact."

Step 4: WPS AI will generate a few topic ideas for your report. If you find a topic you like, click on "Accept". Otherwise, click on "Continue" to get more topic ideas.

Using WPS AI to generate topic ideas helps students quickly find their preferred topic and saves them the trouble of extensive research to choose a topic for their report. So, with the topic chosen, let's move on to the next step.

2.Conduct research

Once we have chosen the topic for our report, the next step is to conduct research. For this part, I usually visit Google Scholar to find research papers and other helpful articles. Students can also access exclusive research papers through their university's online libraries. Additionally, for specific topics like stocks, valuable resources include official stock exchange websites for authentic data.

Now, once the research papers and relevant information are gathered, going through these resources to extract information can take hours of reading time. To streamline this process, you can upload your research paper PDFs to WPS Office and get key insights in just a few moments.

Step 1: Open the PDF document using WPS Office and click on the WPS AI widget at the top right corner of the screen.

Step 2: The WPS AI pane will open on the right side of the screen. Simply click on "Upload" to upload the research paper to WPS AI.

Step 3: WPS AI will process the PDF, and in a few moments, it will present all the key insights available in the PDF.

Step 4: If you need further information from the PDF, simply click on the "Inquiry" tab and chat with the WPS AI chatbot to extract more details.

With this approach, conducting research becomes not only quicker but also more meaningful. After conducting research, I quickly move on to the next step, which is creating an outline for my report and starting the writing process.

3.Prepare an outline

Creating an outline before we begin writing our report is essential, as it helps our report follow a proper order and prevents confusion or getting lost while writing. If creating an outline seems challenging, you can always use WPS AI to assist in creating one. A simple AI prompt allows students to generate an effective and detailed outline for their report with the help of WPS AI.

So, let's say my topic is "Advancements in the Range and Charging Speeds of Electric Cars." Let's ask WPS AI to create a detailed outline for our report on this topic:

Step 1: First, type "@AI" to activate WPS AI and then click on "Outline" since we need help creating an outline.

Step 2: Enter an AI prompt to guide WPS AI in creating an outline for your topic. The more detailed your prompt, the better the outline will be.

Step 3: WPS AI will assist in generating an outline with a proper structure.

The outline generated with the help of WPS AI may or may not be the final version of your outline. You may need to make a few changes based on the content of your research. However, this outline will provide a basic structure that you can now modify according to your report's topic.

4.Write a Rough Draft

Now that you have a solid outline, it's time to start writing. Don't worry about perfection at this stage – the goal is to get your ideas down on paper.

Here's how WPS AI can assist in drafting:

Use the AI to expand on each section of your outline. For example, you could ask: "Write an Overview on the importance of advancements in the range and charging speeds of electric cars".

If you're stuck on a particular point, ask WPS AI for help. Try prompts like: "What are Lithium-ion batteries” or "List out the possible environmental benefits of Electric Cars".

Use WPS Office's formatting tools to structure your document. Apply heading styles to your outline points for easy navigation.

As you write, remember to maintain your own voice. Use the AI-generated content as a starting point, but add your own analysis, insights, and examples. This will ensure your report is original and reflects your understanding of the topic.

5.Revising and Editing your Report

At this point, you might feel like you're done with your report, but there's one last crucial step: proofreading. A mistake or two in typing or grammar can significantly diminish the professionalism of your report. It's essential to review your content, refining what needs to be included and removing anything irrelevant.

Here's how to use WPS AI for revising and editing:

Use the AI's grammar and spell-check features to catch basic errors.

We can use WPS AI to review specific paragraphs for clarity by selecting the "Improve Writing" option from the list of WPS AI options provided in the hover menu.

Here is what your report would look like at the end of this entire process:

Bonus Tips: How Can WPS AI Help your Report Writing [Not Only the Format]

WPS Office has contributed a lot to academic pursuits by providing a full-fledged office suite that aids everyone in their academic life. It gives access to advanced features that simplify report writing, eliminating frustrations related to conversions to PDF, formatting, checking, and more.

