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Guide for Writing a Response Paper

A response paper can be a pretty enjoyable assignment – if you know how to approach one. Response papers allow you to do something that other assignments don’t. They allow you to give your full, honest opinion in a relatively uncensored way. With response papers, students typically have little trouble – or at least, that’s what they believe. Understand that, though a response paper may seem an easier assignment than impartially composing a research essay, it can have it’s own difficulties and setbacks. When students are confused about a response paper, or even too overconfident about writing one, they run in to trouble. How can you avoid nasty pitfalls in the response writing game? The answer is simple: you just have to understand how a good writing response paper is formed. A simple guide to writing a response paper would almost always go something like this:

  1. Evaluate your reaction. What do you think about what you read? How did it make you feel? Can you agree with it? Do you disagree – and if so, why? Question yourself about your personal reaction to the reading. This is the first and most crucial step to creating a good response paper. Without understand how you feel, you can’t exactly put pen to paper about it!
  2. Plan and organize. There are certain steps to a response paper that differ from other forms of writing. However, organizing the structure of your paper is still highly important. The paper should have, at the bare minimum, three parts: an introduction to the reading, a summary of the reading, and your reaction. Your reaction will function, in this context, as your thesis.
  3. Use the compare/contrast method. What you’re doing in a response paper is basically outlining what the author stated, and how you reacted. The simplest way to approach such a paper is to contrast your response against what the author said. Make it clear what the author’s opinion is, and why; then make it clear whether you agree or disagree with that idea.
  4. Back up your claims. Just because it’s a response paper, doesn’t mean it’s your unbridled opinion. When you communicate your reaction, explain why you reacted that way. Is their other evidence in the text that the author is ignoring? Is there other material you’ve read that had a more convincing effect? Back up each point, argument or idea with examples and other details.
  5. Edit and proof. Always and imperative last step, edit and proof your document. Perhaps have a friend read through it, and get their reaction – was it clear? Understandable? Did your response make sense? These are great questions to ask when you’re revising for the final draft.