Writing a Reaction or Response Paper Properly (A Guide)

author By Mary Boies

Response papers are perhaps the most exciting type of college paper to write. A typical response paper is a student's reaction to a text or literary work. In other words, it allows students to express their opinions on a topic.

Response papers are relatively common in college, and this behooves you as a college student to learn and master how to write a powerful response paper. In this post, you will discover everything you need to know about writing response papers.

Let's begin.

What is a Response Paper?

A response paper is a college essay commonly assigned by professors requiring students to provide their reactions to a text or a literary work. A response paper can also be referred to as a reaction paper.

When given a response paper assignment, you must organize yourself if you desire to write a powerful paper that will give you an excellent grade. And this is why we have prepared this comprehensive guide with all the information you need to write a brilliant reaction essay to any literary work.

When writing a response paper, the most important thing you must remember is that the reader (your professor) often already has an idea about the text. Therefore, your response should not be a simple retelling of the text.

Instead, it should be a dedicated analysis of the text, capturing your opinion of everything necessary (its author, the author's credibility, the main argument, the main points, the evidence used, the effectiveness, and so on).

The best way to write a response paper is to keep it casual but not too casual. Make sure the paper captures your opinions nicely and shows you understand the topic the text is discussing.

Response Paper Structure

The typical response paper is five to seven paragraphs long and follows the introduction-body-conclusion structure. What makes it stand out is what is included in each section.

1. Introduction

The typical response paper introduction is between 1 and 2 paragraphs long. It must start with a powerful attention-grabbing sentence to hook the reader immediately after they start reading and provide background information on the text being responded to.

The last thing that must be in a response paper introduction is a thesis statement, which has to be included as the last statement of the introduction to give the reader a clue about what the paper is all about.

2. Body

The typical response paper body is one to three paragraphs, one paragraph long if the response paper is short and three paragraphs long if the response paper is long. The body must always start with a summary of the text the author is responding to. This summary is supposed to give the reader some context on the response the author is crafting, and it should be in its paragraph.

The summary is supposed to be followed by arguments supporting the paper's thesis statement. Each argument should ideally be in its paragraph as the topic sentence. It should be followed by evidence in the form of examples, quotes, or references to the text being responded to. The end of each paragraph should be a closing transition sentence.

When the body of a response paper is written following the structure above, it almost always provides good organization and flow.

3. Conclusion

The last section of a response paper is usually the conclusion. The typical response essay conclusion is one paragraph long. It usually starts with a restatement of the author's thesis statement (main reaction) followed by a restatement of the most significant part of their reaction. The last part of a response paper conclusion is often what the author has learned from the text and its broader impact in its genre.

Formatting a Response Paper

Follow the tips below to format your response paper properly. The tips below will help you make your response paper look like a typical one.

  1. Set your font to Times New Roman, 12 points. The most important thing you need to do regarding formatting your paper is to set your font as Times New Roman and size 12.
  2. Use double space. Once you set your font as recommended above, double-space everything unless otherwise stated. The above font style, plus double-spacing, will quickly make your essay look academic.
  3. Set the margins to 1 inch. All the margins of your paper should be 1 inch. Doing this will make your paper look highly professional and easy to read.
  4. Press the space bar only once after periods, and this is crucial if you want your response paper to look great throughout.
  5. Indent the first line of each paragraph. Indent the first line of every paragraph to make the paragraphs in your work stand out and make them readable.
  6. Use quotes. The typical response essay will have multiple quotes from the text being responded to. Therefore, do not be afraid to use quotes in your essay. Use them correctly, and do not exceed three for a short paper and five for a long paper.
  7. In-text citations. Use in-text citations to ensure your response paper gets an excellent grade. Cite everything that is not your idea. This is the ultimate show of academic integrity. So don't forget if you want to show your professor that you are a serious student.

Steps for Writing a Good Response Paper

Let's now check the steps to write a perfect response or reaction paper.

1. Read The Work and Take a Lot of Notes

Before you write a response paper to anything, you must thoroughly understand it because only by understanding something can you give a reasonable and comprehensive response to it. The best way to thoroughly understand a text or a literary piece is to read it and take many notes.

