Reaction vs. Reflection Paper: What’s the Difference?

If you’re writing a reaction paper, consider emphasizing how the work made you feel or your opinion on the topic. Conclusions for reflection papers might highlight what you learned and how you would encourage others to use your analyses to reconsider their position.

ACADS EP.1: Difference between reflection paper and reaction paper

What is a reflection paper?

A reflection paper is an essay that focuses on what the writer learned from an experience. The experience might be reading an article, watching a video or completing an activity. Writers tend to discuss their previous thoughts on the topic and how the experience changed them. These papers also include the writers account of the experience and their feelings.

What is a reaction paper?

A reaction paper, also called a response paper, is an essay that describes how the writer feels about a topic. These papers usually maintain a formal tone but feature the writers opinion, stating whether they agree or disagree with ideas in an article, book or movie. When creating a reaction paper, writers can also analyze the work and present evidence to support their conclusions.

Reaction vs. reflection paper

Here are some significant similarities and differences between a reaction and reflection paper:


Reaction and reflection papers tend to have similar uses. For instance, teachers and college professors often assign them when they want students to respond to an article, book or movie. The involvement of critical thinking allows students to develop analyses and incorporate evidence, which is good practice for writing lab reports and other essays. If an educator wants their students to respond to an experience, they usually assign a reflection paper. Students who recount what they learned from an internship or lecture often improve their communication, teamwork and organizational skills.

Format and tone

Even though reaction and reflection papers contain the writers opinions, they tend to be formal. An academic tone and format ensure these papers remain appropriate for scholastic settings. Educators can dictate their assignments requirements, but students typically adhere to a style guide like AP or MLA. They also use academic language and sentence structures that are less conversational than a diary entry. In terms of format, reaction and reflection papers may be of various lengths and usually contain an introduction, body and conclusion.

Summary of the work or experience

With both types of papers, writers tend to include a summary of the published work or experience. They understand that the reader may not be familiar with their topic and strive to provide context. For instance, a writer might briefly discuss the main plot points of a book at the beginning of their paper. This explanation can make it easier for the reader to understand the writers character analyses. Good reaction and reflection papers tend to have objective summaries, allowing the reader to gain context without the writers opinion interfering.


The main difference between reaction and reflection papers is their focus. Reaction papers emphasize how the writer felt after reading a book or watching a video by including their initial thoughts. They can also analyze different events and provide evidence to support their interpretations. For instance, a student might cite the authors description of an event to support the idea that theyre commenting on a real-world phenomenon.

A reflection paper focuses more on how the work or experience changed the writers perception. They often include what their prior opinion was and how the topic introduced them to new ideas. Some reflection papers focus on how the work or experience reinforced their existing beliefs. For instance, an article on climate change might confirm a students belief that global warming is a real occurrence. In their reflection paper, the student might note this persisting belief but reveal that the paper exposed them to new ideas for combating global warming.

How to write a reaction or reflection paper

Heres how to write a reaction or reflection paper:

1. Review the reference material

If you want to write a good reaction or reflection paper, consider thoroughly reviewing the reference material. Reading the entire book or watching the whole video can ensure you understand all of the main points. You can also take notes to help you remember important points to discuss later. For instance, as you watch a movie or read a book, consider writing interesting details or questions you have. If youre completing an internship, try noting your main duties and experiences with your coworkers after each shift.

2. Review your teachers requirements

Before writing your paper, consider reviewing your teachers requirements. You can check for specifics like word count, formatting style and whether to include a reference or works cited page. Understanding the requirements can guide your paper and save you from making edits later in the writing process.

3. Create an outline

Consider using your notes and teachers requirements to create an outline. For instance, your notes might reveal three ways the author conveys a specific theme. Your outline can separate these three points into paragraphs and indicate the approximate length of each section. You can also note what quotes and descriptions to use in each section.

4. Write an introduction with a thesis statement

The introduction for reaction and reflection papers contains a hook that encourages readers to keep reading. It may also provide a brief summary of the work or experience to give the reader context. A thesis statement at the end of the introduction paragraph clearly identifies your argument. When writing a thesis statement for a reaction paper, try to encapsulate how the work made you feel. Thesis statements for reflection papers may also contain this information but tend to emphasize how the work or experience influenced your opinion.

5. Write body paragraphs

The next step is to write the body paragraphs that you noted in your outline. Each body paragraph can begin with a topic sentence that introduces the main point. After the topic sentence, elaborate on your analyses of the work or experience and use evidence to support your claims. While the teacher is usually familiar with the topic youre writing about, you may provide additional context as necessary. For instance, if you want to highlight the main characters stubbornness to support your point, you can reiterate this trait.

6. Add a conclusion

A conclusion paragraph at the end of your paper reiterates your thesis statement and summarizes your main points. If youre writing a reaction paper, consider emphasizing how the work made you feel or your opinion on the topic. Conclusions for reflection papers might highlight what you learned and how you would encourage others to use your analyses to reconsider their position.


Is reaction and reflection the same?

Reaction is largely driven by external stimuli. Reflection on the other hand, is a metacognitive function, which is a higher-order executive thinking skill that requires one’s awareness and regulation of their own thinking process.

What is the difference between summary and reaction paper?

 Revise and polish your summary by adding transitions so the summary reads smoothly, omitting any repetitions or minor details. The Reaction is a text-based response in which you incorporate your views on the source text.

How do you write a reaction paper?

Write an informative summary of the material. Condense the content of the work by highlighting its main points and key supporting points. Use direct quotations from the work to illustrate important ideas. Summarize the material so that the reader gets a general sense of all key aspects of the original work.

What is the purpose of the reaction paper?

Reaction papers are often used as tools in a class-setting to encourage students to think critically about texts, and how those texts are in conversation with each other, or with a wider field of discourse. Reaction papers can also be used to generate ideas for a research paper.

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