How to Write a Reflection Paper in Human Resources Management – the Only Guide You Need

Reflection papers occupy a special place among other types of academic writing. While normally professors emphasize the importance of being completely objective and eschewing your personal opinions when writing, reflection papers embrace them. Reflective writing is supposed to be subjective, and your tutor will evaluate your work based on how well you manage to express your opinions, explain where they come from and demonstrate that these are your own thoughts, not just a rehash of something you read somewhere.

Reflective writing is especially important in disciplines like human resources management, where your ideas and opinions will heavily influence what kind of decisions you take and how they will affect the performance of a team.

Such a departure from what is usually expected of you can be disorienting. It is no wonder that many students experience problems with reflective writing – they have to go against everything they have been taught for years. To help you understand how to write this kind of papers and do it without making many unnecessary mistakes, we wrote this guide. It will lead you through the entire process, from the pre-writing stage to editing and adding final touches.

How to Write a Reflection Paper in Human Resources Management: Starting Out

1. Decide between Two Types of Reflective Writing

Different experts classify reflection papers differently, but most commonly, they single out papers that reflect on experiences and those that reflect on readings. Clarify what type you are writing with your professor and do not mix them up.

  • When you reflect on an experience, you analyze events and situations you witnessed and took part in personally. In human resources management, it usually means your impression about what you saw during your work or volunteer placement;
  • When you reflect on a reading (or readings), you have to identify the main theme of the text(s) you read, draw parallels between it and your class experience and point out how it affected your thinking and perception of the discipline, both in conjunction and separately.

2. Choose a Topic

In some cases, your professor will define your topic for you. However, quite often you will be relatively free to choose whatever you want to write about. In fact, the latter may be even more difficult, because nothing protects you from choosing a topic that will be a pain to cover. However, you can improve your chances of choosing something that will be easy to work with:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • Stick to what you know. The very nature of a reflection paper means that you should build it around your own ideas, impressions and beliefs. This means that the best topic would be the one you already have a firm existing opinion on;
  • Make sure you have something to say. Even if you are well acquainted with a topic, it may not be a good idea to choose it if all you have to say about it is self-evident. For example, if you choose to write about job interviews, there is not much point in simply saying that an HR manager should be attentive to the applicant’s body language, because it is a commonly accepted truth. If, however, you choose to say that you do not believe in the efficiency of job interviews in general and can back up your idea with logical arguments, it is another matter entirely;
  • Stay focused. Whether you write about an experience or a reading, a reflection paper is not a stream of consciousness mind dump containing everything you have to say about the subject. You have to identify what is important and relevant about it, what influenced your thinking and perception, and focus on it.

Eventually, you should end up with a topic like one of these:

  • Efficiency of Job Interviews in Predicting Future Work Performance;
  • Employee Motivation in Theory and Practice;
  • Influence of Corporate Cultural Norms on Hiring Decisions;
  • Thoughts on Team Management in IT Business after a Work Placement;
  • Managing Remote Teams and Its Importance for Small Businesses.

3. Write Down What Stood out for You

Whether you write about a reading or an experience, a reflection paper is primarily about your impressions. This means that before you proceed, you have to identify what parts of your experience/reading were most important to you, which of them determined your overall impression of the subject matter. Decide why they played such an important part.

4. Write a Thesis Statement

In a thesis statement, you specify the primary idea behind your paper. In a reflection paper, it is usually the most important effect your experience or reading had on you, a conclusion you formed as a result, the direction in which you intend to move your further activities. A well-formulated thesis statement is:

  • Short (ideally, a single sentence no longer than 35 to 40 words);
  • To the point (dealing with a single clearly defined idea);
  • Direct (there is one and only one way in which a reader can understand it. Carefully check it for ambiguity);
  • Focused (point out a specific, narrowly defined aspect of your experience/reading rather than discuss the subject as a whole).

5. Write an Outline

While students often believe writing an outline to be a waste of time, do not be tempted to skip it. Having a plan will give structure to your effort – you will know what to do next at every stage of your work, without being afraid to miss anything.

Be as detailed or as concise in your planning as you want – it depends on your writing style. Some students jot down only the most basic details about each section of the paper, while others even specify how they are going to connect specific paragraphs to each other. Both approaches and everything in between works fine as long as it meets your needs.

How to Write a Reflection Paper in Human Resources Management: Writing Per Se

1. Relate the Experience/Readings to Your Previous Knowledge and Ideas

The purpose of a reflection paper is to identify and analyze how a personal experience or a course reading influenced you, how they changed your views and practices. To show this influence, you have to study the experience in the context of what views and ideas you held before it. It will help you establish your starting point.

2. Use First Person Singular

Unlike most other types of academic writing, reflection papers encourage you to be more personal and subjective. You do not write based on authorities – you reflect on your own experiences and thoughts, so using the first person singular is only natural.