WPS Office offers multiple tools to help refine the report, including:

1. Content Generation and Refinement

WPS AI Writer: The AI-powered content generation tool in WPS Office assists users in creating well-structured and coherent content. Whether you're starting from scratch or need to enhance an existing draft, WPS AI can suggest improvements, generate additional content, and help organize your ideas effectively.

Templates: WPS Office provides a variety of templates for different types of reports, ensuring that you start with a professional format.

Smart Assistance: The AI can offer suggestions for better word choices, sentence structures, and even provide detailed outlines based on your topic.

2. Language and Style Enhancement

Grammar and Style Check: WPS Office includes advanced grammar and style checking tools that help you maintain a professional tone and clear language throughout your report.

Real-Time Feedback: Receive instant feedback on grammar, punctuation, and style issues as you type.

Customization: Adjust the settings to focus on specific style guides or preferences, ensuring that your report meets the required academic standards.

3. Proofreading and Editing

AI-Powered Proofreading: The built-in proofreading tool in WPS Office helps catch errors that you might miss. It goes beyond basic spell check to include context-aware suggestions.

Comprehensive Checks: This tool checks for consistency, coherence, and clarity, ensuring that your report is not only error-free but also easy to read and understand.

Batch Processing: Proofread and edit multiple documents simultaneously, saving time and ensuring consistency across all your reports.

FAQs About Writing a Report

1. what is a report.

A report is a written document that presents information about a particular topic, practical experiments, or research. Reports are usually well-structured, consisting of sections such as an executive summary, introduction, findings, discussion, conclusion, and recommendations. The main objective of a report is to describe and analyze the results, offering a clear understanding of the subject being addressed.

2. What is the difference between a report and an essay?

A report is a systematically organized document that presents information and analysis. Reports are used to detail the findings of a project, experiment, or investigation.It typically features specific sections with headings and subheadings and often incorporates tables, bullet points, and graphics. An essay, in contrast, has a more flexible structure with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Essays focus on developing a discussion or argument about a topic through a series of connected paragraphs. They are used to build and explore arguments and insights.

3. What are some common mistakes to avoid in report writing?

When writing a report, it is essential to avoid common pitfalls that can hinder clarity and effectiveness, such as:

Insufficient Organization: A well-defined structure is essential for clarity.

Excessive Detail: Too much information without context can confuse the reader.

Language Mistakes: Grammatical and spelling issues can diminish the report's credibility.

Audience Consideration: Not customizing content for the audience can reduce effectiveness.

Omitting Conclusions and Recommendations: Clear conclusions and actionable recommendations are crucial for impact.

Inappropriate Tense Usage: The report should be in the past tense.

Direct Speech Misuse: Use indirect speech.

Voice Misapplication: Passive voice should be utilized.

Perspective Issues: Reports must be composed in the third person.

Craft The Perfect Report WIth WPS Office

Reports can truly have a major part in shaping your ultimate future, so you want to make sure you have all the tools you need to know on how to write a report that allows you to submit it to perfection. WPS Office provides the resources and features necessary to help you achieve this goal. By using WPS Office, you equip yourself with all the necessary tools to write a perfectly formatted, professional report. Get WPS Office today to make your report writing better and ensure your reports contribute positively to shaping your future.

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ChatGPT: Disruptive or Constructive?

Thursday, Jul 18, 2024 • Jeremiah Valentine : [email protected]

What is Chat GPT?

ChatGPT is a popular emerging technology using Artificial Intelligence. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which describes an AI program that looks for patterns in language and data learning to predict the next word in a sentence or the next paragraph in an essay. The website has a friendly interface that allows users to interact with AI in a n efficient conversational tone . ChatGPT provides another opportunity for students, instructors, researchers, workers, and others to find practical solutions to everyday and complicated problems.

At the root of this conversation is Artificial Intelligence. I plan to explore applicable uses of AI and ChatGPT in the classroom , entrepreneurial potential uses, and applications in industry .

