Disclaimer: These are general guidelines. Always follow the specific guidelines given by your instructor or included in your course syllabus.
The Personal Reflection Paper
Length: Typically short (1-2 pages).
Purpose: To reflect on your own life and/or how the course reading material has affected you.
Voice: Primarily written in first person (I, me, we).
Details: While this is a personal reflection paper, most professors want to see evidence of growth from the course. Using insights from reading and class time that you gained, reflect upon an aspect of your life and describe how the insight has changed your understanding.
The Book Review
Length: Generally short, but can be longer. 3-5 pages is a typical range.
Purpose: To review the author's argument critically: Is the argument clear? Is it well supported? What areas are the strongest/weakest? What questions do you have after reading?
Voice: Primarily written using 3rd person (he, she, they), but may use 1st person in certain areas, such as a personal review, like this: "I enjoyed this section of the book because . . ."
Details: A critical examination of a book, not a summary. Usually, in a review, you have the opportunity to say what you did or did not like/agree with in the book.
The Research Paper
Length: Typically, the longest in length, although length can vary greatly from class to class.
Purpose: To present a thesis and support it with researched arguments from scholarly sources with proper citation.
Voice: Primarily written in 3rd person, though occasionally 1st person may be permissible. Always check with your instructor for specific instructions.
Details: Establish and present an argument after a critical examination and reflection on existing views, biblical texts, theological questions, etc. External resources are used (and properly cited using the appropriate citation style) in conjunction with your own evidence to support the claims you make within your argument.