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A comprehensive guide to writing a response essay that will help you ace your academic assignments.

How to write response essay

Writing a response essay can be a challenging task, as it requires you to analyze a piece of literature, a movie, an article, or any other work and provide your personal reaction to it. This type of essay allows you to express your thoughts and feelings about the content you’re responding to, and it can help you develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

In order to craft a compelling response essay, you need to carefully read and understand the work you’re responding to, identify key themes and arguments, and formulate a clear and coherent response. This guide will provide you with tips and strategies to help you write an effective response essay that engages your readers and communicates your ideas effectively.

Key Elements of a Response Essay

A response essay typically includes the following key elements:

  • Introduction: Begin with a brief summary of the text you are responding to and your main thesis statement.
  • Summary: Provide a concise summary of the text, focusing on the key points and arguments.
  • Analysis: Analyze and evaluate the text, discussing its strengths, weaknesses, and the effectiveness of its arguments.
  • Evidence: Support your analysis with evidence from the text, including quotes and examples.
  • Personal Reaction: Share your personal reaction to the text, including your thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  • Conclusion: Sum up your response and reiterate your thesis statement, emphasizing the significance of your analysis.

By incorporating these key elements into your response essay, you can effectively engage with the text and provide a thoughtful and well-supported response.

Understanding the Assignment

Before you start writing your response essay, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the assignment requirements. Read the prompt carefully and identify the main objectives of the assignment. Make sure you understand what the instructor expects from your response, whether it is a critical analysis of a text, a personal reflection, or a synthesis of different sources.

Pay attention to key elements such as:

  • The topic or subject matter
  • The purpose of the response
  • The audience you are addressing
  • The specific guidelines or formatting requirements

Clarifying any doubts about the assignment will help you focus your response and ensure that you meet all the necessary criteria for a successful essay.

Analyzing the Prompt

Before you start writing your response essay, it is crucial to thoroughly analyze the prompt provided. Understanding the prompt is essential for crafting a coherent and well-structured response that addresses the key points effectively. Here are some key steps to consider when analyzing the prompt:

  • Carefully read the prompt multiple times to fully grasp the main question or topic that needs to be addressed.
  • Identify the key words and phrases in the prompt that will guide your response and help you stay focused on the main theme.
  • Consider any specific instructions or requirements outlined in the prompt, such as the length of the essay, the format to be used, or the sources to be referenced.
  • Break down the prompt into smaller parts or components to ensure that you cover all aspects of the question in your response.
  • Clarify any terms or concepts in the prompt that are unclear to you, and make sure you have a solid understanding of what is being asked of you.

By analyzing the prompt carefully and methodically, you can ensure that your response essay is well-structured, focused, and directly addresses the main question or topic at hand.

Developing a Thesis Statement

Developing a Thesis Statement

One of the most critical aspects of writing a response essay is developing a clear and strong thesis statement. A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of your essay. It sets the tone for your entire response and helps guide your reader through your arguments.

When developing your thesis statement, consider the following tips:

Remember, your thesis statement should be specific, focused, and debatable. It should also be located at the end of your introduction paragraph to ensure it captures the reader’s attention and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.

Structuring Your Response

When structuring your response essay, it’s essential to follow a clear and logical format. Start with an introduction that provides background information on the topic and presents your thesis statement. Then, organize your body paragraphs around key points or arguments that support your thesis. Make sure each paragraph focuses on a single idea and provides evidence to back it up.

After presenting your arguments, include a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your thesis. Remember to use transitions between paragraphs to ensure a smooth flow of ideas. Additionally, consider the overall coherence and cohesion of your response to make it engaging and easy to follow for the reader.

Main Body Paragraphs

Main Body Paragraphs

When writing the main body paragraphs of your response essay, it’s essential to present your arguments clearly and logically. Each paragraph should focus on a separate point or idea related to the topic. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea, and then provide supporting evidence or examples to reinforce your argument.

  • Make sure to organize your paragraphs in a coherent and sequential manner, so that your essay flows smoothly and is easy for the reader to follow.
  • Use transition words and phrases, such as “furthermore,” “in addition,” or “on the other hand,” to connect your ideas and create a cohesive structure.
  • Cite sources and provide proper references to strengthen your arguments and demonstrate the credibility of your analysis.

Remember to analyze and evaluate the information you present in each paragraph, rather than simply summarizing it. Engage critically with the texts, articles, or sources you are referencing, and develop your own perspective or interpretation based on the evidence provided.

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How to Write a Response Paper: Outline, Steps & Examples

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Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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How to Write a Literary Analysis

Response essays are a frequent assignment in many academic courses. Professors often ask students to share their thoughts and feelings about a variety of materials, such as books, articles, films, songs, or poems. To write an effective response paper, you should follow a specific structure to ensure that your ideas are well-organized and presented in a logical manner.

In this blog post, we will explore how to write a good outline and how it is used to develop a quality reaction essay. You will also come across a response paper example to help you better understand steps involved in writing a response essay.  Continue reading to explore writing tips from professional paper writers that you can use to improve your skills.

Purpose of a Response Essay

Understanding reasons for writing a reaction paper will help you prepare better work. The purpose of a response essay will be:

  • To summarize author's primary ideas and opinions: you need to give a summary of materials and messages the author wants you to understand.
  • Providing a reflection on the subject: as a writer, you also need to express how you relate to authors' ideas and positions.
  • To express how the subject affects your personal life: when writing a response paper, you are also required to provide your personal outcome and lesson learned from interacting with the material.

