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How to start writing a Response Paper

A response paper is a review which is partly an analysis and partly an opinion. It can be written about any type of work; a piece of art, film or a book. Writing a response paper involves summarizing the key ideas of the text, stating your opinion about a certain part of the text, and supporting your point of view with suitable details, explanations and quotations. It is an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of a work or text.

The first prerequisite to writing a critical assessment of a book, film or artwork is to read or look at it very carefully. You can note down things as you go through it. Try to discover the underlying mechanisms on which the text operates. Compare it with other stories or movies you have read or seen respectively. To write a response paper you need to form your viewpoint into an interesting and unique argument. So look very closely and gain a thorough knowledge of the concerned object.

You can use many approaches to formulate your views before writing a response paper:

    • Select a concept and mark its occurrences

Find out if the instances which you have marked, follow a certain pattern. What the concept does for the text as a whole. The meaning of the theme in a larger context. Are the larger issues addressed by the author. If not, then how do they affect his/ her argument.

    • Concentrate on a particular argument

Note down the evidence examples given by the author to support his argument. See which evidence is the strongest or the weakest and reason out why it is so. Does the author provide fact-based evidence, logic, emotion, expertise or a blend of all strategies. Has the author given counterarguments, if so, how does he/she deal with them. Has the author contradicted himself? Is it significant and how does it affect the argument?

    • Note the things that arouse doubt, confusion or astonishment

Make a note of the places where you have questions about the text. Can you give answers from the context. Is anything left out. Are there any counterpoints?

    • Pick something that intrigues you

Read closely, understand the word's meaning according to the dictionary and also its connotations. How the word adds meaning to the argument in the text. See other similar words in the text or words which seem to give and opposite meaning. Is it possible to use these groups of words to assess a theme in the text?

    • Gauge the tone of the object in view

Try to get a feel of the tone, is it light hearted, ironic, somber, straightforward, argumentative, aggressive, detached, emotional, energetic, resigned, outraged, or analytical. Note the textual clues which indicate the tone of the essay. Is there any change in the tone, if so, what is the pattern of change? Figure out the importance of the tone and the way it influences the meaning of the text.

Writing a draft of the Response Paper

The next step in writing a response paper is to produce a draft. After reading the article closely and gaining a comprehensive knowledge of all the nuances of the object, you should pre write your response paper. Think what you feel about the article. Do you agree or disagree with it. Do you have some experience, or have you read or heard something which can be applied to what the author has said. Are the statements of the author supported with evidences?

You can frame your response by completing the statements like:

    • I think that --
    • In my opinion --
    • I see that --
    • Because --
    • I feel that --
    • A good quote is --
    • It seems that --
    • In addition --
    • Moreover --
    • For example --
    • Consequently --
    • However --
    • In Conclusion --
    • Finally --

Once you have completed as many statements as possible, you will have a rough response paper with you. You will then move to the next step of writing a response paper that is, organizing your response.


Organizing the Response Paper

While writing a response paper you should use the basic standards of effective writing, which are unity, support, coherence, clear, and error free sentences.

A response paper should have three parts. An introduction of one or two paragraphs. The first sentence should have the title, name of the author, and publication. The second, third, and fourth sentences should contain a brief summary of the work. The fifth sentence has to be a thesis statement in which you should evaluate, agree, disagree, or identify.

Alternatively, you can write the summary in one or more paragraphs and a reaction or response of two or more paragraphs, and a conclusion.

While writing a response paper, write an informative summary of the text material in the first section. Highlight the main points and key supporting points to condense the contents of the work. Illustrate important ideas by using quotations from the text. Condense the material in such a way that the reader is able to get a general idea of all the key aspects of the work. Do not discuss a single aspect in great detail, and do not overlook the other equally important points. Make the summary objective and factual. Do not include your personal reaction here. Your subjective impression should be given in the second part of the paper.

The second part portrays your response to the work. In order to develop this section of the paper, think about the way in which the work is related to the issues of the present day world. Is it related to your life, feelings, ideas and experiences. Ponder over the emotions that it stimulated. Did the work help to increase your understanding of a certain issue. Did it bring about any sort of change in your perspective? Assess the merit of the work based on the magnitude of its points, completeness, accuracy and organization. You should also mention whether you would recommend the work to others along with the reasons for doing so.

When you are writing a response paper, you should write in first person. The paragraphs in the body should support the thesis. There should be one idea in one paragraph. Topic sentences ought to support the thesis. The last sentence of each paragraph should connect to the next paragraph.

Whilst writing a response paper the structure of the paragraphs can be of two types. The author and you, or the Author in contrast to you. Use the compare or contrast method: you are stating what the author said and what was your reaction to it. So you can express your view in contrast to the author's statements. State clearly what the author says and why, then state whether you agree or disagree with it.

While writing a response paper, you have to back up your claims. It is not possible to make your statements without due evidence to support them. You have to back up your idea, argument or point.

Argument is the backbone of the response paper and textual details are the flesh. Always back up your assertions with some textual evidence from the primary source or other writings. Supporting details form a significant part of an argument. Put your points forward using expressive language, action verbs and active voice. But curtail flowery language and avoid extraneous text. Cite paraphrased or quoted material from the article for which you are writing the response paper.

Paraphrasing methods include, changing the vocabulary, changing the verb forms, changing the word class, and synthesizing pieces of information. Use synonyms and synonymous phrases to change the vocabulary. Change the active voice to passive voice and vice versa to change the verb forms. Change the adjective to verb phrase, verb to noun phrase to change the word class.

When you are writing a response paper, the conclusion should be a restatement of whatever you have written in the paper. It should be a comment which portrays your overall reaction. It may be a prediction of the outcome of what you are reacting to. Note: it should not contain any new information.

The publishing information can be incorporated parenthetically or at the bottom of the page in a footnote.

After writing a response paper you must edit and proofread your document and see if it is clear, understandable and makes sense. Look for ill explained terms and flimsy points and correct them. If you want, you can ask a friend to help in this. Check the spelling, grammar and punctuation.


The way in which Response Papers are graded

There four basic principles on the basis of which a response paper is graded. They are :

    • The presence of solid ideas.
    • The presence of a logical and inventive structure.
    • The presence of mechanical precision for all the submissions.
    • The presence of evidences from primary and secondary sources.
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