A person types on a laptop.

   

Everyday Uses of Artificial Intelligence

The use of Artificial I ntelligence varies based on the user and their end goal. While many individuals will use certain programs or websites to meet specific objectives , many companies and apps have begun to utilize this emerging technology to better meet their customer's needs.

Duolingo is a popular foreign language learning application that I use to supplement my Spanish studies . The app uses Artificial Intelligence to assess users' knowledge and understanding as they interact with the program , thus streamlining users learning outcomes.

As another example, Khan Academy is a free online resource that helps teachers and students learn any level of math or other grade school topics for free. They have created Khanmigo , using AI. The model acts as a tutor that helps work through a problem while not directly providing the answer. It can assist in writing an essay or solving a complex math problem step by step.

These everyday applications continue a trend of companies implementing this new technolog y into students and teachers' lives . . This new AI technology also allows business professionals to enhance aspects of their processes.

Entrepreneurs, A.I. and the Advantages

While AI already provides companies and organizations with new ways to interact with and better support their customers, AI could also provide emerging industries and entrepreneurs with new paths to business success. 

According to Entrpreneur.com, most businesses currently use AI for customer service purposes , however , AI could also help entrepreneurs create effective spreadsheets cataloging useful data with accuracy that can be incredibly specific or broad. Specifically with customer service, AI can quickly find what a customer needs and solve their problems efficiently. It could also analyze how effective marketing campaigns are influencing customers’ purchases.

As I researched for more information about this topic, I found an article in The Journal of Business Venturing Insights published in March 2023, sharing different techniques business students can use ChatGPT as an asset to generate entrepreneurial business pitches. The article titled “ The Artificially Intelligent Entrepreneur” written by Cole Short, an Assistant Professor of Strategy at Pepperdine University, and Jeremy C. Short, a UTA alumni and Professor at the University of North Texas at Denton, showcased different elevator pitch scenarios.

Students and entrepreneurs study CEOs who have impacted an industry dynamically; the CEO's mentality is an asset . I had the opportunity to question Dr. Jeremy Short on how he arrived at the initial question of using AI as a CEO archetype business consultant. An archetype is a symbol, term, or pattern of behavior which others have replicated or emulated.

He responded, “ We used this existing framework and selected a CEO from each archetype and used ChatGPT to create elevator pitches, social media pitches, and crowdfunding pitches. The strength of ChatGPT is based largely on the creativity of the prompt, which is where we aim as authors.”

An empty classroom sits unused.

CEO Archetypes and Prompt Engineering

ChatGPT allows the user to understand the archetypes of successful CEOs and collaborate with entrepreneurial styles. These archetypes are accessible options to consult with AI. Let ’ s break down different CEO archetypes students used during this study:

Creator CEOs are typically serial entrepreneurs and serve during the growth stages of developing new businesses. These individuals are risk takers recognizing opportunities that others don ’ t see. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter is the creator archetype.

Transformer CEOs are created by climbing the ladder of a successful business and adding new ideas . They have a firm understanding of the company's culture and work to dramatically change the company, separating it from missteps in the past. Indra Nooyi CEO of PepsiCo is the transformer archetype.

Savior CEOs rescue businesses on the verge of failure with disciplined actions, unique experience and insights they forge a successful path forward for declining businesses. Lisa Su, CEO of AMD is the savior archetype.

ChatGPT was prompted to write an elevator pitch in the style of the previously listed CEOs. 

The response for Elon Musk included language about “ building” a product with “ cutting-edge technology.” 

Indra Nooyi ’s response included phrases like “ the world is changing” and making “ a positive impact in the world.” 

Lisa Su's response produced a pitch speaking about being “ accountable, tough and disciplined” with an emphasis on “ a strong focus on efficiency and performance.”

However, I believe these positions can help entrepreneurs develop their own successful business practices; creating a product your former employer could use to gain an advantage over the competition is disruptive. B uying a company on the brink of bankruptcy that has been mismanaged is a scenario entrepreneurs have explored and practiced .