Response Paper Introduction

The success of response papers is partly dependent on how well you write the introductory paragraph. As with any academic paper, the introduction paragraph welcomes targeted readers and states the primary idea.  Below is a guideline on how to start a response essay:

  • Provide a compelling hook to capture the attention of your target audience.
  • Provide background information about the material, including the name and author of the work.
  • Provide a brief summary of main points to bring readers who are unfamiliar with the work up to task and enable them to follow up on your subsequent analysis.
  • Write a thesis statement at the end of your introductory paragraph to inform readers about the purpose and argument you are trying to relay.

Response Essay Thesis Statement

A thesis statement summarizes a paper's content within a sentence or two. A response essay thesis statement is not any different! The final sentence of the introductory paragraph of a reaction paper should give readers an idea of the message that will be discussed in your paper.  Do you know how to write a thesis statement for a response essay? If you follow the steps below, you should be able to write one:

  • Review the material you are responding to, and pinpoint main points expressed by authors.
  • Determine points of view or opinions you are going to discuss in the essay.
  • Develop your thesis statement. It should express a summary of what will be covered in your reaction. The sentence should also consider logical flow of ideas in your writing.
  • Thesis statement should be easy to spot. You should preferably place it at the end of your introductory paragraph.

Response Paper Body Paragraph

In most instances, the body section has between 1 and 3 paragraphs or more. You should first provide a summary of the article, book, or any other literature work you are responding to.  To write a response essay body paragraph that will capture the attention of readers, you must begin by providing key ideas presented in the story from the authors' point of view. In the subsequent paragraph, you should tell your audience whether you agree or disagree with these ideas as presented in the text. In the final section, you should provide an in-depth explanation of your stand and discuss various impacts of the material.

Response Paper Conclusion

In this section of a response paper, you should provide a summary of your ideas. You may provide key takeaways from your thoughts and pinpoint meaningful parts of the response. Like any other academic work, you wind up your response essay writing by giving a summary of what was discussed throughout the paper.  You should avoid introducing new evidence, ideas, or repeat contents that are included in body paragraphs in the conclusion section. After stating your final points, lessons learned, and how the work inspires you, you can wrap it up with your thesis statement.

1. Pick a Topic for Your Response Essay

Picking a topic for response essay topics can be affected either by the scope of your assignment as provided by your college professor or by your preference. Irrespective of your reason, the guideline below should help you brainstorm topic ideas for your reaction:

  • Start from your paper's end goal: consider what outcomes you wish to attain from writing your reaction.
  • Prepare a list of all potential ideas that can help you attain your preferred result.
  • Sort out topics that interest you from your list.
  • Critique your final list and settle on a topic that will be comfortable to work on.

Below are some examples of good topics for response essay to get you started:

  • Analyzing ideas in an article about effects of body shaming on mental health .
  • Reaction paper on new theories in today's business environment.
  • Movies I can watch again and again.
  • A response essay on a documentary.
  • Did the 9/11 terror attacks contribute to issues of religious intolerance?

2. Plan Your Thoughts and Reactions

To better plan your thoughts and reactions, you need to read the original material thoroughly to understand messages contained therein. You must understand author's line of thinking, beliefs, and values to be able to react to their content. Next, note down ideas and aspects that are important and draw any strong reactions.  Think through these ideas and record potential sequences they will take in your response paper. You should also support your opinions and reactions with quotes and texts from credible sources. This will help you write a response essay for the college level that will stand out.

3. Write a Detailed Response Paper Outline

Preparing a detailed response paper outline will exponentially improve the outcome of your writing. An essay outline will act as a benchmark that will guide you when working on each section of the paper. Sorting your ideas into sections will not only help you attain a better flow of communication in your responsive essay but also simplify your writing process.  You are encouraged to adopt the standard response essay outline provided in the sample above. By splitting your paper into introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs, you will be able to effectively introduce your readers to ideas that will be discussed and separate your thoughts from authors' messages.

4. Write a Material Summary

For your audience to understand your reaction to certain materials, you should at first provide a brief summary of authors' points of view. This short overview should include author's name and work title.  When writing a response essay, you should dedicate a section to give an informative summary that clearly details primary points and vital supporting arguments. You must thoroughly understand the literature to be able to complete this section.  For important ideas, you can add direct quotes from the original sources in question. Writers may sometimes make a mistake of summarizing general ideas by providing detailed information about every single aspect of the material. Instead of addressing all ideas in detail, focus on key aspects.  Although you rely on your personal opinion and experience to write a response paper, you must remain objective and factual in this section. Your subjective opinion will take center stage in the personal reaction part of the essay.

5. Share Your Reaction

After summarizing the original material, the second part of a response paper involves writing your opinion about author’s point of view. After a thorough review of the material, you should be able to express your perspective on the subject.  In this section, you are expected to detail how the material made you feel and how it relates to your personal life, experience, and values. Within the short response essay, you may also be required to state whether you agree or disagree with author's line of thinking. How does the material relate to current issues, or in what way does it impact your understanding of a given subject? Does it change your opinion on the subject in any way? Your reaction should answer these questions.  In addition, you may also be required to outline potential advantages and shortcomings of the material in your reaction. Finally, you should also indicate whether or not you would endorse the literal work to others.

6. Conclude Your Response Essay

Do you know how to write a response paper conclusion? It should be the icing on the cake. Irrespective of how good previous sections were, your reaction essay will not be considered to be exceptional if you fail to provide a sum up of your reaction, ideas, and arguments in the right manner.  When writing a response essay conclusion , you should strive to summarize the outcome of your thoughts. After stating your final point, tell readers what you have learned and how that material inspired or impacted you. You can also explain how your perspective and the author's point of view intertwine with each other.  Never introduce new ideas in the conclusion paragraph. Presenting new points will not only disrupt the flow of ideas in the paper but also confuse your readers because you may be unable to explain them comprehensively.  You are also expected to link up your discussions with the thesis statement. In other words, concluding comments and observations need to incorporate the reaffirmation of the thesis statement.

