The primary goal of a reflection paper is to express the author’s thoughts, ideas and emotions on a particular subject. In short, it is your personal reflections on the subject matter. Depending on the discipline and the preferences of your instructor, this can be almost anything: a book, an essay, a movie, a lecture, an idea, a personal experience. Given that you study finance, you will probably have to write about some written source of information or something abstract, like a financial theory or a trend in financial markets. However, if your instructor (or you, for that matter) is creative enough, the topic may be much more original.
The main distinctive feature of reflection papers is that they are relatively less formal than most other academic assignments. You express your personal opinion and do not have to provide rock-solid proof (although it does not hurt). You do not so much try to persuade the audience that your point of view is true but rather explain why you have this point of view in the first place. Although the tone of writing remains academic, you are allowed certain freedoms, like using the pronoun “I” and its derivatives.
All this makes writing a reflection paper a somewhat tricky task, as you have to balance between getting too casual and going too deep into purely academic tone. This guide attempts to sort out some of the most important difficulties.
How to Write a Reflection Paper in Finance: Preparation to Writing
1. Choose a Topic
Occasionally your instructor will assign a topic to each student, which makes the job easier. However, quite often instructors leave it to students themselves, using this task as an opportunity to see how well you navigate the information on the subject and whether you understand the subject matter enough to think of a meaningful topic. However, even if the topic is delineated for you, you still have to think about what exactly you are going to write.
Here are a few tips that can help you choose a topic that would be easy and interesting to write about:
- Brainstorm. Take a sheet of paper, give yourself a time limit and start writing down any ideas that come to your head. Do not try to separate the good from the bad ones at this stage – put priority on quantity over quality. Write down everything, even it sounds silly. After your time limit runs out, you will end up with a decent number of possible topics;
- Choose something you have a strong opinion about. As reflection papers require you to express your personal opinions, it pays to look for a topic you are already invested in. Trying to reflect on something you do not care one way or the other can be tiresome and usually produces pitiful results;
- Choose something familiar. Again, you have to be well-acquainted with a topic to reflect on it. You may need to do some additional research to prove some of your points, but if you have to learn everything about the subject matter from scratch, you have possibly chosen a wrong topic;
- Avoid overly obvious topics. Firstly, some students will always choose the path of least resistance, which means that these topics usually crop up at least a few times in every class. You do not want to be grouped together with those who do not want to think originally. Secondly, such topics are not very challenging and thus do not give you many opportunities to show your skills and abilities. You can expect a lower potential grade as a result.
Eventually, you should end up with something interesting yet manageable. Like this:
- Studying Financial Literacy in School: Why It Is Important to Start as Early as Possible;
- Causes of Financial Crises and the Future of World Economy;
- Student Debt: How It Influences the Average American’s Life;
- Ecommerce: How It Changed Our Lives;
- Electronic Banking and the Changes It Brought to International Financial Transactions.
2. Formulate Your Reflective Question
To “express one’s opinion on the subject” can be a bit too vague a task. To have fewer problems starting out, it may be a good idea to think of a tone-setting reflective question to steer your writing in the right direction. For example, “How does the topic relate to me and my knowledge of the subject?”
3. Prepare an Outline/Plan
In an outline, you list all the segments of your paper along with what you want to mention in each of them: what points to cover, how to back them up, what evidence to use, which details to include. Some students prefer to write it in as much details as possible – when it comes to writing, they simply have to flesh it out a little bit to get the complete paper. Others give themselves more leeway and limit themselves with a few words for each point – enough to avoid forgetting something.
4. Write Down Your Thesis Statement
You may have a good idea of what you think on the subject, but everything can change once you start writing. You may find yourself going off on a tangent and deviating from the core topic. This is why writing a thesis statement beforehand is so important.
A thesis statement expresses the main idea behind your paper in a single sentence (two sentences maximum). It is important to understand that it is exactly what it says on the tin – a statement of your thesis, not a topic or research question. E.g., “My personal experiences of dealing with cryptocurrency make me believe that it is going to play a crucial role in financial markets of the future” is a thesis statement. “The Role of Cryptocurrency in Financial Markets of Tomorrow” is a topic. “Is cryptocurrency going to play a significant role in financial markets in 2020 and after?” is a research question.
A thesis statement should be concise, to the point and focus on a single point. If you find it impossible to boil down your main idea to a single sentence, it may be the sign that you have to further clarify and narrow it down.
How to Write a Reflection Paper in Finance: Writing Process per Se
1. Back Your Opinion up with Evidence
Although a reflection paper primarily expresses your personal opinion, it is best that you support what you say with quotations from authoritative sources. The usual rules apply here: information by experts on the subject with multiple published peer-reviewed papers is preferable to random sources from the Internet. Your opinion is still the focus, but relevant supporting information can greatly improve the quality and credibility of what you write.