Prompt engineering is the description of a task AI can accomplish , with instructions embedded in the input. Using prompt engineering, users can fine-tune their input to achieve a desired output incorporating a task description to guide the AI model. 

Conversation around ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence

I asked Dr. Short about how students could use this technology as an asset that guides their learning and, additionally, how instructors can use this as well. He spoke about an assignment he is currently using in his classes. “ Chat GPT might be valuable in helping create a recipe for material that students can then refine. For example, in my social entrepreneurship class students create crowdfunding campaigns for either DonorsChoose , a platform that caters to public school teachers or GoFundMe , a service which allows a variety of project types to a larger userbase . I plan on students using ChatGPT to create a ‘rough draft’ to show me so I can see how they refine their responses for their particular campaigns this upcoming fall.” Th is approach allows students to take advantage of popular technology in a constructive way.

The journal article provided some notable conclusions about ChatGPT , i ncluding “ quality control is essential when using automated tools; a hallmark of success for large language models is their vast associative memory, this strength can also be a weakness. Specifically, models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are capable of confidently generating “ hallucinated” output that appears correct but, it is incorrect or completely fabricated. ChatGPT serves as an emerging tool that can efficiently and flexibly produce a range of narrative content for entrepreneurs and serve to inspire future research at the intersection of entrepreneurship and AI.” ChatGPT ’s limitations and potential applications are continually being explored.

Industry Application

After researching various applications of AI, I spoke with Dr. George Benson, Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Management at The University of Texas at Arlington, about AI and ChatGPT from an industry perspective. His research focuses on Artificial Intelligence with Human Resource Management .

Dr. Benson told me that Artificial Intelligence is being invested heavily by human resource departments who are looking to automate hiring practices. Specifically, he mentioned “ HR is using this as a market opportunity. AI is a useful tool to sift through potential applicants by scanning their resumes for qualifications and experiences. Allowing professionals to hire applicants faster.”

This application allows the technology to handle low-level tasks, but the results generated are being handed to a human to review and act on. He spoke about the potential of A.I. “ There are a lot of unknowns, but the technology is new and getting better.” Looking towards the future, technology is already being applied in different ways . These applications are being explored in the classrooms of UTA as well.

A group of Alumni discuss rankings in a conference room.

Exploration of AI at UTA

The College of Business conduct ed a survey to understand the faculty’s attitude towards A I in the classroom. It was a part of the “Teaching with Chat GPT” workshop on Friday February 9 th , which focus ed on how to integrate Chat GPT and other AI platforms into teaching . 

Dr. Kevin Carr, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at UTA, was a part of the workshop ; he currently teaches Advanced Business Communication . I talked to him about the purpose of the workshop and what he hopes to gain from the group's sessions. 

Dr. Carr explained "The point of the workshop is designed to give faculty ideas for instruction and to develop classroom activities to work with students . Our goal for th e workshop is to introduce Artificial Intelligence as a teaching tool for faculty, including showing what AI can do potentially in the classroom. We are going to be very open to faculty’s direction, in terms of ongoing discu ssions and meetings.”

Personal Take

Artificial Intelligence or Chat GPT , in my view, is another useful tool in the toolbox of technology. It will take the air out of certain industries, and it will change jobs, yet every major technological advancement has the potential to do so. The automobile was considered radical, the use of plastic, computers in the workplace, and alternative energy have been impactful on society. 

Alternative energy was headlined as the end of oil use. The automobile changed the way cities were formed and led to the creation of a national highway system. Society has always found a way to adapt and overcome major technological innovations, artificial intelligence is not any different.

AI is the technology of tomorrow. It reminds me of something Dr. George Benson said , “ It's cool software that is a sophisticated search engine.” Google, one of the most popular search engines, reshaped the internet, as you search for resources, it is a natural starting point. AI and ChatGPT are an evolution, for students it is a tremendous resource consulting a CEO archetype, creating business pitches, and most importantly shaping the future .

