Writing Essay Responses

LEO: Literacy Education Online

Writing a Reaction or Response Essay


Reaction or response papers are usually requested by teachers so that you'll consider carefully what you think or feel about something you've read. The following guidelines are intended to be used for reacting to a reading although they could easily be used for reactions to films too. Read whatever you've been asked to respond to, and while reading, think about the following questions.

  • How do you feel about what you are reading?
  • What do you agree or disagree with?
  • Can you identify with the situation?
  • What would be the best way to evaluate the story?

Keeping your responses to these questions in mind, follow the following prewriting steps.


Prewriting for Your Reaction Paper

The following statements could be used in a reaction/response paper. Complete as many statements as possible, from the list below, about what you just read.

My Reaction to What I Just Read Is That . . .

I think that

I see that

I feel that

It seems that

In my opinion,

Because

A good quote is

In addition,

For example,

Moreover,

However,

Consequently,

Finally,

In conclusion,

What you've done in completing these statements is written a very rough reaction/response paper. Now it needs to be organized. Move ahead to the next section.


Organizing Your Reaction Paper

A reaction/response paper has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
  • The introduction should contain all the basic information in one or two paragraphs.

    Sentence 1:This sentence should give the title, author, and publication you read.

    Sentence 2, 3, and sometimes 4:

    These sentences give a brief summary of what you read (nutshell)
    Sentence 5:This sentence is your thesis statement. You agree, disagree, identify, or evaluate.


  • Your introduction should include a concise, one sentence, focused thesis. This is the focused statement of your reaction/response. More information on thesis statements is available.
  • The body should contain paragraphs that provide support for your thesis. Each paragraph should contain one idea. Topic sentences should support the thesis, and the final sentence of each paragraph should lead into the next paragraph.

    Topic Sentence
    detail -- example --quotation --detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example --quotation
    Summary Sentence


    You can structure your paragraphs in two ways:

    OR

    Author
    in contrast to
    You

  • The conclusion can be a restatement of what you said in your paper. It also be a comment which focuses your overall reaction. Finally, it can be a prediction of the effects of what you're reacting to. Note: your conclusion should include no new information.

    More information on strategies for writing conclusions is available.


Summary

In summary, this handout has covered prewriting and organizing strategies for reaction/response papers.
  • Prewriting
    • Read the article and jot down ideas.
    • How do you feel about what was said?
    • Do you agree or disagree with the author?
    • Have you had any applicable experience?
    • Have you read or heard anything that applies to this what the writer said in the article or book?
    • Does the evidence in the article support the statements the writer made?
  • Organizing
    • Write the thesis statement first.
    • Decide on the key points that will focus your ideas. These will be your topic sentences.
    • Develop your ideas by adding examples, quotations, and details to your paragraphs.
    • Make sure the last sentence of each paragraph leads into the next paragraph.
    • Check your thesis and make sure the topic sentence of each paragraph supports it.

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For questions and suggestions, please e-mail us at leolink@stcloudstate.edu.


© 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 The Write Place

This handout was written by Kathleen Cahill and revised for LEO by Judith Kilborn, the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/reaction.html

Updated: 6 April 1999


A Report on Man's Search for Meaning

Dr. Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966) is both an autobiographical account of his years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps and a presentation of his ideas about the meaning of life. The three years of deprivation and suffering he spent at Auschwitz and other Nazi camps led to the development of his theory of Logotherapy, which, very briefly, states that the primary force in human beings is "a striving to find a meaning in one's life" (154). Without a meaning in life, Frankl feels, we experience emptiness and loneliness that lead to apathy and despair. This need for meaning was demonstrated to Frankl time and again with both himself and other prisoners who were faced with the horrors of camp existence. Frankl was able to sustain himself partly through the love he felt for his wife. In a moment of spiritual insight, he realized that his love was stronger and more meaningful than death, and would be a real and sustaining force within him even if he knew his wife was dead. Frankl's comrades also had reasons to live that gave them strength. One had a child waiting for him; another was a scientist who was working on a series of books that needed to be finished. Finally, Frankl and his friends found meaning through their decision to accept and bear their fate with courage. He says that the words of Dostoevsky came frequently to mind: "There is one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my suffering."  When Frankl's prison experience was over and he returned to his profession of psychiatry, he found that his theory of meaning held true not only for the prisoners but for all people. He has since had great success in working with patients by helping them locate in their own lives meanings of love, work, and suffering.

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