How to Write a Reaction Paper

How to Write a Reaction Paper

Knowing how to write a reaction paper enables you to express your perceptions or feelings about something. A reaction paper is simply what its name suggests. It is a reaction or a response to a posed problem, an idea or a reading. While writing a reaction paper, you do not reiterate what the text or reading tells you. Instead, you use what you have studied or read in formulating your original and new idea or a way of approaching the issues that the assignment or reading has brought up. Note that a reaction paper is completely different from a research paper.

Know more than just how to write a reaction paper

It is important to note that to write a good reaction paper, you do not just criticize a text for its weakness or praise it for its strength. You simply do not state your response to what you have studied. Instead, you provide justification for your reaction. For instance, when you say that a novel chapter is dragging, provide reasons for that opinion. When you say that an essay has a strong thesis statement, explain the reason for holding that view or opinion. Additionally, you must support the reasons that you provide with statistical data or academic theories.

How to write a reaction paper in three major steps

Step 1: Pre-write your reaction paper

i)                    Understand why you are writing a reaction paper

The purpose of writing a reaction paper is to enable you to think about your feelings towards a text that you have studied carefully. While writing a reaction paper, you should evaluate the work that you have studied to determine its weaknesses and strengths as well as how it accomplishes its purpose. Remember that you should not just express your view or opinion about the work. Study the work carefully to get more than its surface meaning. You must react even to the implied ideas while evaluating, analyzing and elaborating the main points and purpose of the author.

ii)                  Understand what the assignment requires you to do

After studying the work that you are required to react to, figure out what the professor or teacher wants you to do. Maybe your professor wants you to react to the work by evaluating or analyzing it. Perhaps, your teacher wants you to present a personal reaction to the work. Take time to study the assignment or prompt to know the exact reaction that you are required to present. If the assignment is not clear about this, seek clarification from your professor or teacher.

iii)                Study the work that you are required to react to

Your reaction paper should synthesize the work that you are reacting to. This implies that you must evaluate and analyze the work that you are reacting to. Therefore, take time to study the work and digest its message in order to compile ideas that it generates. To do this, you may have to study the work severally.

iv)                List down your reactions

While studying the work, list down your reactions. Take notes each time you study the work while annotating the text to enable you to locate quotations, character development and plot lines with ease. Annotating the work you are reacting to makes writing a cohesive paper easier. While reading or studying the work, ask questions about the work. This will enable you to evaluate the work and start reacting to it. For instance, you may ask yourself the following questions:

·         Does the author address any issue?

·         What is the main point of the author?

·         What are the weaknesses and strengths of the work?

·         What assumptions or points has the author made?

·         Are the ideas connected to the overall class ideas?

Step 2: Draft your reaction paper

i)                    Determine the angle to take

Your reaction paper should show some evaluation of the text that you are reacting to. It should also be critical. If it does not have these attributes, it will be just a summary of the work that you have studied. Therefore, determine the most appropriate angle to take so that you can evaluate and critique the work that you have studied.

ii)                  Free write

Free write your evaluation of the ideas of the author and your reactions towards them. Put your reactions down in writing using your own words. Express your agreement or disagreement with what the author is saying and give reasons. Free writing will enable you to overcome the writer’s block and it is a good way to start especially if you had no idea about how to write a reaction paper or where to start.

iii)                Develop a thesis

After free writing, shape your paper into a solid argument. Start by stating what you found important and interesting about what you have studied. Take your reactions, opinions, points and observations then combine them to form a claim that you can prove. This will be a thesis statement for your reaction paper. A reaction paper’s thesis statement can be a single statement via which you tell readers what you intend to criticize, analyze or prove about the work that you have studied. It should give your paper a focus.

iv)                Organize the paper

Compose your reaction paper in a basic format of an essay. Write the introduction, the body paragraphs and the conclusions. Every paragraph of the body of your reaction paper should support the thesis statement that you state in the introduction directly. Each paragraph should present your reaction to a section of the work that you studied. Make sure that your reactions are organized properly into common topics which make writing them into paragraphs easy. Start each paragraph of the body section with a clear topic sentence. For instance, you can start a paragraph with a statement of the author then state your reaction and reasons for reacting that way. You can also start with a statement from the author and follow it with an explanation of how your view contrasts that of the author. Your conclusion should restate your thesis statement as well as your reactions in a brief manner. It should also wrap up the paper by challenging the reader or the author.

Step 3: Write the final draft

i)                    Write the introduction

In the introduction of the final draft, include the name of the work, its creator or the author and your thesis statement or focus of your reaction paper. You can also include publication details of the work, author’s purpose and topic of the work. Your thesis statement should come last in the introductory paragraph.

ii)                  Analyze the body paragraphs of the draft paper and write the final draft

Remember that you should analyze, evaluate and critique the work that you are reacting to. Therefore, reread the body paragraphs of your draft to ensure that they are not simply stating facts. Avoid sentences that simply state facts from the work that you are reacting to and instead use sentences that evaluate or critique the work.

iii)                Explain the implications of the work

If for instance you are writing a reaction paper to a text in a classroom setting, evaluate and analyze it carefully then connect it to the ideas that you may have discussed with your teacher or professor. Compare the work to other works, time periods, themes or authors.

iv)                Edit your reaction paper

A reaction paper should be short, usually between 500 words and 5 pages. Therefore, edit your paper for length and clarity. Ensure that you have followed the instructions as stated in the assignment or prompt.  Spell check and proofread your reaction paper for fragments, run-ons, punctuation errors and verb-tense issues.

Finally, double check your reaction paper to determine whether you have followed directions and responded to the asked question adequately.

Bonus tips on how to write a reaction paper

  • Understand what the assignment requires you to do and carefully study the work that you are required to react to so that you can avoid including unnecessary material or information in your reaction paper.
  • If necessary or possible, include real-world examples that are familiar to you to justify your reactions.
  • After discussing each point in the body of your reaction paper, end with a conclusive point.
  • Use personal pronouns such as ‘me’ or ‘I’ because you are giving your reaction or take on the work in question.
  • Include your voice by evaluating evidence, weighing arguments and raising questions about the work and be specific.
  • Use a sample reaction paper because it makes mastering the steps on how to write a reaction paper easy. Click here for a reaction paper sample.

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