An unidentified person writes in a journal in front of an open laptop.

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Joelle Abi-Rached and Allan Brandt discussed their contribution to the NEJM series on key historical injustices in medicine, including the rise of Nazi Germany.

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How do you read organization’s silence over rise of Nazism?

Medical historians look to cultural context, work of peer publications in wrestling with case of New England Journal of Medicine  

Alvin Powell

Harvard Staff Writer

In December, one of the world’s leading medical journals, the New England Journal of Medicine, began a process of self-examination, publishing articles about the Journal itself and its handling of a series of key historical injustices in medicine, including eugenics, slavery, oppression of Native Americans, and, in an issue published in April, the rise of Nazi Germany.

One major challenge, according to two medical historians, is how little the NEJM had to say about Nazism and its systematic and genocidal oppression of Europe’s Jews beginning in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power.

That came as something of a surprise to Allan Brandt, the Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine and professor of the history of science, and Joelle Abi-Rached, Ph.D. ’17, the Mildred Londa Weisman Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The pair contributed to the series, which was initiated by David Jones, the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine. Brandt praised the publication for its willingness to face what may be an uncomfortable history.

With so little material available, the two researchers, in a conversation with the Gazette, discussed their dilemma: How do you parse a near silence? This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Knowing the prevailing attitudes toward race and ethnicity in the World War II era and the decade leading up to it, were you expecting to find a complicated situation?

Brandt: Yes. The New England Journal’s effort is very similar to what Harvard did in its exploration of slavery on campus — Harvard faculty and administrators held slaves and did not challenge slavery often. These are the kinds of institutional self-observations that I think are important. It’s often been perceived as a reputational risk in opening up the archives and facing these things. But I think the reputational risk is in not doing it and the Journal very appropriately recognized that.

“We expected that, given the dimensions and the horrors of the Holocaust, we would find that the Journal said a lot during that time. But our initial finding was that there was almost nothing.“ Allan Brandt

When we look at your specific findings, what do you think is most important?

Brandt: When our colleagues were working on other papers in this series and ran their digital investigations, they literally came up with hundreds of hits. For us, the experience was like putting a search term into Google and getting no response. We expected that, given the dimensions and the horrors of the Holocaust, we would find that the Journal said a lot during that time. But our initial finding was that there was almost nothing.

Abi-Rached: The omission, absence, and silence startled us, so we made an extra effort to find anything that was written on the rise of Hitler. We did come across a few items and these became the backbone of the paper. They were illuminating.

One piece published in 1933 is a very short piece that even people who have read our paper have trouble finding. It’s a short communique published at the end of a very long and tedious paper on surgery. The communique, “The Abuse of the Jewish Physicians,” is revealing because the concern was not discrimination or persecution but the fact that these Jewish physicians were dismissed and lost their livelihood. That was the only piece published in 1933.

Then there is a controversial, longer piece published in 1935 by Michael Davis, an eminent health reformer, with a German nurse who later research would reveal was a Nazi sympathizer. And then there was nothing until 1944.

In 1944, the Journal published its first editorial, an important piece in which the Journal takes a stance on the humanitarian disaster that the “Nazi tyranny” had caused in occupied Europe.

Then you have another key article published in 1949, long after the conclusion of the Second World War, by Leo Alexander, who was a Viennese-born neuropsychiatrist who gathered evidence for the trial of the doctors at Nuremberg. So, this absence of debate around the rise of Nazism and its persecutory, racist laws became our guiding thread.

How would you describe what must have been the Journal’s approach during those years?

Brandt: Joelle and I talked about how we could understand silence, or an omission. We speculated about structural or institutional racism and thought about whether, in a medical or scientific journal which is typically reporting clinical findings and new knowledge, it might have been possible for editors to say, “This isn’t really part of our remit. It’s terrible, but that’s not what we do.”