3. Use the Opening Paragraph to Introduce Background

The usual way to structure a reflection paper is to divide it into an opening paragraph (introduction), a main body and a conclusion.
The opening paragraph is typically used to provide a backdrop for the rest of your analysis. It starts with a hook – a sentence aimed at grasping the reader’s attention, usually a catchy quote, an important fact or an unusual statistic. After that, you introduce the background information necessary to understand the rest of the paper. Point out what you knew about the subject matter before your experience, how you formed your opinions, what were your practices as a result. After that, you have to introduce your thesis statement, demonstrating how the experience influenced you. You will spend the rest of the paper explaining and analyzing this influence.

4. Dedicate the Main Body to the Effects the Experience/Reading Had on You

Your paper’s body paragraphs should cover the direct influence of the experience/reading in question on you and your views. Ask yourself:

  • How did what you read, experienced and learned affect you?
  • What new things did you learn?
  • How will it influence your future thoughts and practices?
  • How did it conflict with the ideas and beliefs you held before?

5. Properly Structure Your Body Paragraphs

When you read academic papers, it may seem that the main body is written haphazardly, without any particular order. It is, however, only an impression – in reality, any well-written paper follows a relatively strict structure. Therefore, you should divide the body of the paper into paragraphs not randomly, but following its contents. Each paragraph should deal with only one point – if you feel that you drift between two or more points within a single paragraph, your paper may need restructuring.

Each paragraph consists of:

  • Topic sentence. The first sentence of a paragraph that establishes what topic it covers. Try to state the main idea of the paragraph as shortly and clearly as possible;
  • Body sentences. Here you discuss the controlling idea (topic) of the paragraph. In a reflection paper, you primarily have to refer to your own experiences and thoughts, but you can back them up with other types of evidence: statistics, quotes, examples and other data;
  • Conclusion (optional). If a paragraph is long enough, you may have to summarize what you said in a concluding sentence, giving a short version of what connects your evidence to the controlling idea;
  • Transition. A sentence or expression that connects current paragraph to the following/preceding one and the rest of the paper. It can be located in the beginning or the end of the paragraph.

6. Conclude with the Lasting Effects of the Experience/Reading

Conclusion usually does not occupy a large part of a reflection paper, as by that point you have already said most of what you had to say, and the format of the assignment does not presuppose any innovative research findings. A few short sentences detailing what you learned and how you intend to use this new knowledge in future is enough. Alternatively, you may finish the paper ambiguously – e.g., stating that you do not believe the practices you witnessed/were taught are effective, but will try using them in future to see if they can positively influence your situation.

How to Write a Reflection Paper in Human Resources Management: Editing

1. Review Your Notes

Review your readings you reflect on, your class notes, notes related to the experience – in other words, any materials that have something to do with the current task – and check if you included all the relevant information and made all the possible connections between different factors.

2. Review the Format

Check which format your college or professor wants you to use for your paper, and make sure you consistently use it throughout your assignment. It may seem like a superfluous detail, but failing to comply with these rules can mean a poor grade for an otherwise excellent paper.

3. Eliminate the Unnecessary

The best practice one can apply when editing his/her writing would be to remove everything that is not necessary. If on rereading the paper you see that a particular word, sentence or paragraph does not move your argument further but simply occupies space, cut it. It does not matter how much you like a particular turn of phrase or how well a particular fragment accentuates your erudition. Your paper has a purpose, and anything that does not serve this purpose, interferes with it.

Some good candidates for elimination:

  • Words aimed to intensify another word’s meaning (totally, completely, utterly, fully);
  • Redundant words, i.e., those that do not add to the meaning of the words they are attached to. E.g., “advance warning” (warning is by definition something done in advance, there is no need to specify it) or “all-time record” (record already refers to all prior experiences);
  • Weasel words, i.e., words used to create an impression of specificity and meaning when in fact nothing specific or meaningful was said. E.g., “the vast majority” (what is considered a majority?), “a growing body of evidence” (refer to specific sources of data instead).

4. Check Your Style

While reflection papers are more personal than most other types of academic papers, it does not mean you can use whatever language you please. Basic demands and recommendations concerning style remain in effect. Avoid using:

  • Informal language. I.e., words and expressions characteristic of spoken English;
  • Clichés. I.e., overused turns of phrase that were expressive once but since then lost all meaning. E.g., ‘in this day and age’, ‘in the nick of time’, ‘busy as a beaver’ etc.
  • Slang. I.e., language (usually colloquial) used by groups sharing closely defined experienced and interests;
  • Jargon. I.e., vocabulary uniquely pertaining to your field of study. For example, if you had a work placement in an IT company, avoid using IT jargon your professor may not be familiar with.

While reflection papers leave much space to expressing your individuality, following these principles is crucial for achieving good results. We hope this guide will help and speed up your writing the next time you deal with such a task.

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