How to Write a Response Paper

How to Write a Response Paper

One assignment that you will not miss in college is writing a response paper. Your tutor will instruct you to read or watch literary material and then react to it in writing.

It is therefore important that you equip yourself with skills on how to write a response paper. Response paper assignments may be a reaction to a text or documentary. Read it carefully and keenly.  Evaluate the text in regards to course objectives.

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Reaction paper on more than one text requires you to read each text and compare them. Summarize each and then analyze according to the question at hand.

A reaction paper requires that you keenly read the text to get a deep understanding of the content. You need to internalize deeper meaning and values expressed by the author.

As you analyze the text, the following guidelines will help you reach a credible response paper:

  • Concentrate on the main issues written by the author.
  • Identify the theme of the text. What is the main subject discussed in the text?
  • Draft a thesis statement. Have a clear insight into the argument forwarded by the author.
  • Topical sentences and evidence have been put across to support the claim.
  • Give an evaluation of the text. Assess its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Show that you are writing in response to the particular text.
  • Search for any opinion that could be contradicting. What do other scholars or readers view the particular work? This will help you make an objective judgment on the text.
  • Assess the value of these arguments in relation to the question or the course you are pursuing. Are they meaningful to the study?
  • If you are responding to many texts, assess their connection. Evaluate how their content and themes relate to each other. They may have a common theme or similar arguments.

Weigh the point of view of the author. Assess whether they agree or differ.

  • Evaluate how the texts assist each other in understanding the argument expressed by the writer.
  • When you combine the two texts, assess whether you can develop a larger picture about the issue. Similar literary materials often boost each other in theme development to give a positive evaluation.
  • Refer to assignment instructions. Follow them when writing so that you do not miss information or deviate from the requirement of the question. Reading the response template is an added value.
  • In your summary response essay, bring out the key themes and argument. Elaborate on them for a clear understanding.
  • Present the evidence on each material giving their possible weight.
  • Analyze the relationship between the literary materials. You can detect the relationship through similarity in themes and settings.

How the materials support each other in understanding their arguments determines their relationship. If one material lacks concrete evidence to support its statement, the other may have supportive evidence worth believing. They complement each other.

Put in your opinion if it is an essay reader. You may support the argument or give your opinion if you disagree. Point out the specific area or points that are missing in the material.

  • Follow the guidelines for a reaction paper to the letter. You will clear confusion about writing an autobiography instead of a response paper. Give the strength and weakness of the material. Comment on the entire text analysis without just praising or blaming the author.
  • Summary of the work alone does not arrive at the response. Show your reaction to whatever the author has put forward.
  • Avoid explaining or evaluating issues that you do not understand. You can consult your tutor for any clarification.

A more elaborate sketch on how to plan your points is helpful. The table below has ideas on how to write a reading response introduction and conclusion.


Introduction                                                      conclusion

Introduce the content End your introduction with a thesis.
Give a background of the material text that could be of interest to the readers. Seek the feeling of the readers.


Forward your opinion about the material. Give your suggestion because you think the text could be of interest to the readers.


Give your expectations on the text. Did it fulfill your expectations?                                                                               What aspects came as a surprise to you?
Give your general opinion on the text.


Does it align with your life experience?


Give the impact of the material on you. Describe whether it has affected your line of thinking or not. Has it boosted your thoughts or view towards certain aspects of life?
Forward the general beliefs of the readers and other writers. Do the opinion concur or differ from the material you

are reacting to?


Give your opinion. Offer your suggestion on what the readers should believe.




A response paper differs from other essay writing in that you do not just analyze the literary work. You give your views about the material at hand. Express your thoughts on the text.

Relate the ideas and values portrayed in the text with your own experience. The use of first-person and expressive words prevails in a reaction paper. Most sentences will have phrases like;

  • In my opinion
  • I felt that
  • The author made me see that
  • In my view, the author was trying to
  • I did not like
  • This idea did not work for me because
  • The image appears to mean

The success of a reaction essay depends on how you meet the goals. A reaction paper should answer three key areas.

First, understand the meaning of the author. What value did the author intend to reach you as a reader?

Secondly, express your vision and opinion about the author? What is your point of view concerning the ideas put forward in the text?

Thirdly, state the impact of the ideas in the content on your life. Has the argument changed your thinking/ has it affected your life in any way?

At this point, state your stand on the theories given by the author. Do you agree or not agree with their thoughts?

You will achieve these goals by reading or watching the article twice or thrice. Read between the lines and with an open mind. Do not get influenced to abandon your views.