“An important conclusion is that silence is not neutral. It says as much as it hides. Reading the past also tells us something about our contemporary moment, our failings, including our moral failings.“ Joelle Abi-Rached

So we decided to go to other leading journals, Science and the Journal of the American Medical Association, to see if that held up — sometimes you have to go outside to look on the inside. We couldn’t get to it in an article of this length, but I think if we more closely examined Boston medicine at the time, between academics at Harvard Medical School and the Journal, we might have gotten additional insight. It was not a diverse group.

Abi-Rached: The point we make is that the silence, the omission, was not banal. It was not mere ignorance. The discriminatory nature of these policies that were implemented by the Nazi regime were reported in the U.S. press.

JAMA and Science did report on what was happening in Germany vis-à-vis the Jewish physicians, who were the victims of such policies. The Dachau concentration camp was established in 1933 and Davis and Krueger, for example, mentioned labor camps in their piece, but they omitted the term “forced” labor camps, rendering them somehow unproblematic.

These camps were mentioned in other journals, the persecution of Jewish physicians was mentioned in JAMA, decried in Science. They were more explicit. Science was more forthcoming and did not mince words at all. They mention repression, active antisemitism, and the weaponization of education. That was probably what alarmed Science most.

JAMA was more interested in the persecution of Jewish physicians, especially the restriction of their practice, of their education, and the consequences of laws that were persecutory in nature. And this was two years earlier than the publication of the Davis and Krueger paper.

Your critique of the Davis paper was that it focused on economic issues and read as if nothing outrageous was happening outside of the economic sphere?

Brandt: The Davis piece is remarkable for its opacity, its ability to focus on a reform and not have any context around it. Davis’ response to one critic of the article makes that clear. He said, “Of course I’m concerned about what’s going on with Jews in Germany. But we were writing about a social reform, a health reform.”

The kind of denial that it takes to dissociate the social and political context from what you’re centering your attention on is why we use the term “compartmentalization.” These are the psychological and institutional structures that permitted racism to persist.

Joelle and I explored the fact that Davis had done much for the poor. He was trying to expand insurance coverage in the U.S., so in this instance, this narrowness was really shocking, especially given the fact that his ancestors were Jewish.

Was there a change among the editors after the war when coverage changed?

Abi-Rached: The evidence was so obvious that the doctors were part and parcel of the genocidal nature of that regime that a journal like NEJM could not remain silent. It’s an important moment in the history of medical practice and medical research that had a profound effect on how experiments were conducted later on, in the second half of the 20th century.

A paradigm shift happened: You could not be silent and blind and not engage with what was happening especially because it concerned medical practitioners. It also laid bare how the Hippocratic Oath was insufficient to protect patients or anyone else. There was a clash between the very paternalistic nature of the Hippocratic Oath and how institutions, even regimes, can politicize that oath to their own advantage and how medical doctors are enmeshed in that institutional framework, whether they serve the state or an insurance scheme.

The Journal could not remain silent, and it is only in the 1960s onwards that you come across editorials, perspectives on the ethics of medical experimentation, and so on.

Are there lessons for today here?

Abi-Rached: An important conclusion is that silence is not neutral. It says as much as it hides. Reading the past also tells us something about our contemporary moment, our failings, including our moral failings.

Another point is that medicine cannot be dissociated from social and political issues. They are intertwined. Medicine is the product of societal beliefs, norms, and prejudices. The Journal is a reflection of wider social, political, and moral biases. It’s a reflection of a wider society.

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    ChatGPT is a popular emerging technology using Artificial Intelligence. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which describes an AI program that looks for patterns in language and data learning to predict the next word in a sentence or the next paragraph in an essay. The website has a friendly interface that allows users to interact with AI in a n efficient conversational tone.

  27. How do you read organization's silence over rise of Nazism?

    In December, one of the world's leading medical journals, the New England Journal of Medicine, began a process of self-examination, publishing articles about the Journal itself and its handling of a series of key historical injustices in medicine, including eugenics, slavery, oppression of Native Americans, and, in an issue published in April, the rise of Nazi Germany.