However, you do not have to investigate the object from multiple angles and prove that you are right. You explain why you believe so, and it is the reader’s decision whether to agree or not. There is no need to provide counterpoints.
2. Keep It Short
Reflection papers are usually not particularly long (between 250 and 800 words), although your professor’s instructions naturally override it. No matter what word limit you are given, try to express your ideas as concisely as possible. Remember that you do not carry out a full-fledged research but simply express your opinion, and it does not require you to go into too much detail.
3. Maintain the Right Tone
Reflection papers are personal and less formal than most other academic assignments, but they are not casual. You still have to use the academic tone that is fairly close to what is used in other types of high school and college assignments. This means that you should not use:
- Colloquial language;
- Slang and jargon;
- Exaggerations and hyperbole;
- Direct applications to the reader.
However, differently from what is normally seen in academic style, you can use the pronoun “I” (because you are talking about yourself and your personal thoughts).
4. Structure Your Body Paragraphs Properly
The body paragraphs are the meat of your paper – they expand on the message introduced in the thesis statement. This means that you should pay special attention to what you write in them – otherwise you may just as well not write anything at all.
The typical structure of a body paragraph is this:
- Topic sentence. Here you introduce the main idea covered in the paragraph. Remember that you only discuss one idea per paragraph;
- Supporting details. To drive your point home, you have to back it up with argumentation, facts, statistics, and quotations – anything that fits the bill;
- Summary. This part is optional and is usually introduced when a paragraph is long and contains multiple supporting details. Here you sum up what you said, point out how evidence comes together and how this point is tied with others.
5. Always Cite Your Sources
Finance is a very precise discipline. Even though you speak about personal thoughts and impressions, if you want the reader to take your words seriously you have to prove that your beliefs are not groundless. Prioritize high-authority sources and cite them accordingly to your chosen formatting style. Not only does it add credibility to your writing, but also protects you from plagiarism accusations.
How to Write a Reflection Paper in Finance: Finishing Touches
1. Give Yourself a Break
Do not start proofreading and editing your paper immediately after completing it – it is still too fresh in your memory, and you are likely to skip through portions of texts because you remember what they say, without reading them. This may cause you to miss mistakes and potential improvements to the text. Depending on how big the task is and how much time you have to complete it, aim at giving yourself at least a 24-hour break after finishing writing.
2. Eliminate Padding
Reflection papers are short by themselves; in addition, finance is a discipline that highly values conciseness, precision and economy of expression. In other words, you are expected to be rather dry and laconic, paying attention only to the most important factors. To achieve this, mercilessly cut everything you do not need to drive your point home.
- Pay attention to the adverbs and adjectives. Try removing each of them and see if the sentence where it was used loses its meaning. If it does not, throw the word away. Run a search for words like ‘a bit’, ‘somewhat’, ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘nearly’, ‘quite’, ‘very’ etc. You can safely drop most of them without impairing the semantic content of your text;
- Eliminate weasel words, i.e., qualifiers that make you sound unsure of yourself or what you say. Some examples include ‘like’, ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, ‘probably’. In addition to draining confidence from your tone, they bloat word count, which is what you are trying to avoid;
- Sentences starting with ‘there is’ and ‘there are’. These do not just add extra words you can do without but also sound clichéd and boring.
Proofreading is not limited to checking if your spelling is correct, although orthographic mistakes can severely affect the credibility of your paper. You have to pay attention to multiple aspects of your paper:
- Sentence structure (is every sentence grammatically correct and makes sense?);
- Flow of logic (are there any gaps in your reasoning? Do you jump to conclusions?);
- Organization (do individual segments of the paper naturally follow each other?);
- Word choice (do you use overly long and complex words simply because they look and sound impressive?);
- Transition words and phrases (do you use them to connect paragraphs with each other?).
If you want to be sure you cover everything, proofread your paper several times, each time focusing on a single aspect.
4. Get a Proofreader
There is only so much you, the author of the text, can do about finding flaws and improving them. You are too used to your paper and the way you think; mistakes and problems that are immediately obvious to other people may pass unnoticed if you only edit the paper yourself. Either hire a professional proofreader or at least ask a friend or relation to read your paper for you and point out everything he/she believes to be amiss. It does not mean that all the observations of an editor are spot-on, but they can help you see your writing in a different light.
Reflecting on finance can be tricky; it is a topic that is more concerned with facts and statistics than with what you think about them. However, we believe that with the help of this guide you will be able to handle this problem.