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Reflective Essays
Ernest L. and Zac E., writing center tutors

Please keep in mind that these are only general guidelines; always defer to your professor's specifications for a given assignment. If you have any questions about the content represented here, please contact the Writing Centers so that we can address them for you.

A reflective essay is a form of writing that examines and observes the progress of the writer’s individual experience. While reflective essays explain and analyze the development of the writer, they also discuss future goals. Reflective essays are often associated with academic portfolios and especially writing portfolios. As part of a writing portfolio, reflective essays will critically analyze your development as a student. This should include a discussion of the strengths you have developed as a writer as well as your weaknesses. Closely related to these weaknesses, writers could also discuss how they plan to improve in the future. When writing a reflective essay, it is important to use descriptive language. In doing so, your reader will understand that you are familiar with the subject matter and that you have thought critically about your development as a student. Reflective essays are based upon your own experiences, so it is expected that you write about yourself, your ideas, and your opinions. As a result, it is completely acceptable to use first person pronouns such as “I” or “me” in these essays. Since the reflective essay is built upon personal experience, the writer has the liberty of being as creative as necessary. At the same time, do not let a focus on creativity take precedence over the important task of proving to your reader how you have grown as a student.


The structure of a reflective essay is very similar to the structure of most academic writing. Unless you are trying to argue a point, position, or perspective through your reflection, it is not required that your essay contain a thesis statement....