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How to Write a Reaction Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide

Response paper information.

Responses should demonstrate that the writer has engaged with the material and has formed a well-supported argument or interpretation. It is important to use evidence from the assigned text(s) to support claims made in the paper. Additionally, the writer should strive to make connections between the assigned work and other relevant readings or personal experiences. The paper should be well-organized, with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion, and should demonstrate strong critical thinking skills. Overall, the goal of a reaction or response paper is to provide a thoughtful and analytical response to the assigned material.

How to write response papers

When writing a response or reaction paper, the first section should be a work summary. This summary should include the publisher, the work's title, and the author's name. You should provide the date of publication for magazines. Next, compose an educational summary of the material, highlighting the work's main and key supporting points to condense its content. Use direct quotations from the work to illustrate significant concepts. Summarize the information so that the reader can get a general idea of all the important parts of the original work. Keep the summary factual and objective. Avoid going into too much detail about any one part of the work and don't forget to talk about other things that are just as important.

The second section of the report should focus on one or more of the following questions or instructions, which should be confirmed with the instructor if specific points need to be emphasized:

    • Consider how the assigned material relates to thoughts and concerns examined in the course for which you are writing the paper.

    • Explore what connections the work has to current issues, its relation to your own life, experiences, emotions, and ideas, whether it altered your perspective on a specific issue, or assess the quality of the work.

    • Explain why you would recommend the work to others and whether you would.

When writing the report, it is essential to adhere to the four fundamental guidelines of effective writing, including unity, support, coherence, and concise, error-free sentences. Each major paragraph should present and develop a single main point, including specific justifications and specifics to back up any general assertions or attitudes made. Transitions should be used to make the connections among ideas in the paper clear. The paper should be proofread carefully for grammar, mechanics, punctuation, word choice, and spelling errors. The appropriate documentation style should be used to cite paraphrased or quoted material from the work.

Writing Requirements & Tips

When writing a response paper, there are several possible approaches to take. One option is to focus on one of the themes of the text and analyze it. This involves examining how the theme is developed throughout the story and its significance. Another approach is to discuss your analysis of one of the central characters, exploring their motivations, actions, and overall role in the story.

Another possibility is to focus on the setting, analyzing its description and the ways it contributes to the overall mood and meaning of the story. You could also interpret the plot, considering what the events of the story could mean beyond a simple summary.

Another approach is to consider if the text reminds you of another work and explore the similarities and differences between them. Finally, you could discuss the writer's style, examining their use of literary devices, language, or point of view and how they contribute to the overall effect of the story.

When writing a response paper, it's important to avoid certain pitfalls. For example, you shouldn't simply give a plot summary or overload your response with quotations from the text. You should also avoid starting every sentence with "I think" or "I believe," instead focusing on presenting your analysis in a clear and concise way. It's also essential to proofread your work to ensure that it's free of errors and properly formatted in MLA style.

When writing a response paper, it is important to:

    • Answer the questions or instructions directly

    • Make use of the readings and lecture as evidence in your discussion

    • Provide an analysis of what was discussed instead of simply repeating what was said in the lecture

    • Express an opinion and engagement with the content

    • Make use of strong writing, organization, and correct grammar and punctuation

    • Cite the used sources

The following should not be done in response papers:

    • Just examine either the talk or the readings

    • Copy and paste what was on the slides or in the lecture or repeat it back

    • Concentrate solely on a specific aspect of the question without considering the "big picture"

    • List facts without any analysis or explanation

    • Use a laid-back tone

Before submitting your papers, carefully edit them. Do not mention "the class" or "the lecture" in your writing; these papers should still be written in a way that makes sense to someone who is not enrolled in the class. Avoid using the first person singular "I" and use words like "things" and "stuff" sparingly.

By combining the two excerpts, we can gather that when writing a response or reaction paper, it's important to include a work summary and a response section that answers the questions or instructions given. In the summary section, you should provide factual and objective information about the work, while in the response section, you should analyze and express your opinions about the work while citing sources. When writing the report, use effective writing guidelines, present and develop a single main point in each major paragraph, and include specific justifications and specifics to back up any general assertions or attitudes you make. Additionally, avoid using a laid-back tone, copying and pasting information, and listing facts without analysis or explanation. Finally, edit your paper carefully and avoid using the first person singular "I" and use specific words to express what you want to say.

When writing a reaction or response paper, it is important to consider your audience and their potential questions as they read your work. A reader might ask, "What are you talking about?" to which a clear and concise thesis statement should be provided. The thesis statement serves as the "hypothesis" of the paper, providing a clear understanding of the main argument or point of view. The next question a reader might ask is, "Prove it!" which is where supporting evidence comes into play. Just like in a scientific experiment, the supporting evidence serves as the "experiment" where the writer shows how they arrived at their conclusion. This evidence can be in the form of direct quotes, statistics, or personal experiences. Lastly, a reader might ask, "So what?!?" and the conclusion paragraphs should address this question. The conclusion should summarize the main points of the paper and explain the significance of the argument or point of view presented. The conclusion serves as the "final results" of the experiment, highlighting the implications of the thesis statement and the supporting evidence provided. By using this scientific process metaphor, writers can effectively structure their reaction or response paper to address their readers' potential questions and provide a clear and compelling argument.

