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What is a reaction paper and how to write it?

Academic writing


Writing a reaction paper takes a lot of skills and experience. A student will have to evaluate and examine the text (or any other source of information) from all possible angles to find the one that works particularly for them. It is not enough to just give a personal opinion without providing factual data and indicating valid supporting points. That is one of the main reasons why such tasks take plenty of time to master and why students end up receiving grades that damage their final scores for the semester.

However, when you have a helpful guide on your hands, the task becomes much easier. Moreover, as long as you follow it precisely and check the assignment rubric carefully, you can get an A+ without much effort. Therefore, if you are ready, let’s dive into this short yet comprehensive writing guide and get ready to submit a perfect reaction paper!

What is a reaction paper definition?

It is one of the types of academic assignments where a student is to provide a well-grounded and evidenced response to a certain text or any other type of material that should be analyzed. Such essays may take different forms and, subsequently, the type will define the content. For example:

  • Personal
    As you may pretty easily guess from the name, most of the paper will cover a personal opinion of the student and show how this opinion was formed.
  • Comparative
    As a rule, a student has to review two or more texts and compare the information presented in them. In this case, it is necessary to come up with the evaluation criteria that will become the points of comparison.
  • Analytical
    This type of essay is usually written to analyze some parts of a text or answer a set of specific questions regarding the material. This also involves a critique of the information based on certain criteria, for example, credibility or clarity.
  • Informative
    Such written works provide readers with a lot of information about the plot, characters, author’s objectives and goals, and give a personalized evaluation of a story. If the analyzed text is scientific, it is mostly an overview of the main points made by the writer.

Creating a reaction paper outline

How to start a reaction paper? Based on years of experience, we strongly recommend you to create an outline so that you can state all the important points you would like to include as well as plan the way you will structure the paper.

What are the parts of a reaction paper? While a lot will depend on the purpose of writing one, these sections are a must:

  • Introduction in a reaction paper serves as a presentation of your main idea. Here, you need to write a hook phrase to engage your readers as well as a strong thesis statement.
  • Body of your paper is usually the most extensive part. You need to write at least 3-5 paragraphs with decent arguments and examples.
  • Conclusion is also of great importance, so pay due attention to this section. In the final part, you need to restate a thesis and write some supporting sentences giving your readers something to think about.

What is a reaction paper format?

The good news is that it’s usually up to you what format to choose for your reaction paper. Alternatively, your teacher will assign a specific format to you while giving the actual task. In most cases, you will have to write a reaction paper in APA format. You are likely already familiar with it, but if not, you are always welcome to check the APA guide on our website or request a guide at the writing center in your academic institution.

How to write a reaction paper?

  • First, it is crucial to read or watch the material that you were assigned to review. After going over it once, you may leave it for some time and re-read it later to better understand it.
  • When familiarizing yourself with the material or evaluating it, it is useful, or rather essential, to take notes, think critically about this material, and annotate the main parts to be able to quote or use some of them in your writing.
  • It is necessary to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the work when reviewing it. Write down any point that you find relevant and can potentially back up with the quote from the text.
  • Before you start writing, think about the way you will structure the paper. Feel free to use the outline above as a basis and put down the main ideas you want to cover in the body of the work in a bulleted list.
  • Even if you are only using one source, check how to cite and reference it according to the format assigned by your teacher or professor.
  • Combine your personal thoughts with the evidence you gathered and put everything on the paper. Do not forget to follow the outline you have created in order not to miss the points you wanted to include.
  • Make sure to follow the approved format and check your final draft for mistakes and drawbacks before submitting it.

Reaction paper topics

If you feel like you’ve run out of ideas for your paper, we would like to provide you with some interesting topics:

  • Modern beauty standards vs body-positivity: what do you think about them?
  • Child obesity: who is to blame?
  • Gun control: is it possible to restrict guns at all?
  • Diversity in art and cinema
  • Favoritism in the family.
  • Is victimless crime a thing?
  • Is home-schooling efficient?
  • Wealth inequality in the US
  • Should children/teenagers be allowed to make certain medical decisions?
  • Are juvenile criminals doomed?
  • The background of Israeli-Palestine conflict
  • Is choosing a major at 17 a good idea?
  • Is parental control of children regulated enough?
  • What is the future of our planet in 50 years?
  • Social media and anxiety: is the link obvious?
  • Is asking an older child to babysit younger siblings fair?

When making a choice, consider what your teacher will think about the topic and whether it is appropriate for your class. Some prompts might be either too simple or too complex for your academic level at this point and you may consult a professor to know for sure.



Academic writing

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