A reader response essay can be divided into two major segments. First, you will write a summary of the content. Secondly, write your view concerning the content. The outcome will be a response or reaction paper.

Content summary

Write a summary response essay of the document you have read. It could be a written or visual documentary. Follow the steps below:

  • Write background information: state the title and author of the material. Show the publisher and year of publication.
  • Point out the main statements as given by the author. Write the supportive evidence as provided. Include relevant examples and famous quotes from the material.
  • Highlight all the necessary information without digging much into a specific point. Be careful not to leave out any vital information.
  • Maintain a coherent flow of ideas.

Stick to objective presentation. Explain all facts as presented by the author. Express your opinion.

  1. Your response to the content

In this section, you can react to the content you read, listened or watched. Your response will rely on the instructions given in the response paper assignment. Some of the commonly given instructions are as follows;

  • Assess the relationship between the content under study and your course, compare the ideas forwarded and the course outline or course materials you use in your course study.
  • Compare the ideas in the content with reality. Are they in line with your daily experiences?
  • Express the impact of the content on your personal life. Has it affected your thinking or feeling towards some life aspects?
  • Do a literary evaluation of the content. Discuss its accuracy in content and format. Comment on its organization and authenticity.
  • Write your recommendation. Indicate whether it is worth read by other people. Suggest any changes or additional requirements.

Writing a response paper

A response paper sounds like a conversation when reading. The use of first-person, I/me, gives it an outlook of personal observation or report.

It is an expression of opinion or inner feelings towards a certain literary material. Your reaction paper essay will impress your tutor if you consider the following easy steps:

  1. Read or observe the work to get a view of the content.
  2. Make short notes on important issues as you proceed. Alternatively, you can use sticky flags to mark pages with leading points.
  3. Read your notes for deeper insight into the content. You can also reread the tagged pages to internalize the content better.
  4. Write your views alongside the main issues you noted down.
  5. From your reaction points, draw a thesis statement.

A response paper thesis statement provides a major reaction to the work you are responding to. Your opinion concerning the literary material forms the basis of your thesis.

Response to literature essay can be either by supporting or opposing the whole or a section of the argument. There are aspects in the text from which you can derive your thesis statement. Consider the following when drafting a thesis statement:

  • subject or theme discussed in the material
  • The argument presented by the author
  • The format used by the writer
  • Personality or character description of the author
  • Content described your own life experience
  • How do you connect the content with other materials you have read or watched?
  1. Draft an outline

It is a road map that guides you as you write your response paper. The standard outline has three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  1. Write a sketch of your topical sentences. Each evidence should relate to the thesis. Avoid giving isolated evidence. They should correlate.
  2. Write your response paper.

Response paper outline

A good assignment requires that you plan the areas to cover before you start writing. Likewise, learn how to write a critical response that impresses your tutor.

A response paper outline has three main areas. You start with the introduction, followed by a body, and finally, a conclusion.


An introduction is a key to your response essay. Your opening sentence is about the title of the material and the name of the author.

Follow with striking sentences that will hook the readers. They should be intriguing to draw the attention of the audience to read your paper.

The introduction can contain 1-2 paragraphs. State the theme of your paper and give a brief explanation. Write the response paper thesis statement towards the end of the introduction.

Body paragraphs

There are standard guidelines on how to write a reading response paper body paragraph. They have a detailed explanation of your reaction. Voluminous literary texts or long audio and visual clips translate to many responses body paragraphs. You can have three or more depending on the length of the material in question.

Each paragraph opens with a topical sentence. Give credible evidence to support your argument as stated in the introduction. Expound further with relevant examples from the text and your life experience.

You can support more with actual quotes from the text or famous personalities. Your choice of quotes depends on the issue you are describing.

In the first paragraphs, give a summary of the work you are working on. Provide the background information like title and publishing details.

Summarize the main points without omitting any important details. Rewrite the text analytically and in a summarized format. Stick to factual explanations as given by the author.

Remain objective and focused. Walk along the line of thinking of the writer to avoid distorting the information.

In the subsequent paragraphs, you concentrate your response to the work you have summarized. In systematic order, compare the themes in the text with your life experiences and other materials that you have read.

Express your view towards the arguments forwarded in the literary work. Explain their relevance to the course under study.

Are the values portrayed found in real-life society? Do you agree with the ideas in the text?

Support your opinion with concrete evidence. Use reliable and paraphrased examples. Provide page numbers for these examples when responding to literature. Use persuasive language without missing the objectives of the task.

You may not agree with everything the author put forward. Feel free to oppose but in a humane and scholarly manner.

