A reflection essay, also called a reflective essay, is an exercise in introspection. It explores your personal thoughts, feelings and opinions about a topic and how it affects you. It also challenges your critical thinking about your own feelings, and, as the most free-flowing of all essays, is often the most enjoyable kind to write.

Reflection Needs a Thesis

Unlike expository or persuasive essays, a reflection essay need not have specific proofs, quotations or facts to support its thesis because its subject is your personal opinion of an experience, news story, crisis situation or cultural event. It must still have a thesis statement that is arguable and branches into prongs -- separate topic areas -- through which you can make claims or voice ideas in support of your thesis.

A Thesis Needs Arguable Prongs

Expanding an opinion means explaining why you have that opinion in the first place. "I like 'Star Wars' movies" may be an opinion, but as a thesis it needs to include reasons for the "I like." It must begin to answer the "because" part of the question. "I enjoy the 'Star Wars' films for their unique characters, plot lines from ancient mythology and exciting action sequences" works well, since it expands the topic into three areas of reflection, each of which you now can address in separate paragraphs or sections of the essay.

Writing the Reflection Essay

Once the prongs of the essay are clear, you now can explore your own opinions of each point in separate sections. You might include examples of the characters, why you consider them unique, sample action sequences and why you feel they work viscerally. You also could include mythological references you discover, such as "Darth Vader is a Grendel archetype." Again, keep the discussion clearly centered on one prong of the thesis per paragraph or section. Reflection essays, if not well organized, tend to drift and lose focus.

Reflection Essays Are Skillful Fun

Reflection essays can be highly enjoyable. They hone your critical thinking skills, invite you to think and speak your own mind, and they're not judged with the stringency of research papers or expository essays. Opinions are what they are; no professor confronted with "I like Rocky Road ice cream and can prove why" will critique with "Wrong answer, should be chocolate chip." As long as your opinions are supported through a multiple-prong thesis, your reflection essay will succeed.