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How to Write a Response Paper in College
How to Write a Response Paper in College – Quick & Simple Guide
You might sometimes be asked to write a response paper at college. This type of work may seem difficult at first, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t look like your ordinary essay or research paper. In terms of structure and approach, it’s more like a review – it examines a specific original source that you had to study and presents your reaction to the content of that source.
Overall, responses are usually assigned to a specific topic. For instance, you may need to compose a response paper to a specific film you watched in class or an article you had to read at home. Thus, if you were asked to watch Titanic and write your response for a Film Studies class or a Sociology class, you will need to include completely different content in those two responses to one source.
If you’re a Sociology student, you may need to consider the way class stratification was shown in the film, how its characters traveled on Titanic, and how the lives of each class on each floor of the ship were shown. If you’re a Film Studies student, you might need to examine some movie scenes, talk about the director’s auteur style of presenting the main characters, shooting close-ups, etc.
Thus, a response should always be tied to context and task – different people will see hundreds of different things in one and the same work of fiction.
What Is a Response Paper
In a nutshell, a response is your reaction to a specific academic work (book or article) formatted as a written assignment. It typically includes two components – a description of the material you read or watched and your reaction to that material. So, it’s necessary to possess both summarization and analysis skills to complete a response paper correctly.
How to Start a Response Paper
The rule of thumb says that a response paper should begin with a detailed summary of the work assigned to you for analysis. Thus, you need to present the data about the source (e.g., the author’s name, title, and type of the book, article, or film, and its publication date).
You can also mention the place of its publication to show whether it is a credible, authoritative piece of evidence or not. Summarize the material of that source without going into too much detail; your task is to render the key messages and central points made by the author.
How to Structure a Response Paper
If we talk about structure, you need to keep the following major parts in mind:
- Description of the source (which is the introduction)
- Reaction to the work (which is your body)
Once you proceed to the main body of the response paper, it’s time to focus on the specific points in the source text or film and give an informed, thoughtful response to all of them. For instance, you might structure your response in line with the following questions:
- How do ideas and claims voiced in the assigned work relate to my course content?
- How does this work reflect the present-day issues or problems?
- Which issues does the author focus on? How do they do it? Are their claims persuasive and impactful?
- How does the material in the assigned course relate to your life, character, values, and personal experiences?
- Is the assigned source generally valuable and significant? Does it reflect the real-world facts and situation accurately? Is the author’s position biased?
- Did you gain a better understanding of some problem or issue after your acquaintance with this source?
- Can you recommend this source to others interested in specific content?
It’s not mandatory to include all these points in every response. You can concentrate on several of them, thus making a narrower focus and dealing with the subject the way your prompt or professor’s instructions say.
How to End a Response Paper
The ending of a response paper should be more synthetic and evaluative than the introduction. Once you’ve already covered the major points of your discussion, you should focus on the overall value and significance of the studied source in the final sections. Also, don’t include the summary in the conclusion – it was needed only at the beginning to onboard the reader, while the ending should deal only with your response.
How to Write a Good Response Paper
Now let’s consider the dos and don’ts of writing an effective response to any piece of academic content you receive as an assignment. Here’s what is strongly recommended for completing a top-notch response.
Study the Prompt Carefully
As a rule, the prompt given by your supervisor contains everything you need to write a paper effectively. Your professor is hardly interested in making you wander in darkness and try to guess what you need to do. So, by following the prompt, you can achieve a much higher grade for compliance and relevance of your topic.
Don’t overreact to the content of any academic piece, as your task in most cases is to produce an objective, informed response based on the studied academic subject. So, you should reveal the facts and evidence fully and objectively, turning to your feelings and emotions only to a limited degree.
Study the source several times to find all tiny aspects of meaning and shades of context. You may feel that you’ve captured everything after the first reading, but in most cases, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Don’t just focus on the article or film as a separate piece of content. Try to connect it to the course content, your personal life, and the surrounding context to show the depth and breadth of your critical insight.
Preserve Your Voice
Try to talk from your heart by looking at the assigned content through the prism of your personality, values, and beliefs. It will give your response paper a unique touch and will score you a much higher grade.
Don’t Be Afraid to Sound Negative
You’re not obliged to love the source you’ve been assigned. It often happens that the piece is weak and non-persuasive. Instead of sounding judgmental and opinionated, your task is to provide credible evidence for these weak points.
Don’ts of effective response paper writing are:
Postponing your homework until the last moment inevitably leads to quick, superficial reading or watching. You won’t produce a high-quality piece based on such speedy preparation.
Don’t Summarize Too Much
A summary is only a small introduction to your source, while a major part of your response should be about your reactions and evaluations.
Don’t Be Too Reflective
The response paper is not about you; in most cases, it targets the understanding of how well you have managed to single out the key ideas and claims, connecting them to your course content, some theory, or academic approach. So, don’t talk about yourself too much.
Don’t Generalize or Tweak Facts
The worst sin in a response paper is to tweak or neglect facts simply because you didn’t understand them. Your task is to get to the core meaning of the source and cover it competently and profoundly.
How to Write a Critical Response Paper
In many cases, students are assigned a critical response paper, which means they need to compose a reaction piece, not simply stating what they learned and what was valuable for them in that text or movie. They have to focus on the course-specific aspects and single them out for a closer critical discussion. Here are some pointers to help you structure the critical response effectively:
- Try to single out the main problem that the author addresses in the piece you’ve been assigned. What does it relate to?
- What is the author’s central idea or claim? Do you agree with it? For instance, when you read an article about global hunger, you can come across a contradictory statement underscoring the magnitude of this problem. Would you agree with it if the author provided enough evidence to support that claim?
- Now it’s time to consider the author’s assumptions about the central idea they consider. You need to check the author’s arguments to prove their point and from which perspective they approach the issue of interest.
- Next, it’s vital to assess the evidence presented by the author to support their claims. Returning to our example, it’s not enough to say that the problem of global hunger is exaggerated. An author needs to give the statistical facts and compare the figures to show that what people expect in the next decade or two is an unrealistic scenario.
- Now that you’ve singled out the author’s claims and the evidence they use to prove their points, it’s time to turn your inner evaluator on and assess the weight of that evidence. Do the facts used by the author sound persuasive and credible? What are the gaps in their reasoning? How could those gaps be closed? Does the author’s standpoint seem biased?
- After evaluating the author’s claims and their persuasiveness, you can ponder over what you could have done differently. If you have some strong counterarguments to the author’s points, it’s possible to structure your response in a way refuting their position and proves why they’re wrong.
- The final point you may include in a critical response is a summative evaluation of what problems and arguments considered by the author seem interesting and important to you personally and which ones have failed to achieve their intended purpose.
Don’t Want to Write Your Response Paper? We Can Help
Now that you have all the response paper guidelines needed to produce a top-quality assignment for a high grade, it’s time to start working on the text right away. Keep all our tips in mind, and don’t be in a hurry; a rigorous research process takes time and requires attention and rigor from you.
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