How Do Reflective Essays Differ From Analytical Essays?

Reflective and analytical essays are commonly assigned in high school and college classes. While most essays involve formulating thoughts, organizing them effectively in written form and making points, the nature of these essays varies. Analytical essays generally argue a point or perspective, while reflective essays look back on experiences and behaviors.

Perspective Versus Reflection

A key difference between reflective and analytical essay is that a reflective essay involves looking back, or reflecting on, prior experiences and behaviors. The assignment is often to describe a particular life experience, time frame or circumstance, according to the DePaul University writing center. You outline the central events; your insights, decisions, and behaviors; and what you learned from the experience. An analytical essay is about perspective. You analyze a controversial or debatable topic and provide support for your particular point of view.


Though you can write reflective and analytical essays in very similar styles, analytical essays tend to have a more formal, professional style. Reflective essays are often more casual and interactive. This style variance largely stems from the fact that reflective essays are personal, insightful and targeting a single reader or focused audience. Using "I" and "my" is common in reflection, which contributes to the less formal writing style.


A reflective essay is more personal, whereas an analytical essay is more external. In a reflective essay, you give a firsthand account of events and your thoughts. In an analytical essay, you may have some personal experience related to the topic, but the point is more to explain your take on the topic, not your experiences. A reflective essay is also intended to help the reader learn from experience and set goals for similar challenges or situations in the future. The analytical essay is more about learning to argue and support a perspective, according to the College of Central Florida.


An analytical essay typically has a thesis in the opening paragraph, whereas a reflective essay normally doesn't, according to the DePaul writing center. The thesis statement establishes a general theme and direction for an essay. An analytical essay needs a thesis that lets the reader know what position the details of the essay's body will support. A reflective essay is more timeline-oriented. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The end normally involves a futuristic perspective on goals and learning.

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