Proofread Your Response Paper

It is important to proofread your response paper before submitting it for examination. Has your essay met all instructional requirements? Have you corrected every grammatical error in your paper? These are common questions you should be asking yourself.  Proofreading your work will ensure that you have eliminated mistakes made when working on your academic work. Besides, you also get the opportunity to improve your logical flow of ideas in your paper by proofreading.  If you review your work thoroughly before submitting it for marking, you are more likely to score more marks! Use our Paper Rater , it is a tool that can help you pinpoint errors, which makes going through your work even simpler.

Response Essay Examples

If you have never written this type of academic paper before, responsive essay examples should help you grasp the primary concepts better. These response paper samples not only help you to familiarize yourself with paper's features but also help you to get an idea of how you should tackle such an assignment. Review at least one written response essay example from the compilation below to give you the confidence to tackle a reaction paper. Response essay example: Book

Response paper example: Poem

Response paper sample: Movie

Example of a response paper: Article

Sample response essay: Issue

Response Paper Format

It is important to follow a recommended response essay format in order to adhere to academic writing standards needed for your assignment. Formats depend on your institution or the discipline.  A reaction paper can be written in many different academic writing styles, including APA, MLA, and Chicago, with each demanding a slightly different format.  The outlook of the paper and referencing varies from one writing style to another. Despite the format for a response paper, you must include introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs.

Response Essay Writing Tips

Below are some of the best tips you can use to improve your response papers writing skills:

  • Review your assignment instructions and clarify any inquiries before you start a response paper.
  • Once you have selected topics for response essay, reviewed your original materials, and came up with your thesis statement, use topic sentences to facilitate logical flow in your paper.
  • Always ensure that you format your work as per the standard structure to ensure that you adhere to set academic requirements. Depending on the academic writing style you will be using, ensure that you have done your in-text citation as per the paper format.
  • If you have never worked on this kind of academic paper, you should review examples and samples to help you familiarize yourself with this type of work. You should, however, never plagiarize your work.
  • You can use a first-person perspective to better stress your opinion or feelings about a subject. This tip is particularly crucial for reaction part of your work.
  • Finally, before submitting your work, proofread your work.

Bottom Line on Response Paper Writing

As discussed in this blog post, preparing a response paper follows a two-step approach. To successfully work on these sections, you need to plan properly to ensure a smooth transition from the reading and analyzing the original material to writing your reaction. In addition, you can review previous works to improve your writing skills.  So, what is a response essay that will immediately capture the attention of your instructor? Well, it should have a captivating introduction, evidence backed reaction, and a powerful conclusion. If you follow various tips outlined above and sum up your work with thorough proofreading, there is no chance that you can fail this type of assignment.

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FAQ About Response Paper

1. how long is a short response essay.

The length of a short response essay varies depending on topic and your familiarity with the subject. Depending on how long original sources are and how many responsive points you have, your reaction paper can range from a single paragraph of 150-400 words to multiple paragraphs of 250-500 words.

2. How to start a response body paragraph?

Use an argumentative topic sentence to start your responsive paper paragraph. Failing to begin a paragraph with an elaborate topic sentence will confuse your readers. Topic sentences give readers an idea of what is being discussed in the section. Write a responsive body paragraph for every new idea you add.

3. Is reaction paper similar to a response paper?

Yes. Reaction papers and response essays are used interchangeably. Responsive essays analyze author's point of view and compare them with your personal perspective. This type of academic writing gives you freedom to share your feelings and opinion about an idea. People also discuss how ideas, concepts, and literature material influence them in a response paper.

What Is a Response Paper?

It is vital to understand the meaning of a response essay before you start writing. Often, learners confuse this type of academic work with reviews of books, articles, events, or movies, which is not correct, although they seem similar.  A response paper gives you a platform to express your point of view, feelings, and understanding of a given subject or idea through writing. Unlike other review works, you are also required to give your idea, vision, and values contained in literal materials. In other words, while a response paper is written in a subjective way, a review paper is written in a more objective manner.  A good reaction paper links the idea in discussion with your personal opinion or experience. Response essays are written to express your deep reflections on materials, what you have understood, and how the author's work has impacted you.

Response Essay Outline

You should adhere to a specific response paper outline when working on an essay. Following a recommended format ensures that you have a smooth flow of ideas. A good response paper template will make it easier for a reader to separate your point of view from author's opinion. The essay is often divided into these sections: introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs.  Below is an example of a response essay outline template:

  • Briefly introduce the topic of the response paper
  • State your thesis statement or main argument
  • Provide a brief summary of the source material you are responding to
  • Include key details or arguments from the source
  • Analyze the source material and identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Evaluate the author's arguments and evidence
  • Provide your own perspective on the source material
  • Respond to the source material and critique its arguments
  • Offer your own ideas and counterarguments
  • Support your response with evidence and examples
  • Summarize your main points and restate your thesis
  • Provide final thoughts on the source material and its implications
  • Offer suggestions for further research or inquiry

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How to Write a Response Paper?

In this section, we will provide you with tips on how to write a good response paper. To prepare a powerful reaction essay, you need to consider a two-step approach. First, you must read and analyze original sources properly. Subsequently, you also need to organize and plan the essay writing part effectively to be able to produce good reaction work. Various steps are outlined and discussed below to help you better understand how to write a response essay.

