How to Write a Good Reflection Paper


Each of these assignments invites you to compose a 2-3 page paper in which you reflect upon a general question. 

To craft a good paper, you can do the following:


1.     Draw on the relevant and main points of the readings thoroughly and accurately.  This way I’ll know that you have read the assignments carefully, trying to get a clear understanding of the traditions.  This isn’t always easy, believe me.  I spent over two years and ten courses of antibiotics living in a remote Himalayan village trying to do it, and still failed (a lot).

2.     Try to think through the tradition rather than thinking about it.  By this I mean that you should try to see the world through the eyes of an informed adherent of the tradition.  You can ask questions and offer reflections as an outsider too, but your thinking should always include an effort to put yourself in another’s chappals.  I will always ask questions that invite you to do this.

3.     Avoid mere opinion.  An unsupported opinion is very much like . . . well . . . let’s just say that everyone’s got one.  You’ll learn more, gain more insight, and be more convincing if you ask questions and try to reason out your answers. If you are wondering about whether you are doing that as you write, check for words like “because,” “since,” “therefore” . . . .


Bare-boned basics that are essential, fundamental and foundational: 


Page length: The assignment has a minimum length of 2 (“two” or do in Hindi) full (“complete,” pura in Hindi) pages.  You probably have way more to say that you think, and two pages will never do justice.  But . . . two pages is a start and hopefully will get your thinking going.  Anything less than two full pages (e.g., 1.75, 1.69) will always garnish a lower grade; only one gets none.  I will evaluate the content according to the criteria mentioned above.  Full length papers that meet the three criteria given above will receive full points (20).


Grading:  Most papers will receive a full 20 points because you guys are just so good.  Those that are accidentally written without regard for the three golden criteria, will receive either 0 or 14 points (a “C”).


Format:  The paper should be 2-3 pages long (typed and stapled), double-spaced with 12 point font and 1” margins.  At the top left of your paper, please write the assignment number (e.g., “reflection paper 2”) followed by your name, on the same line.  That’s it.  The text of the paper should start two spaces down.  It should be well written and carefully checked for spelling and grammatical errors. 


Timeliness:  Because the papers correspond with discussions, late response papers miss the boat and cannot be made up, except when a student is on a documented absence. 


These are really basic (i.e., fundamental, essential, foundational) criteria that should not hang you up in any way . . . unless you don’t meet them.  Doing the reading and reflecting on it requires some time and thought, but overall the reflection papers give you some low-pressure space (and points) for exploring these amazing traditions from India.  They should be enjoyable.