How to Write a Self-Analysis Essay

Self-analysis essays force you to think critically and honestly about yourself and your work. These essays are often assigned at the college level as a way to reflect on yourself and your progress as a writer. They’re also used after group projects to gauge your personal contributions. Although they may sound difficult, self-analysis essays follow a basic structure. Practicing true introspection is the hard part.

Formatting Your Essay

Your self-analysis essay may vary in length from two to seven pages, depending on the assignment. It should follow the basic structure of a personal essay. You’ll need an introduction that states your thesis -- your central idea or theme. You’ll need at least three subsequent sections -- one for your strengths as a writer, one for your weaknesses and another for your future goals. Your conclusion should restate your thesis and sum up what you’ve learned about yourself. Each section may be a single paragraph or multiple paragraphs. Though the essay will be written in the first-person voice, use topic sentences to transition from one section to the next. For example, “Having acknowledged my natural talent for grammar, I would like now to address my weaknesses as a speller” could serve as a transitional topic sentence linking your strengths and weaknesses sections.

Establishing Your Thesis

The first honest moment of your self-analysis comes in the formulation of your thesis. You must answer the question of how you’ve performed in recent work. More than just rating yourself, you’ll need to provide a qualitative statement. If your essay is in response to a group project, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington recommends describing how your contributions hindered or helped the group. You might write, “My difficulty with research hindered the final presentation of our project by leaving out crucial information.” If you’re writing in response to a prior essay, you might state how you handled the material: “The topic was challenging, but I researched it thoroughly and presented a compelling argument.” Your thesis will guide the rest of your essay, so be honest and precise.

Outlining Strengths and Weaknesses

Your essay must dig into specific strengths and weaknesses -- the qualities you believe contributed to the outcome stated in your thesis. Teachers don’t want a litany of blame; they want students to be truthful about their shortcomings and to offer ideas for improvement. For instance, if you need help organizing your thoughts, presenting your findings in a more logical order, then state this in your section about personal weaknesses. If you’re particularly good at describing experiences in vivid detail, a natural storyteller, then don’t shy away from highlighting this strength in the appropriate section. Writing instructor David T. Burkam encourages students to think about what excites them in the writing process and what terrifies or intimidates them.

Setting Personal Goals

This last section of your essay should transition from self-analysis to self-improvement. Be specific. If you struggle with redundancy and a lack of vocabulary, state how you will consult a thesaurus for your next assignment to diversify your word choice. If reflecting on a group project, describe what you will do differently in the future to better help your partners, such as, “I won’t procrastinate, and I will turn in my research on time.” In your conclusion, revisit your thesis, but also sum up what you’ve learned through personal reflection. Your essay should be both reflective and proactive.

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