Example of a Response Summary

Below is a sample summary response essays example to help you better understand how to write one. A Summary of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Reaction in Response Body Paragraph Example

Below is a reaction in a response essay body paragraph sample to help you improve your skills in writing the response body paragraph: Reaction Paragraph Example

Example of Response Paper Conclusion

You can use the responsive essay conclusion sample below as a benchmark to guide you in writing your concluding remarks: Conclusion Example

Response Paper Definition

The classic film The Adventure of Robin Hood (1938), as directed by Michael Curtis and William Keighley, stars an infamous outlaw, Robin Hood, who "robbed from the rich and gave to the poor''. The charismatic and charming Saxon lord, Robin Hood (Flynn), becomes an outlaw and seeks justice for poor people by fighting Sir Guy of Gisborne (Rathbone), Sheriff of Nottingham (Copper), and Prince John (Rains), who were oppressing people. After assembling an outlaw group, Robin defies the excessive taxes imposed on poor people by stealing from wealthy individuals and redistributing wealth to the destitute in society. Robin Hood is eventually lured into an archery tournament and gets arrested, but survives an execution. He later helps King Richard to regain his lost throne and banish Prince John.
My main takeaway from watching The Adventure of Robin Hood (1938) is that society should prioritize good and justice over laws if the set rules oppress people. Prince John, Sir Guy, and Sheriff Cooper were cruel and petty and used existing laws to oppress and exploit poor people. In response, Robin Hood employed unorthodox means and tried to help oppressed people in society. I agree with his way of thinking. Laws are made to protect people in society and ensure justice is served. Therefore, when legislation fails to serve its purpose, it becomes redundant. Even in current society, we have seen democratic governments funding coups when presidents start oppressing their people. Such coups are supported despite the fact that presidency is protected by law. Although Robin Hood's actions might encourage unlawfulness if taken out of context, I would still recommend this film because its main message is advocating for justice in the community.
There are a lot of similarities between the film's message and my opinion, values, and beliefs. Based on my personal principles, I believe the actions of the main character, Robin Hood, are justifiable and acceptable. Several people in modern society would also agree with my perspective. The movie has provided me with multiple lessons and inspirations. The main lesson acquired is that laws are not ultimate and that we should analyze how they affect people rather than adhere to them blindly. Unless legislation protects people and serves justices, it should be considered irrelevant. Also, morality outweighs legislation. From the movie, I gathered that morality should be the foundation for all laws, and at any time, morality and greater good should be prioritized above laws. The main inspiration relates to being brave in going against some legislation since the end justifies the means sometimes. My point of view and that of the movie creators intertwine. We both advocate for human decency and justice. The argument discussed supports the idea that good and justice is greater than law.

How to Write a Response Paper

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Most of the time when you are tasked with an essay about a book or article you've read for a class, you will be expected to write in a professional and impersonal voice. But the regular rules change a bit when you write a response paper.

A response (or reaction) paper differs from the formal review primarily in that it is written in the first person . Unlike in more formal writing, the use of phrases like "I thought" and "I believe" is encouraged in a response paper. 

You'll still have a thesis and will need to back up your opinion with evidence from the work, but this type of paper spotlights your individual reaction as a reader or viewer.

Read and Respond

Grace Fleming

For a response paper, you still need to write a formal assessment of the work you're observing (this could be anything created, such as a film, a work of art, a piece of music, a speech, a marketing campaign, or a written work), but you will also add your own personal reaction and impressions to the report.

The steps for completing a reaction or response paper are:

  • Observe or read the piece for an initial understanding.
  • Mark interesting pages with a sticky flag or take notes on the piece to capture your first impressions.
  • Reread the marked pieces and your notes and stop to reflect often.
  • Record your thoughts.
  • Develop a thesis.
  • Write an outline.
  • Construct your essay.

It may be helpful to imagine yourself watching a movie review as you're preparing your outline. You will use the same framework for your response paper: a summary of the work with several of your own thoughts and assessments mixed in.

The First Paragraph

After you have established an outline for your paper, you need to craft the first draft of the essay using all the basic elements found in any strong paper, including a strong introductory sentence .

In the case of a reaction essay, the first sentence should contain both the title of the work to which you are responding and the name of the author.

The last sentence of your introductory paragraph should contain a thesis statement . That statement will make your overall opinion very clear.

Stating Your Opinion

There's no need to feel shy about expressing your own opinion in a position paper, even though it may seem strange to write "I feel" or "I believe" in an essay. 

In the sample here, the writer analyzes and compares the plays but also manages to express personal reactions. There's a balance struck between discussing and critiquing the work (and its successful or unsuccessful execution) and expressing a reaction to it.

Sample Statements

When writing a response essay, you can include statements like the following:

  • I felt that
  • In my opinion
  • The reader can conclude that
  • The author seems to
  • I did not like
  • This aspect didn't work for me because
  • The images seemed to
  • The author was [was not] successful in making me feel
  • I was especially moved by
  • I didn't understand the connection between
  • It was clear that the artist was trying to
  • The soundtrack seemed too
  • My favorite part was...because

Tip : A common mistake in personal essays it to resort to insulting comments with no clear explanation or analysis. It's OK to critique the work you are responding to, but you still need to back up your feelings, thoughts, opinions, and reactions with concrete evidence and examples from the work. What prompted the reaction in you, how, and why? What didn't reach you and why?

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24 How do I Write a Response Essay?

Pre-writing steps:

  • Read the essay prompt carefully.
  • Activate schema

Actively read the assigned article.

Analyze the article to determine the rhetorical situation.

  • Consider your own thoughts about the article.
  • Decide how you want to respond.

Conference #1

Structure your essay.

  • Outline the essay you want to write.

Draft a working thesis.