When reading a literary work and taking notes, capture all the critical bits in your notes. Also, make sure you record your thoughts next to the important bits.

2. Think Carefully About the Work

A good response paper is one in which the author presents their opinion of the text. You must fully understand a text or literary work to form a strong opinion on a text or literary work. And the only way to fully understand a text is to think carefully.

Ask yourself the following questions to understand the text you want to respond to comprehensively:

(Note down your answers)

3. Compare The Work to Similar Works

Comparing a literary piece to similar pieces broadens your understanding and makes your response paper sound more logical and rational. Comparing the subject literary work with similar works is not always necessary, but it improves your response paper.

Ask yourself the following questions to make a good comparison between the subject piece and similar works:

(Note down your answers)

4. Note Down Your Reaction

A response paper is a reaction paper, your response to a text or literary work. Therefore, it should be written in such a way as to reflect your reaction or opinion about the subject literary piece.

So after noting down everything and answering all the questions in the three steps above, what do you think of the paper? What are your general thoughts about it? What stands out to you about the paper? Think about these questions and note down your answers. Your answers are your reactions and will help you decide your response (what your paper will focus on).

Other questions that will help you to come up with a response include:

(Note down your answers)

5. Create Your Thesis and Outline

You now have all the information you need to write an outstanding response paper. The next thing you need to do is create a thesis and an outline, which will help you craft a proper and well-organized response paper.

The thesis statement for your response paper should capture your main reaction to the paper. What do you think about the paper you just read and reviewed? Check out your answers in the step above. This should make it easy for you to develop a main reaction and decide the focus of your response paper (aka your thesis).

After creating your thesis, you should make an outline for your paper. Your outline should be in such a way that it is simple yet comprehensive. The simplicity in organizing your thoughts (clear thesis and supporting arguments) should be evident. And the comprehensiveness should be evident in the supporting evidence (statements, quotes, and references) you include in your paper.

6. Write Your Introduction

With your outline ready, you should start writing the first draft of your response paper. This should begin with the introduction and strictly follow your outline if you want your intro and the rest of your paper to have excellent order.

The typical introduction to a response paper is one paragraph long. The best way to write it is to capture the background information of the work you are responding to and then present your reaction.  When presenting the background info, mention the part of the work your response mainly focuses on.

7. Write The Body

The body of your response paper should begin with a summary of the work you are about to respond to. This summary will give the reader a general understanding of the work and show the reader that you have read it. The summary should be one paragraph long if your paper is short and two paragraphs long if your paper is long. It should capture the main arguments of the text, and it should be analytical rather than a simple retelling.

The summary should be followed by the main arguments supporting your thesis statement. Each argument should ideally be in its paragraph and backed by evidence (a quote from the text, examples, and/or other supporting evidence). This part of your paper where you support your thesis, aka the primary reaction, will be the most essential part of your paper. This is because it is what your reader will closely look at. Therefore, you should give it 100% and make sure it comes out right.

8. Write Your Conclusion

After writing down the body your paper, you should come up with a conclusion. Your essay's conclusion should be direct to the point. It should restate your thesis (main reaction) and defend it. It should also state the effect of the work on the genre it is a part of.

9. Read and Proofread

After writing the conclusion of your paper, you should read and proofread it. This will help you to polish it and transform it from an ordinary paper to an extraordinary response paper. Failure to proofread your paper could result in you submitting a poor or difficult-to-understand essay.

Therefore, once you are done with the writing part of your assignment, you should take your time to read and edit your response paper.

Tips and Tricks to ace a Response Paper Assignment

If you are after writing an outstanding response or reaction paper, here are some simple tips and tricks to follow:

  1. Make it analytical. If your paper doesn't sound very analytical, your professor will not like it. So when writing each body paragraph, make sure virtually every sentence is analytical.
  2. Use an outline. Before you start writing your response paper, you should create an outline to help you make an organized paper that is easy and enjoyable to read.
  3. Read and understand. Before you create an outline for your paper, you should read the subject text to understand it fully. Failure to do this will result in a paper that is not on point. Ideally, it would help if you read the text two or three times to understand it fully.
  4. Take a lot of notes. When reading the work, you should take notes of all the important bits you come across. You should also note down all your thoughts on the different parts or themes of the paper. You should also ask questions about the text and note your answers. These notes will make it easier to identify your main thoughts and reactions and develop an outline.
  5. Note down your feelings when reading the work. It is crucial to note down your feelings as you read the text. Your feelings as you read a text are part of your response or reaction. Therefore, mentioning or discussing them is crucial, especially when reviewing a literary piece like a novel or a poem.
  6. Think about how you relate to the work. Do you closely relate to what the author is saying in work? If you do, it is crucial to note down what part of the text you are closely familiar with and why/how. Relating to a text is one of the best ways to show your reader you know what you are talking about.
  7. Include evidence to spice up your work. While your response paper should mainly focus on your reaction or response to it, you should ensure you include evidence to complete it. The evidence that should feature prominently in your text should include examples, quotes, and references to your experiences or the author's work.
  8. Include a topic sentence and a closing sentence in each body paragraph. Starting each body paragraph with a topic sentence and ending it with a closing sentence will make it very easy to read and understand and improve the flow of your response paper.
  9. Reference your paper. A response paper is not a simple personal essay; it is a heavy paper that requires research and, therefore, requires proper referencing. Provide all the necessary in-text and reference page citations to make your work complete. If you don't do this, you could be penalized.
  10. Revise your work many times. Do not be afraid to revise your work as often as needed. Researching, outlining, writing, referencing, reading, and revising your work may seem like a hassle. However, do not be afraid to do it; this will make your paper excellent.
  11. The professor is always right. You should remember that your professor is always right whenever you have trouble writing, formatting, editing, or referencing your paper. Therefore, defer to what they asked you to do or told you to do in class. Do not take internet advice over your professor's advice if you want a good grade.
  12. Ask questions. You should ask questions whenever you are unsure about something in your essay. Email your professor or visit their office and ask them what you need to know about the assignment. Doing this will ensure your paper is precisely what your professor expects.
  13. Check sample response essays. To become the best, you have to learn from the best. If you've never written a response paper, read several sample response papers to get the gist. This will help ensure that whatever you write looks like a typical response paper.
  14. Format your work. It is important to format your work according to the format expected by your professor. If you do not do this, you will end up with a paper that is not exactly academic or up to standard. No matter how strong your response paper is, this will result in a poor or average paper.
  15. First-person is acceptable. Writing in the first person is typically acceptable. This is because the paper is your response. Therefore, the professor expects to see you in the paper (sentences beginning with 'I'). Therefore, do not hesitate to write in the first person in your paper.

Response Paper Example

A Response to The Little Mermaid Story

The Little Mermaid by Christian Andersen is an exciting story that provides a deep insight into the fictional underwater world of mermaids. It is a story that captures every little girl's imagination of what life is like as a mermaid. I have been fascinated by this story since I first read it as a little girl. In my opinion, the story creates magic, and it provides terrific life lessons for young people and adults.

The Little Mermaid is a typical children's book because it is a fantasy tale that takes children on an adventure. Andersen's mermaid wants to be human, so she can die with an eternal soul when she dies. The mermaid says she dreams 'to become for one day a human being and then share in that heavenly world' (Andersen). But she does not live a dream. She loses in a battle over evil with a sea witch.

This story's main life lesson is that we don't always get what we desire. Andersen's story fully captures this aspect and sometimes shows evil can win. The Disney version of the Little Mermaid has the mermaid winning, and of course, this is the more familiar version amongst kids and adults. But the mermaid does not win and gain an eternal soul in the original.

The story's second life lesson is that sometimes we get hurt pursuing what we desire, which is okay. The little mermaid passes through great tribulations to get what she desires. For instance, she gets her tongue cut, 'Put out your little tongue and let me cut it off in payment; then you shall be given the potent mixture' (Andersen 59). However, it is okay that this happens as she wins in the end by losing her life and gaining an immortal soul.

I think Andersen's Little Mermaid is a good fairytale for everyone, and it teaches important life lessons like the fact that we don't always win in our life battles but must persevere and push forward. The story is not a typical fairytale in that good doesn't win over evil, but it is still indispensable, especially in the current world where things don't always go the way we plan them.

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