Contrary to the popular belief, a response essay is not simply an emotional response to a literary work; in fact, it is a reaction to a paper/work/essay and more importantly should also explain why you reacted to the work in such a way. To be more precise, in a response essay you need to create meaning from the literature, as it is simply not enough to absorb and express your understanding of the text.
Purpose of a Response Essay
The primary purpose of a response essay
is to interpret and analyze the text in a clear and concise manner. Your arguments in this type of essay should justify the points that you make in your writing, and should typically be reinforced by the use of evidences such as the summary, paraphrases or direct quotes from the text that you are responding to. In very precise terms, the purpose or aim of a response essay is to exhibit your critical analysis skills, and hence demands that you explore all the significant aspects of the text, especially as it will facilitate you to validate your responses with.
When quotes from the primary text, students should follow the MLA format. If only the primary text is used as evidence, then a separate works cited page is not essential; however, if you choose to use the works of other authors to substantiate your points, then it is imperative that you include a works cited page in your response essay.
Discussed below are few steps and suggestions that will help you write a good response essay:
Read the Work
Read the literary work with great concentration. It is imperative that you make relevant notes when you come across important points in your reading. It is also crucial that you note down your feelings as well as emotional and intellectual responses while reading the text.
Understand The Work That You Are Responding To
You must gain an in depth understanding of the work that you intend to respond to, before you actually begin the writing process
. You must analyze the actions, emotions and feelings of all the characters appropriately and make a note of it. If there is a change in the stance of characters during the course of the work, then you need to analyze and note down the reason for the change in them.
Once you have prepared thorough notes, the next step is to indulge in brainstorming. While you brainstorm, cautiously examine you notes so that you do not miss any important point; you must also raise questions and answer them logically. You can also note any new ideas that come to your mind while answering questions.
Choose the Point of Focus
After brainstorming, the next step is to determine on the point that you will focus on in your reaction/response to the work. For instance, if you are responding to a topic in literature, you can choose to respond to one of the following:
- Character Analysis
- Use of metaphor and similie
- Use of allegory and symbolism
Devise and Develop a Thesis
Once you have chosen to respond to a particular area of focus, the next step is to develop a thesis
around the chosen aspect of the work. Your thesis should be debatable and you should be able to validate it through the employment of logical evidences from the primary text.
Prepare an Outline for Your Response Paper
More often than not, extensive research is not required for a response paper, especially as the average size of a response essay is not more than 5-6 pages. You can organize the outline of your paper by demarcating it into introduction, body and conclusion.
Prepare the First Draft
Make the best use of your notes while writing the first draft of your response paper. While it is recommended that you include paraphrases and direct quotes from the primary text, you must ensure that the quotes and references are not more than one-tenth of the essay. This is especially important as more frequent references can sometimes distract the readers from the actual point that you are trying to make in your essay.
Write the Final Draft
Read and edit the superfluous points; in the same way, add new points that seem to be important in your final draft.
The final draft should ideally include an introduction that includes information about the author, title, book/literary work/ journal, publisher, publication date, topic of the response essay, purpose of writing this response essay
, thesis statement as well as important supporting ideas and evidences.
The body of a response essay should detail the strengths and weaknesses of the text that you are responding to. It should answer all the what, why and how that are associated with the text. You can also mention whether the author of the text was able to convince you through this writing; if yes, then why? And if not, then why not? You also need to mention whether the work was well researched or if it lacked any thing in particular. The body of your response essay should state if you think that the author's opinion on the topic was biased or balanced. In fact, it is very important to stress here that the body should have all the points that you would ideally include in a critical essay; the only major difference being that in a response essay, you also need to include the reasons behind your intellectual and emotional response to the work that you are evaluating.
The conclusion of a response essay is certainly one of the most crucial sections, especially as, if effectively written, it can help you create the desired impression on the minds of the readers. A good conclusion often includes your personal response/reaction to the work that you are responding to. If you had any personal experiences that are associated with the topic, it is recommended that you include it in the conclusion as it would also help you share your experiences with the readers, thus helping them relate with your writing in a better way.
You must also check the final draft for grammatical and typographical errors before submission.