SUMMARISE the article. You can assume I have read
it. While starting off your paper with a brief description of
the article or the points/arguments made in the article is often an easy-route out of writer's block, try not to take it. You only
have 2 pages (maximum), so don't waste the space telling me what is in the article. Instead, begin right away with your
argument, critique or analysis.
QUESTIONS. One of the more effective ways of getting
at a more analytical level of writing is by asking questions
about the article you have been asked to read. Some of these might include:
- Why did the author write the article?
- Why was s/he arguing what s/he was arguing?
- Do you agree with the author? Why or why not?
- How might the author respond to your comments? Why?
- What were some of the common themes/issues in the article?
- How would you respond to these?
- How is the article tied into class material or discussions (if at all)?
those posed by you or those posed by the author. Sometimes choosing
a question asked
by the author in the article to answer is the best way to critically engage with the article in a reflection paper, rather than falling
into the "summary" trap.
PICK ONE OR TWO THINGS TO TALK ABOUT.
A common mistake often made when writing a reflection paper is an
attempt to try and talk about the whole article. This just can't be done effectively within the space requirements of only 1 or 2
pages. As such, try to pick one point or argument made by the author that you find particularly interesting. This can be
something as big as a paragraph or page, or something as small as one sentence. One particularly effective reflection paper on
the Bodi article focused exclusively on the article's title, (i.e. How to Bridge the Gap Between What We Teach and What
They Do), using the 1-2 page reflection paper to answer this question. By selecting only 1 small point, argument, or sentence,
you will be forced to do more than just describe it, but engage analytically with what is being said, reflecting at a deeper level.
PROOF-READ YOUR PAPER.
Mistakes in grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation result
in a paper that is
difficult to read and understand. These deficiencies in clarity result in lower marks. At a university level, the confusion of
they're, their, and there is unacceptable, as are other clumsy typos. Do yourself a favour, and read over your paper before
asking me to do so.
AVOID 2nd PERSON NARRATIVE.
This includes the use of "we," "you," "us," or "our." It is difficult
to speak for other
people without the involvement of over-generalisations, which ultimately hurt the credibility and persuasion of your argument.
YOUR READER. By including a brief statement outlining
where your paper will go, and an equally brief conclusion
summarising what you feel your paper has said, you help me to gain a better (and quicker) understanding of the direction of
your argument and your intentions (which can often count for as much as your finished product). Without these guides, it is
often difficult to figure out what you were trying to say - or more importantly - whether you had thought about it at all.
OPINIONS ARE A GOOD START - but they need backing-up.
While it is important and useful to base your
reflection paper on personal feelings or views, it is equally important to show some level of analysis or intellectual argument
behind these views. As such, reflection papers which state an opinion, explain why this opinion is held, and contrast it with the
article's opinion(s) and purpose will be stronger papers than those which merely indicate how much you hated or liked the
IS NOT A DEAD-END. If you didn't understand the article
or its argument(s), don't feel as though you can't
write a good reflection paper. Instead, use this as the basis for your reflection. Ask and answer questions about why you
didn't understand it; what part(s) and/or word(s) in the article didn't make sense; what step(s) did you take to understand; what
effect(s) does this confusion have on your view of the subject/argument; how might the author(s) respond to your confusion?
FOR HELP - from me or your colleagues. I am happy
to discuss the article or your reflection paper(s) with you prior to
class. Don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail or come by for a visit if you're not sure where to begin or need help figuring out
what the article is about. Also, talk about the article with your friends, family, and classmates. Often, useful discussions about
an article result in a much better reflection paper, so don't be afraid to have these.