Drafting the essay:

Write a summary of the article as your introduction.

Write 3 or more body paragraphs in response to the article.

Review your draft so far.

Write the conclusion to summarize your thoughts.

Revising steps:

Peer review

Conference #2

  • Revise your essay.
  • Proofread your essay.

—————————————–

Read the essay prompt carefully

  • Highlight or note the important points
  • Ask questions for any part that isn’t clear to you.
  • Retrieve your assigned article.

Activate schema.

  • Skim and scan the article to identify the topic and the author(s).  Look for subtitles and boldly printed words.  Read the author’s bio which is often located at the beginning or at the end of the article.  Identify the publication.  Read the first sentence of each paragraph.  Ask yourself, “Am I familiar with this topic?” This will help you to activate your schema.
  • identify the key points and ideas
  • make note of where you agree or disagree
  • highlight impactful sentences to quote the author later
  • paraphrase the author’s words
  • summarize the article
  • What is the message?
  • What is the context?
  • Who is the author?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • What is the structure of the text?
  • Who is the audience?

Consider your own thoughts about the author and their message.

  • What do I think about this topic?
  • Is this author trustworthy?
  • Is the article written to inform or persuade me?
  • If it is written to persuade, on which points do I agree or disagree?
  • Is the author biased?
  • Does the article have an objective or subjective tone?
  • What did I like or dislike about what the author has written in this article?
  • What made the most sense to me? What was confusing about this article?

Decide how to respond.

There are several ways in which to respond to an article.  You may choose a type of response from the following list:

  • Before/After- Discuss your thoughts about this topic before you read the article, then explain what you learned from the article using evidence from the text.
  • Persuasion- Discuss which parts of the articles you found convincing and/or which parts of the article you did not find convincing.
  • Agreement or Disagreement- Discuss an idea that the author presented to which you agree or disagree. If there were two points of view that were presented, explain which one you agree with and explain why.
  • Affect- Explain the emotional effect that the article had on you. Explain why you responded that way including your own background and your own thoughts/ experiences.
  • Association- Share something from the article that is similar to your own experience.  Or relate the information to a different article that you have read before this article.
  • Most students wait until they have a draft, but seriously, this is the best time to talk to a writing tutor about your project.
  • HCC has several options for free tutoring. Best choice: after class, drop in at the Composition and Learning Center (CLC) in Duncan Hall 210. This is staffed by current HCC English professors, and you can talk to one for 10-20 minutes about your assignment and your ideas for your topic, and what to include in your essay.
  • There are also drop-in tutors at the Learning Assistance Center (LAC) in RCF 340.
  • an introduction- a summary paragraph of the article
  • a response- 3 or more body paragraphs responding to the author
  • a conclusion- a concluding paragraph summing up your thoughts.

Outline the essay your want to write.

  • Use the structure of the response essay to determine the order of each paragraph.  Gather your notes. Review the way you chose to respond.   Write a main idea statement for each paragraph of your essay.  Then, list (using bullet points) the details that you want to include under each main idea statement. You can also list relevant quotes from the article that support your ideas.
  • A thesis includes your topic and what you are going to say about this topic.
  • A thesis always has two parts: a topic AND something important about this topic that your essay is going to discuss.
  • A thesis is NEVER a question.
  • Use your notes and the rhetorical situation of the article to write a summary.  Begin with an introductory sentence that introduces the publisher, author, topic, purpose, and the main idea of the article.
  • Next, write a few sentences to describe the key points the author made to support the main idea.
  • End your summary with your thesis.
  • During your pre-writing, you decided how you might want to respond to the article.  Use your outline to draft your body paragraphs.  Use your synthesis skills to corporate relevant quotes from the article into paragraphs to support your ideas.
  • Is your summary of the article concise, objective, and accurate?
  • Do your body paragraphs respond to the article?
  • Do you have a main idea for each of the body paragraphs?
  • Do the sentences in each paragraph support each main idea?
  • This question is extremely important.  If you find that you did not respond to the article in the way you had originally planned, revise your thesis.
  • End your essay by summarizing the main points you shared in your body paragraphs.
  • A classmate; a friend; a relative: ask someone to read over your work. Note their questions as they read.
  • At the very least, read your essay aloud to yourself, stopping when you get tripped up in words or sentences. Consider how to make these rough spots easier to read.
  • Schedule a conference with your instructor, or drop in on their student/office hours, or send them a Zoom request to talk about any questions you have about your draft.
  • You can also drop in at the CLC in DH210 or LAC in RCF 340 to have a conference with a tutor.

Revise your essay

  • Look at your outline: have you forgotten anything?
  • Do a paragraph outline of just main idea sentences for each paragraph: you’ll have a 5-7 sentence summary of your whole essay.

Proofread your essay

  • take on an objective tone?
  •  introduce the article properly?
  • capture the main point of the article?
  • respond to the article?
  • capture your thoughts and opinions?
  • begin with a main idea statement followed by detail?
  • include quotes from the article?
  • concisely review your thoughts about the article?
  • Major grammar errors include run-on sentences, comma splices, and sentence fragments.
  • You are responsible for running Grammarly or another grammar/spellcheck before your essay is submitted.
  • Your instructors want to focus on improving your WRITING—not technical errors that machines can catch easily.
  • Use Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines for formatting your academic essay and for any in-text citations or a Works Cited page.

College Reading & Writing: A Handbook for ENGL- 090/095 Students Copyright © by Yvonne Kane; Krista O'Brien; and Angela Wood. All Rights Reserved.

