Response Paper: How to jot down your personal reactions

How to write a response paper |

In the course of your studies, you will be asked by your instructor to read a book, an article or even the work of your peer and write a paper that records your reaction or response to the material. In a typical sense, your response paper will require a brief summary of the material and a detailed response to it. The following steps simplify the process of writing a response paper.

Read the Material Keenly

Although this may sound obvious, it is a critical step towards writing a sound response paper. Sometimes some readers only read the given materials partially, making them to miss out a great deal of details. Being a good reader means that the student immerses themselves actively in the material, and subsequently pay attention to important details of the reading material.

Of course you have to start with the title of the reading to understand what it is all about. The introduction of the reading is also critical in providing a snippet of the reading. However, the best detail is always in the body of the reading, and that is why each and every part of the reading material is important. Therefore, in order to respond to any material, you have to read and understand every detail.

Summary of the Work

This is the part where you start the actual writing. You are now putting pen to paper! The first step is to establish the author and title of the work, and include the publisher and publication date in parentheses. If you are responding to materials published in a magazine, it is also important to mention the date of publication.

The reader of your work may be interested sooner or later to prove the authenticity of your sources, and that is why providing these details is quite important. Secondly, write an informative summary of the work. In this case, you are letting the reader to have a general idea of the work, by answering the what, where, when, and how questions.

While reading the summary, compress the content of the work by highlighting only the main points and supporting points. Make sure that all the information is as factual as possible. Also ensure that you use some direct quotes from the work to support your main points but do not overdo because the intention is to write a response paper and not to retell what the material states.

A summary of the work ought to be only one paragraph and at most two paragraphs.

Your Reaction to the work

When your instructor wants you to react to a piece of work, they mostly want you to connect with what you have learnt in class, respond to specific instructions or relate the reading with various aspects happening around you or around the world.

Therefore, always check and see what your instructor wants first. You certainly do not write a paper that does not address the instructor’s instructions.

However, in most response papers, you will be expected to address questions such as:

  • How does the reading relate to the ideas or topics discussed in class?
  • How does the work tie with events happening in the real world?
  • Did the work increase your understanding of a particular issue?
  • How do you rate the work, in terms of how it addresses a particular issue?
  • Can you recommend the work to your peers?

Be Critical When writing the Response paper

A response paper usually evaluates your critical ability. Your instructor is always testing your ability to think and relate various themes and items. You are free to express your ideas and thoughts in the context of the questions and the reading materials, as well as in a scholarly manner. Always avoid writing subjectively or emotionally because you can easily veer off what your instructor wants.

A critical thinker reflects on the work, and writes in a manner akin to a debate or even better. In this case, you are free to choose a side, make your points, and provide supporting points.

Important Points to Note

  • Your response paper ought to apply the basic standards of effective writing, which are: unity, support, coherence, and clarity
  • Every paragraph must have a single main point or idea, which ought to be followed by supporting points. When each paragraph has a single, solid point, it makes your work clear and coherent. Since the reader of your work will be interested in knowing your ideas about a given reading material, they will definitely want to know what you picked from the provided peace. Make sure your work makes it easy for the reader to know what you picked.
  • Remember to cite any paraphrased or quoted ideas from the material. That helps you to avoid accusations of plagiarism.
  • Read and edit your work before you submit it.


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