Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing a Reaction Paper

Writing a Reaction Paper

v A reaction paper is an analysis and an evaluation of the material presented.

v In a reaction paper, make sure to give a detailed overview of the experience and tell what exactly was taken out of the experience.

v A reaction paper should be more than a simple summary of the material that you are reacting upon.

v It should include your opinion or reaction to the material.

v This may take on a variety of forms:

§ You may compare the work to other related material;

§ You may come up with ways to improve the work;

§ You may express what you learned;

§ You may concur with the work or argue against the work

v You can even use “I”, or the first person, in this type of paper.

How to Write a Reaction Paper

Consider these general steps as you plan your writing:

  • Pull your thoughts together on what you just experienced.
  • Come up with a thesis statement.
  • Come up with what reaction you want to put down on paper.
  • Decide on your organization and format draft your reaction paper.

As a starting point for your reaction paper, select two or three major points from the following list and write a paragraph for each point.

§ React to the ideas presented.

Are they clear and suitable? Explain the ideas, give examples of their application in the material presented, and compare/contrast the ideas with your own.

§ Compare it to another material.

How was it similar to the other material? How was it different? Which did you enjoy more? What makes it more enjoyable? Which did you learn more from?

§ Discuss specific insights or facts you have learned or gained from reading the material presented.

Discuss each insight or fact you have learned in a detailed paragraph, using direct examples from the material presented. Include a page reference to the material you are reacting to.

§ Make a judgment about the material presented and support it.

Did you like it? Why or why not? Elaborate on your answer by commenting on the content, style, clarity, validity of ideas and method of presentation.

§ Analyzed the material presented.

What is its purpose? How does it go about achieving its goal? What is the plan/method of presentation?

§ Tell what others might gain from the material presented.

Is it valuable? Is it informative, entertaining, or accurate? Do you think your instructor should use it again? Why or why not?

In your conclusion, summarize your ideas and tie them together.

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.

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.
  • 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:





in contrast to


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.

Strategies for Writing a Conclusion

Conclusions are often the most difficult part of an essay to write, and many writers feel that they have nothing left to say after having written the paper. A writer needs to keep in mind that the conclusion is often what a reader remembers best. Your conclusion should be the best part of your paper.

A conclusion should

  • stress the importance of the thesis statement,
  • give the essay a sense of completeness, and
  • leave a final impression on the reader.


  • Answer the question "So What?"

Show your readers why this paper was important. Show them that your paper was meaningful and useful.

  • Synthesize, don't summarize
    • Don't simply repeat things that were in your paper. They have read it. Show them how the points you made and the support and examples you used were not random, but fit together.
  • Redirect your readers
    • Give your reader something to think about, perhaps a way to use your paper in the "real" world. If your introduction went from general to specific, make your conclusion go from specific to general. Think globally.
  • Create a new meaning
    • You don't have to give new information to create a new meaning. By demonstrating how your ideas work together, you can create a new picture. Often the sum of the paper is worth more than its parts.


  • Echoing the introduction: Echoing your introduction can be a good strategy if it is meant to bring the reader full-circle. If you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay was helpful in creating a new understanding.



From the parking lot, I could see the towers of the castle of the Magic Kingdom standing stately against the blue sky. To the right, the tall peak of The Matterhorn rose even higher. From the left, I could hear the jungle sounds of Adventureland. As I entered the gate, Main Street stretched before me with its quaint shops evoking an old-fashioned small town so charming it could never have existed. I was entranced. Disneyland may have been built for children, but it brings out the child in adults.


I thought I would spend a few hours at Disneyland, but here I was at 1:00 A.M., closing time, leaving the front gates with the now dark towers of the Magic Kingdom behind me. I could see tired children, toddling along and struggling to keep their eyes open as best they could. Others slept in their parents' arms as we waited for the parking lot tram that would take us to our cars. My forty-year-old feet ached, and I felt a bit sad to think that in a couple of days I would be leaving California, my vacation over, to go back to my desk. But then I smiled to think that for at least a day I felt ten years old again.

  • Challenging the reader: By issuing a challenge to your readers, you are helping them to redirect the information in the paper, and they may apply it to their own lives.


Though serving on a jury is not only a civic responsibility but also an interesting experience, many people still view jury duty as a chore that interrupts their jobs and the routine of their daily lives. However, juries are part of America's attempt to be a free and just society. Thus, jury duty challenges us to be interested and responsible citizens.

  • Looking to the future: Looking to the future can emphasize the importance of your paper or redirect the readers' thought process. It may help them apply the new information to their lives or see things more globally.


Without well-qualified teachers, schools are little more than buildings and equipment. If higher-paying careers continue to attract the best and the brightest students, there will not only be a shortage of teachers, but the teachers available may not have the best qualifications. Our youth will suffer. And when youth suffers, the future suffers.

  • Posing questions: Posing questions, either to your readers or in general, may help your readers gain a new perspective on the topic, which they may not have held before reading your conclusion. It may also bring your main ideas together to create a new meaning.


Campaign advertisements should help us understand the candidate's qualifications and positions on the issues. Instead, most tell us what a boob or knave the opposing candidate is, or they present general images of the candidate as a family person or God-fearing American. Do such advertisements contribute to creating an informed electorate or a people who choose political leaders the same way they choose soft drinks and soap?


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.


8 Holewa, R. (2004). Writing a Reaction or Response Essay. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from

8 Holewa, R. (2004). Strategies for Writing a Conclusion. July 9, 2009, from

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