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What is a responsive paper and how to write it?

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Writing a response essay is very similar to preparing an analytical one, as you are to analyze the material and give an explanation to analysis results. However, such paper is a personal evaluation of an author’s work; therefore, your subjective point of view will be more suitable in response writing than in, say, an analytical essay.

How should you format and write such a paper? Are there any specific things to keep in mind? Let us help you answer the most common questions below.

Response paper definition

This paper is a type of academic writing in which a student should get acquainted with a certain piece of text, analyze it in every possible way, make some notes, and produce a personalized assessment of that text. In general, while writing a critical response essay, you should tell others what you feel or experience after reading, watching, or listening to the object of consideration.

How to format a response paper?

Whether you have to write short essay or a long one, be sure to follow an appropriate response paper format and structure. For instance, a three-part structure (introduction, body, and conclusion) is common for many kinds of assignments.

The formatting style choice might sometimes be left to the student. Nevertheless, remember that this choice largely depends on your topic, subject, and, at times, professor’s preferences. Thus, when you are given the assignment, do not forget to ask your professor to specify the preferred style to be applied. If you are free to choose, pick the format you are already familiar with or feel more comfortable using.

How to write a response paper in college?

In college, a professor may ask you to make up a short response essay to a text, movie, or song. Here are a few things to remember when working on this task:

  • Take notes while you read\watch\listen and use those for further analyzing. Write down your feelings, experiences, and thoughts evoked during reading, watching or listening, and use them as the basis for the paper.
  • Remember that you need to remain unbiased. For example, if you do not like the author of the certain book, it should not affect your perception of the literary piece he or she has written. And, on the contrary, if you adore the author, you cannot skip the parts of their work that do not make sense or are badly written.
  • At the writing stage, it is crucial to remember that you are writing a response paper – not a summary. Therefore, do not restate what you have heard, read, or watched but rather provide your own assessment and opinion about it.

Writing a response essay outline: tips and tricks

Before writing a response essay, it is always best to outline it first. This way, you will have a plan, which means that your will finish the writing process quicker and your essay will look more professional. Here is an example of an outline that you can use:

  • introduction with a hook and a thesis statement;
  • main part (3 or more body paragraphs, each with a key message and supporting points);
  • conclusive part (the summary of all the arguments and confirmation or refutation of the thesis statement).

Usually, while writing a critical response essay, you present some points in the introduction and discuss them in the body paragraphs. A thesis statement is an integral part of every paper where you state exactly what you will be covering in the rest of the work. It is often a single sentence in the end of the intro, and you are required to restate it in the conclusion.

Each body paragraph should cover a single idea mentioned in the thesis

How to write an introduction part?

It is important to remember that the main purpose of the introduction is to lead to the main problem of the work or its thesis statement. If you don’t know how to start a response paper, here are several good ways to do that:

  • giving general information about the problem under discussion;
  • referring to an authoritative opinion on the issue under consideration;
  • appealing to the reader in order to revive in their memory certain life experiences related to the topic of the essay;
  • describing the feelings, thoughts, impressions, and emotions that the source material arose in the author of the essay;
  • quoting the original text (or other source) related to the problem at hand;
  • referring to the facts of the author’s biography, their views, or beliefs.

In any case, the introduction should not be very voluminous, it should be logically linked to the content of the main part in terms of the key idea and style of writing.

Things to consider when writing a response paper thesis statement

Usually, the last one or several sentences of the introductory part are meant to include the thesis statement of the response essay. When formulating it, it is important to pay attention to the following:

  • The statement should not have the features of a postulate, i.e. it should not be accepted as an obvious fact, but rather an assumption or a point of view. Usually the thesis needs to be proved, which opens up rich possibilities for argumentation;
  • It should not change during the process of its proving or refutation. Changing the essence of the thesis or proving it with one argument and disproving with the other one may lead the reader to confusion;
  • The thesis statement must be clearly formulated. It is necessary to avoid the ambiguity, abstract notions, and wordiness, or otherwise, distinguishing the main idea may be difficult for the reader. Usually an affirmative or a negative sentence is used as a thesis;

How to write the body paragraphs for your response paper?

So, a response essay is mainly your own thoughts and impressions about the source material presented in accordance with logic, supported by evidence, linked by a chain of arguments, and growing into convincing conclusions. If you are stuck with writing the main part of your essay and don’t know where to start, here are some response paper guidelines. In order to build a logical text, you should:

  • formulate the key messages you want the reader to get from your essay;
  • select several arguments for each idea;
  • line up these ideas in a logical sequence: one thought should flow from another.

This way you will have a detailed plan of the body part in front of you. The only thing to be done is to build up the text sticking to this outline and your essay will be almost ready.

And when you proceed with the argumentation, remember the following tips:

  • Everything you write in the response essay must be supported by examples from the source text, movie, or song, so make references to your own feelings and support them with quotes. Such details will make your essays interesting and unique.
  • You shouldn’t be afraid to go beyond what is ‘academic enough’, better be yourself. Very often, students are concerned about whether their work will make the right impression, so they remove everything that makes the essay outstanding from the text.
  • You don’t have to joke around in your essay to make it catching, but if it feels appropriate, do so. Generally, try to use every means at your disposal to make your essay memorable.

Tips on writing a great conclusion for a response essay

The conclusive part should be compositionally related to the introduction and should contain a summary, a generalization, or a call to action. It may also indicate possible ways of solving a problem, etc. There are several commonly accepted options of what a good conclusion should include. The conclusion can be written in the form of:

  • An overview of all the arguments that you put forward in the main part, especially if the topic or problem required a variety of solutions or a chain of evidence.
  • An ethically correct objection to the author of the source text.
  • Dispute with imaginary critics of the author’s position.
  • A quote reflecting the idea or problem postulated in the essay, but it must be commented on.
  • A vivid example that summarizes your judgments.
  • Final impressions after the analysis.
  • A striking comparison or a metaphor that summarizes the reasoning.

Finally, once you are done, you may give a finished paper to somebody to check for possible weak spots. When all the mistakes are corrected, you are ready to submit the paper. And if you need a few extra tips, you are always welcome to check related articles in our blog.

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