When students hear about such type of writing as a “response paper”, they are apt to assume that it presupposes articulating their emotional reactions to a particular text on paper. In general, concentrating on emotions and feelings that a specific text left you with is often a viable starting point that may help you produce a high quality paper. However, you have to realize that it is only the first step to acing this assignment, because writing a response paper requires that you go beyond these initial emotional reactions and apply critical thinking. Also, you should dig deeper deploying analytical reading in order to be able to find and communicate the hidden meaning, as well as an underlying idea that an author incorporated in the text. A response essay definitely implies more than merely absorbing a book for the sake of entertainment and then sharing your impressions.
Eventually, at some point of your studying, you will be tasked to come up with your own topics for a paper and put forward valid arguments rather than work on a specific question. Writing a response paper enables you to learn how to single out and evaluate the kinds of issues that might be engaging for you in the texts you read.
In your response essay, you may be asked to reflect on the text as a whole or respond to a particular point(s) made by the author. Whatever focus you opt for, you must assess it by means of critical thinking, not just present a brief description or summary of your feelings about the text. While writing a response paper, most of the space you should devote to an in-depth analysis and discussion of the text, book, or essay (scrutinizing the details and verbal means), as well as the questions that you take interest in. The final paper should mirror your thoughts about a particular idea or issue depicted in the text.
How to write a response paper and what to put there?
You should pick an approach that will help you arrange your thoughts in a set of logical points that together present a well-thought-out review. For instance, you may focus on the contradictions in the text, you may discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an argument made by the author, or you may develop your own argument and illustrate it throughout the essay by means of supporting evidence. If you disagree with some points, try to extend your opinion and clarify why you oppose to the original idea. However, if you choose to agree with the author, expound on the reasons why you think your response deserves attention. Does the point you are making add something novel to the text? Do you want to complement what the author tries to say or to modify his argument? Determine your primary purpose of writing.
The following prompts aim to help you formulate your response to a book although they are applicable to films too.
While reading, consider these questions:
- What feelings do you experience when reading the text?
- Are there any points that you agree with?
- Are there any points that you cannot agree with?
- Can you relate to some of the statements made by the author?
- How to evaluate the text in a way that would give readers an additional insight into it?
Bearing your responses to these prompts in mind, continue with the following prewriting stages.
The following statements may inspire you or help you hit on some ideas for your reaction paper. The statements presented below are intended to structure your paper, so try implementing as many of them as possible. As any other type of essay, a response essay has an introductory paragraph, main body, and conclusion.
- The introduction includes all the background information that is necessary to make your essay complete.
- Also, your introduction should have a one-sentence thesis. This is where you make your main point, which becomes the focus of the entire paper.
- The body section should include paragraphs that reinforce your thesis. Each paragraph should revolve around one idea. Topic sentences should serve as supporting points of the thesis, and there should be a smooth transition between the final sentence of one paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph.
You can arrange your paragraphs in two ways:
- Author’s points + yours
- Author’s points in contrast to yours
In conclusion, you can simply restate what you said in the body. The concluding sentences should present your overall response. Keep in mind that your conclusion is not supposed to contain new pieces of information.
General tips on writing a reaction paper:
- Read the text and underline important information.
- While reading, put down ideas that pop up in your head.
- How do you feel about reading?
- Do you support the author’s opinion?
- Have you had an experience relevant to what the author is telling you in the article or book?
- Does the author provide a sufficient amount of supporting evidence for the claims he/she makes?
- Develop a thesis statement first.
- Choose a couple of ideas and convert them into the key points of your paper.
- Substantiate your ideas by incorporating illustrations, quotes, and descriptive details into your body paragraphs.
- Make sure the first sentence of each of the body paragraphs is the logical continuation of the previous paragraph.
- Make sure your topical sentences somehow echo your thesis statement.
- Your response should be written according to the standards of unity and coherence.
- Scan your paper for spelling and grammar errors as well as for other technical blunders.
- Cite information from the original text or any other materials that you use according to a proper formatting style.
The bottom line is that instead of summarizing the text you read (though some summary would not go amiss as you need to familiarize your readers with the points you are discussing), you will need to examine the text applying your analytical skills and breaking down the text into manageable parts in order to develop a valid argument of your own.