Sample Response or Reaction Paper Format

When writing a response or reaction paper, it is important to follow a structured format to ensure a clear and concise expression of your thoughts and analysis. A typical format for a response or reaction paper may include the following:


Begin with a general point about the work being analyzed, such as a brief summary or background information. Avoid retelling the story or providing too much detail, as this will be addressed in the analysis section.


In the analysis section, provide a short paragraph for each mode of analysis used, such as rhetorical, stylistic, or thematic analysis. Make sure to include specific evidence or examples from the work to support your analysis. For example, "In the Suicide Squad trailer, the use of government imagery is contrasted with scenes of chaos and violence, emphasizing a tension between order and disorder in American culture."


Wrap up the response paper with a final paragraph that summarizes the main points of the analysis and provides an overall reflection on the work and its cultural significance. For example, "Overall, the Suicide Squad trailer reflects a fascination with chaos and fear in American culture, revealing deeper anxieties about power and control in contemporary society."

Examples of a High-Scoring Response

"In her TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the dangers of a single story, or the idea of reducing a group of people to a single narrative or perspective. Adichie argues that this process leads to stereotypes and generalized assumptions, ultimately perpetuating fear and prejudice. I believe this concept is particularly relevant in contemporary society, as we are constantly bombarded with oversimplified narratives that fail to capture the complexities and nuances of different cultures and perspectives."

The student's response provides a clear and concise analysis of the topic at hand, immediately defining the topic and providing evidence to support their interpretation. From a narrative analysis perspective, the film trailer explores the moral conflict of duty versus regard for human life. The main character is faced with a choice of whether to kill a woman and a child, who are carrying an artillery shell, and the subsequent flashbacks highlight the concept of morality on the battlefield versus morality at home.

Evidence and Interpretation

The student provides evidence to support their interpretation of the scene, such as the fact that the woman and child are carrying an artillery shell, indicating malicious intent. The use of flashbacks also emphasizes the main character's internal conflict and the idea of morality on the battlefield versus morality at home. The student's analysis demonstrates a clear understanding of the film's themes and how they are conveyed through the trailer.

Why it Matters

Finally, the student explains why this analysis is important and how it impacts the viewer. By exploring the moral conflict of duty versus regard for human life, the film trailer raises important questions about the morality of war and the ethical decisions made by soldiers. This analysis encourages viewers to think critically about the themes presented in the film and their broader implications in society.

This student's response exemplifies the requirements outlined in the "Response Paper" document. They follow the "what are you talking about, prove it, so what?" pattern and provide ample evidence to support their analysis. Additionally, the response is written in a clear and organized manner.

Response Paper Example: Analysis of "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy


The poem "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy explores the societal pressure placed on young girls to strive for physical perfection through the use of Barbie dolls as an example. The poem highlights the negative impact of the Barbie doll mentality on girls, which has led to the development of self-absorbed individuals who prioritize physical appearance over other aspects of life. This report aims to analyze the themes presented in the poem and provide a better understanding of the poem's overall message.


The poem explores several themes, including feminism and coming of age.


The feminist theme in the poem is evident through the author's tone of disappointment regarding the societal expectations placed on women during the 70s. During that time, women were expected to strive for physical perfection, leading to the development of self-absorbed women who spent more time perfecting their physical attributes than enjoying life. The speaker in the poem portrays her disappointment with the way society had put down women and forced them into dangerous behaviors.

Coming of Age

The theme of coming of age is explored in the poem as the process of growing up from a child to a woman. The poem depicts the difficulty associated with meeting society's high expectations of physical perfection, leading to failure for many girls. The societal pressure to be perfect forces girls into silly activities and limits their involvement in other important aspects of society, such as education, employment, technology, and politics.


In conclusion, "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy is a powerful poem that explores the societal pressure placed on young girls to strive for physical perfection. The poem highlights the negative impact of the Barbie doll mentality on girls and how it has led to the development of self-absorbed individuals who prioritize physical appearance over other aspects of life. The themes of feminism and coming of age are explored in the poem, providing a better understanding of the societal expectations placed on young girls during the 70s.

Writing a Reaction or Response Paper: Guidelines and Key Components

Reaction or response papers are a report of your reaction or response to materials, such as articles, books, films, or even TV shows, which you have read or watched.

In writing your reaction paper, not only shall we detail your reaction to the material(s), but we shall also give a summary of the same. Therefore, the paper shall contain two parts: the work’s summary and your reaction to it.

In the first part of your report, we shall summarize the work and ensure that:

• The summary is factual and objective.

• The reader understands all the work’s key aspects.

• Important ideas are well-illustrated through the use of direct quotations from the work.

• The paper is detailed and it contains the material’s informative summary.

• Importantly, we give the date of publication (for magazines) and identify the work’s title and the author. We shall also include the publication date and the publisher’s name in parentheses.

In the second part, we shall discuss:

• Whether we recommend the work to others and why.

• The work’s merit, such as its organization, completeness, and accuracy among others.

• Whether the work changed your perspective and increased your understanding of particular issues.

• The material’s relationship to your ideas, feelings, experiences, and your life in general.

• The work’s impact on today’s world.

Glenn Johnston

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