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At first glance, academic and reflection can sound like contradictory concepts.

Writing an academic reflection essay often involves striking a balance

between a traditional, academic paper and a reflective essay. In order to find

this balance, consider the terms that encompass the title of the assignment.

The term “academic” suggests that the writer will be expected to observe

conventions for academic writing, such as using a professional tone and

crafting a thesis statement. On the other hand, the term “reflection” implies

that the writer should critically reflect on his or her work, project, or writing

process, depending on the assignment, and draw conclusions based on

these observations.

In general, an academic reflection essay is a combination of these two ideas:

writers should observe conventions for academic writing while critically

reflecting on their experience or project. Note that the term “critically”

suggests that the writing should not merely tell the reader what happened,

what you did, or what you learned. Critical reflection takes the writing one

step further and entails making an evaluative claim about the experience

or project under discussion. Beyond telling readers what happened, critical

reflection tends to discuss why it matters and how it contributed to the

effectiveness of the project.

Striking the proper balance between critical reflection and academic essay

is always determined by the demands of the particular writing situation,

so writers should first consider their purpose for writing, their audience,

and the project guidelines. While the subject matter of academic reflections

is not always “academic,” the writer will usually still be expected to adapt

their arguments and points to academic conventions for thesis statements,

evidence, organization, style, and formatting.

Several strategies for crafting an academic reflection essay are outlined

below based on three important areas: focus, evidence, and organization.


A thesis statement for an academic reflection essay is often an evaluative

claim about your experiences with a process or assignment. Several

strategies to consider for a thesis statement in an academic reflection essay


Being Critical: It is important to ensure that the evaluative claim does

not simply state the obvious, such as that you completed the assignment,

or that you did or did not like it. Instead, make a critical claim about

whether or not the project was effective in fulfilling its purpose, or

whether the project raised new questions for you to consider and

somehow changed your perspective on your topic.

Placement: For some academic reflection essays, the thesis may not

come in the introduction but at the end of the paper, once the writer has

fully explained his or her experiences with the project. Think about where

the placement of your thesis will be most effective based on your ideas

and how your claim relates to them.

Consider the following example of a thesis statement in an academic

reflection essay:

By changing my medium from a picture to a pop song, my message that domestic

violence disproportionately affects women was more effectively communicated

to an audience of my classmates because they found the message to be more

memorable when it was accompanied by music.

This thesis makes a critical evaluative claim (that the change of medium

was effective) about the project, and is thus a strong thesis for an academic

reflection paper.


Evidence for academic reflection essays may include outside sources, but

writers are also asked to support their claims by including observations

from their own experience. Writers might effectively support their claims by

considering the following strategies:

Incorporating examples: What examples might help support the claims

that you make? How might you expand on your points using these

examples, and how might you develop this evidence in relation to your


Personal anecdotes or observations: How might you choose relevant

personal anecdotes/observations to illustrate your points and support

your thesis?

Logical explanations: How might you explain the logic behind a specific

point you are making in order to make it more credible to readers?

Consider the following example for incorporating evidence in an academic

reflection essay:

Claim: Changing the medium for my project from a picture to a pop

song appealed to my audience of fellow classmates.

Evidence: When I performed my pop song remediation for my

classmates, they paid attention to me and said that the message, once

transformed into song lyrics, was very catchy and memorable. By the

end of the presentation, some of them were even singing along.

In this example, the claim (that the change of medium was effective in

appealing to the new audience of fellow classmates) is supported because

the writer reveals his or her observation of the audience’s reaction.

(For more about using examples and anecdotes as examples, see

“Nontraditional Types of Evidence.”)


For academic reflection essays, the organizational structure may differ from

traditional academic or narrative essays because you are reflecting on your

own experiences or observations. Consider the following organizational

structures for academic reflection essays:

Chronological Progression: The progression of points will reflect the

order of events/insights as they occurred temporally in the project.

Sample Chronological Organization for a Remediation Reflection:

Paragraph 1: Beginning of the project

Paragraph 2: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 3: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 4: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 5: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 6: Conclusion—Was the project effective. How and why?

How did the process end?

By Main Idea/Theme: The progression of points will centralize on main

ideas or themes of the project.

Sample Organization By Main Idea/Theme for a Remediation


Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Discuss the message being translated

Paragraph 3: Discuss the change of medium

Paragraph 4: Discuss the change of audience

Paragraph 5: Was the change effective? Explain.

Paragraph 6: Conclusion

Remember that while these strategies are intended to help you approach

an academic reflection paper with confidence, they are not meant to be

prescriptive. Academic reflection essays are often unique to the writer

because they ask the writer to consider his or her own observations or

reactions to an experience or project. You have distinctive ideas and

observations to discuss, so it is likely that your paper will reflect this

distinctiveness. With this in mind, consider how to most effectively compose

your paper based on your specific project guidelines, instructor suggestions,

and your experiences with the project.

 By: Kristen Gay