A common assessment tool used across disciplines in higher education, secondary education and even at the elementary level, an essay is an effective way for students to express their understanding of a topic. An essay that requires students to open with a thesis statement moves beyond the simple expression of understanding as it requires the writer to compose a debatable argument supported by evidence. How you craft a strong thesis and introduction for a critical reflection essay depends on the requirements of the assignment.

Essay Requirements

In an essay that requires reflection, students give their own thoughts and opinions on a topic, drawing conclusions based on careful observations -- in other words, reflection. For essays that are simply reflective, you can rely on your opinion and personal experience with the subject matter. Critical reflection essays demand higher academic standards, as the writing must evaluate, interpret and analyze the topic. To write a strong, defensible critical reflection essay, you must have a strong, defensible thesis statement.

Thesis Statement

Structurally, a thesis statement comprises one or two sentences that concisely state the central idea and argument of your essay. A well-written thesis should make a debatable claim and include a supportable reason for that claim. A strong thesis has a narrowed focus that answers a specific question and takes a concrete position on the issue at hand. Statements that are too broad and vague or based solely on opinion are considered weak. While a critical reflection essay might include personal observations, reflections and opinions on the topic, the thesis statement should have a solid basis in supportable facts, even if it also stands as your individual viewpoint.

Introductions That Set Up and Support

While the thesis statement is the core of an essay, it is not necessarily the opening sentence in your paper. The thesis statement doesn’t even need to be included in the opening paragraph of your essay. Whether you include the thesis in the opening paragraph or not, the introductory paragraph should contain information that sets up and supports that thesis. In an introduction paragraph, present the topic in a way that shapes the reader’s perspective, and establish the structure and focus of the essay. You should also incorporate any background information the reader might need to understand the thesis statement.


Coming up with a solid thesis statement and a clearly written introduction can lead to writer’s block for some students. This occurs when students insist on coming up with a thesis first, rather than letting one develop as they work on their essay. Rather than giving into the frustration of the blank page, begin by brainstorming ideas. Writing down potential thesis statements leads to deeper, more complex thinking on a topic. Once you’ve narrowed the perspective of your essay, outline the structure and write the main body instead of starting with the introduction. Save the writing of the thesis and introduction until last, as the focus of your essay can shift while you develop the main paragraphs.

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