Seek the views of other known experts in that field to avoid giving too personal but incredible stand.

The conclusion of one paragraph ushers in a new one. Use transitional sentences to connect them. They help maintain a seamless flow of ideas and maintain coherence.

Another key writing aspect to include in the body are literary techniques. Apply styles like similes, metaphors, and alliterations. They give life to your essay and make it interesting.

Literary devices help you bring out your ideas more clearly for readers to understand better.


The summary of your response paper gives a brief emphasis on the entire essay. It has 1-2 paragraphs. In a short description, state the lesson you have gained from the literary work.

Summarize the main points to emphasize your opinion. Describe how the author has impacted society. State your thesis statement without sounding like a repetition. Remain focused and persuasive.

A response paper format

The structure of a reaction paper includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction contains the theme and purpose of the subject you are working on. It follows the format of a reading response paper.

What is a reading response paper?

You react by either agreeing or disagreeing with the themes or author’s format. Support your argument with evidence in the body paragraphs.

Give a critic of the work or compare if you are reacting to many materials. You may agree or oppose the opinion or the text presentation.

Another way of responding is by evaluating the quality of content. Assess whether it successfully persuade its readers.

The conclusion comes as a highlight of the thesis statement and a final reaction to the paper. You state the broader impact of the text on society.

A response paper format has a conversational approach. It is also informal in the presentation though it is formal writing.

Writing format follows the first person as in, ‘I feel that and, ‘I agree with the author in

How to write a response paper


Armed with the well-sketched outline, you can now start your reaction essay paper. You connect with your readers in the introduction. A response paper is slightly different from another essay in the opening sentence.

A response paper opens with background information about the literary work. Name the title of the material and the author.

Give publication details. You can then forward your thesis statement based on the material you have read.


It contains supportive evidence and validating examples. Arrange them systematically as planned in the outline.

You can have three or more paragraphs as dictated by the length of the material you are responding to.

You can have a draft, edit it then write a final copy from the edited draft.


Sum up your reaction with strong concluding remarks as having been explained before.

Strive to read at least one response paper example before you draft yours. Read the sample below to get an idea of how to write a response paper.

Response paper example

George and Martha by James Marshall is a literary material for a class reader for learners between 4-8 years. The book is a collection of five stories that rotate about two animals, hippopotamuses.

The author has given the animals characteristics of human beings. The story becomes relevant and easy to understand for the targeted level of readers.

The pages layout is attractive. I feel it is inclusive. One page on the right side contains the writing. The adjacent page on the left has pictures to illustrate the story.

The visual and reading accompaniment enhance the appearance and interest of the readers. The readers enjoy reading the book.

The use of colors has been minimal. Only green, yellow, red, and grey are applied. They are relevant to the setting of the story. It is easier for the readers to relate the layout with their real life.

The story has simple words making it easier to read and follow the plot. The author has stuck to two characters only. In the fifth story, however, he introduces a dentist.

Few characters in a story are typical in this category of class readers. Its simplicity enables the targeted readers to understand.

The language used is simple for the targeted readers. However, the lack of rhyming words at the ends may hinder the reading flow. Children of this age like rhythmic reading.

James has portrayed the hippos with behaviors of human beings. They walk upright, wear clothes and even visit and have conversations.

It concurs with the general assumption about children. Many people believe that children enjoy listening to or reading stories with fantasy.

The plot supports the egocentric character in children. People assume that children like narratives that relate only to them.

James has portrayed behaviors common among children through hippo, Martha and George. Their environment is relevant to the children’s world. The two characters perform daily activities like eating, bathing, and even falling sick.

Martha and George portray the same experiences as in the real world. For instance, being forced to eat what they do not like (split pea soup).

They experience the pain of losing something and unwanted intrusion. Such experiences are common among children making it enjoyable for them to read.

In my opinion, the author dwelled much in the general assumptions about children. Other thematic ideas are minimal.

I feel he could have portrayed other meaning which only presents themselves through deep analysis not arrived by children.

Assignments are easier with tips on how to write a reaction paper. The advanced assignment involves writing about a college reader. You will benefit more by reading the response template to add more knowledge.


A strong response paper requires time to read or watch the material and write the reaction. A well-written reaction paper shows your opinion on the material and how it has impacted your life.

Planning the reaction points in line with the literary material involved is demanding. Steps on how to write a response paper emphasize reading and rereading.

You can relieve yourself of this burden. Order your response paper from online essay experts. They have amassed experience over many years.

Choose the experts for an excellent response paper within the stipulated time; you can do other things as you wait for your response paper.

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