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how to write an essay in response to an article

How to Write a Response Paper: Understanding the Basics

how to write an essay in response to an article

Writing a response paper is an important task for students. It allows them to critically analyze a text, express their thoughts and opinions, and improve their writing skills. In this comprehensive guide, our ‘ write my essay ’ experts will explore the basics of how to write a response paper, pre-writing steps, and crafting a winning introduction, body, and conclusion. So, let's dive in and discover a flawless response paper at the end!

Defining What is a Response Paper

A response paper is a written assignment that requires the student to read a text and respond to it by expressing their views on the topic. It can be a stand-alone assignment or part of a larger project. When writing a response paper, it is important to remember the audience you are writing for. Are you writing for your professor, classmates, or a broader audience? This will help you tailor your writing style and tone accordingly.

Moreover, this kind of academic assignment should not only summarize the text but also provide a critical analysis of its main arguments and ideas. It should demonstrate your understanding of the text and your ability to engage with it in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

Purpose of Crafting a Response Paper

Writing response papers aims to demonstrate your understanding of the text, give your opinions and thoughts, and provide evidence to support your claims. In addition, this type of paper can help you develop critical reading skills and formulate coherent arguments. By engaging with the text, you can identify its strengths and weaknesses, evaluate its claims, and form your own opinions about the topic.

Furthermore, crafting response paper examples can be a valuable exercise in self-reflection. It allows you to articulate your thoughts and feelings about a particular topic and can help you better understand your values and beliefs.

Types of Response Papers

There are various types of response papers, each with its own unique characteristics and requirements. These include:

How to Write a Response Paper

  • Personal response : Here, you express your personal opinions, thoughts, and emotions about the text. This type of paper allows you to engage with the text more personally and explore your reactions to it.
  • Critical response : Involves analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting the text to provide a critique. This type of paper requires you to engage with the text more objectively and analytically, focusing on its strengths and weaknesses and providing evidence to support your claims.
  • Research-based response : Research-based response paper examples involve using external sources to support your claims. This type of paper requires you to engage with the text and supplement your analysis with evidence from other sources, such as scholarly articles, books, or interviews.

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How to Write a Response Paper: Pre-Writing Steps

Before diving into the writing process, laying a strong foundation through effective pre-writing steps is crucial. These initial stages not only provide clarity and structure but also enhance the overall quality of your response. And if you aren’t sure how to write a reaction paper , these steps can also be employed for your assignment.

How to Write a Response Paper

Carefully Read and Analyze the Text

The first step in response paper creation is to carefully read and analyze the text. This involves more than just reading the words on the page; it requires critical thinking and analysis. As you read, pay attention to the author's tone, style, and use of language. Highlight important points, take notes, and identify the author's main argument and themes. Consider the context in which the text was written and how it relates to contemporary issues.

For example, if you are reading a historical document, think about how it reflects the social and political climate of the time. If you are reading a work of fiction, consider how the characters and plot relate to larger themes and ideas. By carefully analyzing the text, you will be better equipped to write a thoughtful and insightful response.

Take Notes and Highlight Key Points

Another important step is to take notes while reading, as it helps you organize your thoughts and ideas. As you read through the text, jot down your reactions, questions, and observations. Highlight key points, evidence, and quotes that support the author's argument. This will make it easier to refer back to specific parts of the text when you are writing your response.

Additionally, taking notes can help you identify patterns and connections between different parts of the text. This can be especially helpful when you are trying to develop your thesis statement and outline.

Develop a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a central argument that you will be making in your paper. It should be clear and concise and provide direction for your essay. Your thesis statement should be based on your analysis of the text and should reflect your own perspective.

When developing your thesis statement, consider the main argument of the text and how you agree or disagree with it. Think about the evidence and examples that the author uses to support their argument and how you might use those same examples to support your own argument. Your thesis statement should be specific and focused and should guide the rest of your essay.

Create an Outline

If you want to unlock the most important tip on how to ace a response paper perfection, it lies in creating a well-organized outline. Identify key points, evidence, and arguments that you want to discuss and organize them into a well-written paper format. Your outline should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Start by introducing the text and your thesis statement. In the body paragraphs, discuss your main points and provide evidence from the text to support your argument. Use quotes and examples to illustrate your points. In conclusion, summarize your main points and restate your thesis statement. In the following paragraphs, we'll delve deeper into writing each section with more details.

Actual Writing Process with a Response Paper Format

Now that you have completed the essential pre-writing steps, it's time to delve into the actual writing process of your paper. In this section of our comprehensive guide, we will explore how to start a response paper along with developing insightful body paragraphs and culminating in a powerful conclusion.

Engage the Reader In Your Introduction

The introduction is the first impression that your reader will have of your paper. It is important to make a good first impression, so you want to engage them right from the start. There are several ways to do this, such as providing context, using a hook, or starting with a rhetorical question.

For example, if you are writing a paper about the effects of social media on mental health, you might start with a hook like:

'Did you know that the average person spends over two hours a day on social media? That's more time than they spend exercising or socializing in person.' 

When working with your paper, this hook immediately grabs the reader's attention and makes them interested in learning more about your topic.

Provide Context and Background Information

Once you have engaged the reader, it's important to provide context for the text you are analyzing. This includes information like the author's name, the title of the work, and the publication date. This information helps the reader understand the context of the text and why it is important.

For example, if you are analyzing a poem by Maya Angelou, you would want to provide some background information about her life and work. You might mention that she was a civil rights activist and a prolific writer and that the poem you are analyzing was written in 1969, during a time of great social and political upheaval in the United States.

Present Your Thesis Statement

Finally, it's important to present your thesis statement in the introduction. The thesis statement is the main argument of your paper, and it should be presented clearly and concisely so that the reader knows exactly what your paper is about.

