How to Write a Reaction Paper or Reader Response.
(A Quick Introduction to Reading and Writing Critically)
Analyze the text as an individual
reader. This process is as much about YOU as it is about the text you
are responding to. As a scholar you stand in judgment over the
[from the ENGL 0310 Syllabus] "A reader response
asks the reader [you] to examine, explain and defend
her/his personal reaction to a reading. You will
be asked to explore why you like or dislike the reading,
explain whether you agree or disagree with the author,
identify the reading's purpose, and critique the text.
There is no right or wrong answer to a reader response.
Nonetheless, it is important that you demonstrate an
understanding of the reading and clearly explain and
support your reactions. "
DO NOT use
the standard high school-level approach of just writing: "I liked this book (or article or
because it is so cool and the ending made me feel happy,"
or "I hated it because it was stupid, and had nothing at all
to do with my life, and was too negative and boring." In writing
a response you may assume the reader has already read the text. Thus, do NOT summarize the contents of the
text at length. Instead, take a systematic,
analytical approach to the text.
---First of all, be sure to mention the title
of the work to which you
are responding, the author, and the main thesis of the text, using
correct English for the first sentence of your paper!
Then, try to answer ALL of the
a. What does the text have to do with you,
personally, and with your life (past, present or future)? It is not
acceptable to write that the text has NOTHING to do with you, since just about
everything humans can write has to do in some way with every other human.
b. How much does the text agree or clash with
your view of the world, and what you consider right and wrong? Use several quotes as
examples of how it agrees with and supports what you think about the world,
about right and wrong, and about what you think it is to be human.
quotes and examples to discuss how the text disagrees with what you think about
the world and about right and wrong.
How did you learn, and how much were your views and opinions
challenged or changed by this text, if at all? Did the text
communicate with you? Why or why not? Give
examples of how your views might have changed or been strengthened (or perhaps,
of why the text failed to convince you, the way it is). Please do not write "I agree with
everything the author wrote," since everybody disagrees about something, even if
it is a tiny point. Use quotes to illustrate your points of challenge, or where
you were persuaded, or where it left you cold.
d. How well does it address things that you,
personally, care about and consider important to the world? How does it address
things that are important to your family, your community, your ethnic group, to
people of your economic or social class or background, or your faith tradition?
If not, who does or did the text serve? Did it pass the "Who cares?" test?
Use quotes to illustrate.
e. Reading and writing "critically" does
not mean the same thing as "criticizing," in everyday language
(complaining or griping, fault-finding, nit-picking). Your
"critique" can and should be positive and praise the text if possible,
as pointing out problems, disagreements and shortcomings.
f. How well did you enjoy the text (or not) as
entertainment or as a
work of art? Use quotes or examples to illustrate the quality of the text as art
or entertainment. Of course, be aware that some texts are not meant to be
entertainment or art--a news report or textbook, for instance, may be neither entertaining
or artistic, but may still be important and successful.
To sum up,
what is your overall reaction
to the text? Would you read something else like this, or by this author, in the
future or not? Why or why not? To whom would you recommend this text?
An important tip from the UTEP History Tutoring Center:
draft is just that, and you should expect
to re-write your work several
times before you consider it completed. This means you should start
your writing project in advance of the due date, in order to allow yourself
enough time to revise your work. Ask someone else to read your draft(s) and
write their comments and suggestions on how you might improve the work directly
on your drafts.
Tips from UTEP History Prof. I.V. Montelongo:
The goal is to present a coherent essay with a clear
argument. ...[Y]ou should state your general argument (your thesis) in an
introductory paragraph and then use the rest of the essay to support your
position, making sure that you deal carefully with each of the issues the
questions raise somewhere in the paper.
1.) You don’t need to use footnotes. When quoting or
citing from the documents or your textbook, simply put author and page numbers
in parenthesis. Ex. (Gorn, 52) or (Jones, 167). There is absolutely no need to refer to other, outside
sources for this assignment—this is a critical essay, not a research paper...
2.) Be very careful to avoid plagiarism. Do not use
words or ideas from the internet, from any publication, or from the work of
another student without citing the source. Also, if you use more than three
words in a row from any source, including the document you’re writing about,
those words must be enclosed in quotation marks.
3.) Please just staple your papers in the upper left
hand corner. You may use a title page if you like, but please avoid plastic
covers. [However, in English 0310 use no title page, and do not staple! O.W.]
4.) Your essay should be based primarily on evidence
drawn from a close, careful reading of the documents. You can also use
appropriate background information from the textbook and lectures, but you
should use most of your space to discuss the documents.
5.) Writing style counts. You need to edit your paper
multiple times to be a successful writer.
writing a reader response, write as an educated adult, addressing other adults or fellow
scholars. As a beginning scholar, if you write that something has nothing to do with
does not pass your "Who cares?" test, but many other
people think that it is important and great, readers will probably not
agree with you that the text is dull or boring, but they may
conclude instead that you
are dull and boring, that you are too immature or uneducated to
understand what important things the author wrote.
If you did not like a text, that is fine, but criticize it either
from principle (it is racist, or it unreasonably puts down religion or
women or working people or young people or gays or Texans or plumbers, it
includes factual errors or outright lies, it is too dark and despairing, or
it is falsely
positive) or from form (it is poorly written, it contains too much verbal
"fat," it is too emotional or too childish, has too many facts
and figures or has many typo's in the text, or wanders around without
making a point). In each of these cases, do not simply
criticize, but give examples. But, always beware, as a beginning scholar,
of criticizing any text as "confusing" or "crazy," since
readers might simply conclude that you are too ignorant or slow to
understand and appreciate it!