For instance, if you are crafting a response paper example about the effects of social media on mental health, your thesis statement might be something like:

'This paper argues that excessive use of social media can have negative effects on mental health, including increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.'

By presenting your thesis statement in the introduction, you are setting up the rest of your paper and giving the reader a roadmap for what to expect. This helps them stay focused and engaged throughout your paper.

Meanwhile, you can find out more about how to write an essay format and set the right referencing style for your assignment!

Crafting the Body

One key aspect of ensuring a well-structured and articulate paper is to utilize your typical response paper outline as a reliable roadmap. By following it, you can maintain focus, coherence, and logical flow throughout your response. Moreover, keep the following points in mind as you proceed with crafting the body of your response paper:

  • Use evidence and examples from the text:
  • Incorporate relevant quotes, statistics, or other evidence that supports your opinions and arguments.
  • By using evidence from the text, you can strengthen your argument and demonstrate a deep understanding of the material.
  • Analyze and interpret the text:
  • Demonstrate your critical thinking skills by thoroughly analyzing and interpreting the text.
  • Explain how the text relates to your thesis statement and overall argument.
  • Provide a clear and concise response that showcases your knowledge and understanding of the material.
  • Address counterarguments and alternative perspectives:
  • Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to demonstrate your ability to consider different perspectives.
  • Explain why your argument is stronger than the opposing viewpoint.
  • Provide evidence to support your claim and solidify your stance.

Concluding Your Paper

In the conclusion of your response paper example, it is essential to consolidate your reactions, ideas, and arguments regarding the text. Summarize the key points discussed throughout your paper, drawing inferences whenever applicable. 

When uncertain about ​​ how to write a conclusion for a research paper , the first important rule is to refrain from introducing new ideas or reiterating information already presented in the introduction of your paper. Instead, provide a concise and coherent summary that encapsulates the essence of your response, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Response Paper Example

To show you how to write a response paper effectively, our essay writer has provided an amazing example below. It will inspire you and help you on your own learning journey. Get ready to explore new ideas and expand your knowledge with our response paper sample.

As we conclude this comprehensive guide on how to write a response paper, you have acquired the essential tools and knowledge to embark on your writing journey with confidence. With a firm grasp of pre-writing strategies, the art of crafting an engaging introduction, organizing a well-structured body, and understanding the significance of supporting arguments and addressing counter arguments with a good response paper example, you are poised to leave a lasting impression.

And if you ever find yourself struggling to find inspiration or facing challenges with any aspect of your essays, order essay online and take advantage of the opportunity to seek assistance from our professional writing service team. By trusting us with your college essays and ordering a response paper, you can confidently navigate your academic journey!

Take the Stress Out of Writing Response Essays!

Our expert writers are ready to craft a tailored, insightful response essay example that meets your requirements.

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

how to write an essay in response to an article

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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What Response Essays Are and How to Tackle Them

Writing a response essay might seem like a challenging task at first. Firstly, you need to understand to a great extent what the study that you are responding to is talking about and then make sure that you write an insightful, true to the source essay about it. Even if you need to write a response essay as part of your homework for faculty studies or high school assignments or you want to exercise your argumentative skills, it might seem like a lot of work at first. However, having in mind a clear structure of your future response essay is essential.

Before beginning to go through the main structure points that you need to check when writing a response essay, there are some tips that you need to know and that will help you lay your thoughts on paper in a more efficient way. First of all, after reading the essay or the article that you are responding to, you need to settle on whether you want to attack the ideas presented in that article or to agree with them. Based on that, you will structure the components of your response essay. For example, if your response essay is talking about protecting the environment and you want to show your agreement with the ideas presented in the original essay, then you should build your response essay around the idea of consolidating the thoughts in the main source.

Secondly, it is important that your readers clearly understand your position after reading your response essay. This means that you need to expose all possible arguments which might strengthen or attack the ideas presented in the main article. In order for you to achieve a strong position, it might be helpful to also expose a personal experience that can be related to the topic you are writing an essay about. This will not only make your argument points stronger but will also help your readers empathize with your writing. Also, it is important that you keep in mind that your response essay should be a response to something you have read, something that is a hot topic at the moment in various social contexts or something that has been debated for a long time and you want to present a new approach to things.

You also have to keep in mind that the more knowledge you show to your audience in your response essay about the author and the topic that is being debated, the more credibility you will gain. Read some cause or effect essay topics to get inspired. This is why it is important to also present a context in your response essay, such as details about the author and the paper you are choosing to respond to. Finally, after debating the ideas of the original text, you can also choose to talk about the effectiveness of the source text. It can be about how the main paper managed to reach the audience, if the writing style was effective, and how the author you are responding to had chosen to expose their ideas.

If we were to summarize the main points you should keep in mind before starting to tackle the components of a response essay, these would be:

  • Make sure to clearly expose your position regarding the article or paper you are responding to
  • Don’t forget to expose the personal experiences or thoughts that might help you relate to the matter in question and your reader to empathize with your way of writing
  • Prove that you have knowledge about the author of the main text and can put your response essay in a context
  • Evaluate the main text’s effectiveness and how it managed to reach the audience

Get Started: Write an Introduction

One important thing when writing a response essay is the way you structure the introduction. This is one of the key parts of your essay, as it embodies the topic you are about to debate and the premises you are basing your essay on. The introduction will make your audience decide if they want to keep reading your response essay or not. This is why it is important that you keep in mind the following tips:

  • Introduction is all about catching your audience’s attention
  • It should provide a brief description of the topic
  • You should be able to briefly summarize your thesis
  • Don’t forget to give a short description of the author and the article you are responding to

It might be the case that the source article that you are about to discuss contains several parts or has different ideas which can be debated and your response article refers only to a part of them. In this case, don’t forget to also mention this. Do not forget that you need to keep it short and catchy.

How to Make Your Introduction Catchy – Introduction Ideas

Writing a catchy introduction that will make your reader read the whole response article is challenging. This is why you will find here some ideas to start with, such as:

  • Making use of a statistic: some puzzling conclusion that researchers might have reached at some point and which is relevant to the topic you are about to respond to.
  • Citing someone who is related to the area of expertise of your topic or is known for having deep knowledge about the topic. The more popular the person you are citing is, the more efficient your introduction will be.
  • Story-telling or reproducing a dialogue might also help, provided they are relevant and short.
  • Starting with a question or with a situation regarding the topic you are about to talk about might also be a good introduction idea.

You might even want to combine some of these ideas and write your introduction based on an example and a statistic or any other possible combination. Whatever you choose, make sure it stays to the point and is catchy to the eye of the reader.

How You Can Connect Introduction to Conclusion

Another important aspect that you need to consider when writing your introduction to the response essay is that you need to somehow connect it to the conclusion. In order for you to achieve a perfectly cyclic response essay, you need to find a way to make the two feel correspondent. This will help your response essay have a “frame” and will help your writing style be more efficient.

It might be a bit difficult at first to start with an introduction and end with a conclusion that are connected, mostly if you want to write very long and thorough response essays. However, one important suggestion that might help is to always make sure that before starting off your response essay, you are clear about the ideas and position you want to present. This will help you avoid changing your position as you advance in writing your essay and make your introduction and conclusion connected, giving a sense of symmetry to your text.

Below you can find some examples of how you can connect your introduction with the conclusion:

  • If you are writing about the usage of mobile devices in our everyday life, you could start your introduction by exposing a real-life experience, maybe someone who is driving to work on a normal day and is stuck in traffic. You could start by asking your readers what they would do on their phones as they wait in traffic and end with several possible outcomes of this scenario.
  • If you are choosing to present an essay about a personal experience and you start with an introduction about how a certain day started in your life, you could end your essay with how that day ended. This way, you will make sure you keep your readers connected to the story and have their attention all throughout the essay.
  • If you decide to write about any other topic, such as a topic of national importance or even an environmental topic, you could start by stating the facts to which you want to draw the attention and end with the facts about the current situation or how it can be improved.

How to Write a Strong Thesis

After making sure that you have caught your readers’ attention, it is all about making it clear to them what your position regarding the source article is. However, you should also provide a context to your response article by mentioning details about the author and the main ideas in the article that you have chosen to respond to. It can be that you are choosing to respond only partially, to a few of the ideas presented there, so this is the reason why it is important to clearly state the ideas of the article you want to respond to. Make sure to give an account of whatever it is debated in the article, by presenting the information in an objective way. At this point, it is more important for your readers to understand what you are trying to agree or disagree with than hear your personal opinion. Also, exposing the ideas of the source text in an objective, impersonal way will help your readers decide for themselves if the position you are taking is one that they would take or not.

Afterwards, it is vital that you expose what is known as “thesis statement” by allocating one paragraph in which you clearly state if you agree or disagree with the main topic presented in the source text. This should start with “I agree/I don’t agree with” and should be followed by a short and powerful message about the main reason why you are taking this position regarding that text.

The next step is to talk more about the reasons you are considering attacking or agreeing with the ideas presented in the original text. This can be done by either reviewing what the author is saying or just expanding on the main ideas. You can, for example, try to understand why the author has reached a certain conclusion that you are debating by trying to relate it to the author’s background or career. It can be that the author has chosen to promote oil drilling because they work in a factory that wants to make this process a sustainable one. It is important that you stay true to your debate and present the situation from both points of view: yours and the author’s.

How to Respond to Articles – Ideas

After tackling the introduction and the conclusion, the main body of your response essay is left to deal with. This is mainly the way in which you choose to present the source text and where you are standing regarding it. It is up to you if you choose to agree or disagree, however, what you have to keep in mind is that you need to be consistent and stay true to the topic you have chosen to debate.

One way to do that is to map the main three components of the response essay, namely, the introduction, body, and conclusion. Here are some helpful suggestions on how to structure your responding ideas:

  • Whether you agree or disagree, you can state 3 or more reasons for which you are doing so. Make sure to start each new paragraph and allocate enough space for your ideas to be clearly distinguished and stated.
  • If you are partially agreeing or disagreeing, make sure to always mention that so that your readers will clearly understand your position.
  • It is always important to see how the author’s ideas managed to reach the audience and in which ways the ideas were brought forward.

How to Better Structure the Body of the Response Essay

Make sure to utilize evidence to back-up your thesis. In order to do this, you can use quotes, author tags or simply rely on other readings and give references.

Make sure that you achieve a personal voice throughout the text. This can be done by differentiating yourself from the author and using author tags.

By using author tags, you communicate to your readers the fact that it is the author you are responding to who has a certain idea or it is their article that makes this reference. You can use any of these suggestions when talking about someone’s article:

  • The author mentions
  • The author refers to
  • The author is suggesting
  • The author writes
  • The author asks
  • The author recommends
  • The author is presenting
  • The author points out
  • The author relates
  • The author pleads
  • The author denies
  • The author’s remarks point to
  • The author explains

Write a Conclusion Your Readers Won’t Forget

One important thing to keep in mind when writing a conclusion to your response essay is that you shouldn’t repeat the arguments in the same form in which you have presented them in the body. Offering a conclusion to your response article is still needed, as this will help your readers make a clear decision whether they agree or disagree with the ideas presented in your response essay.

Besides making sure that your essay is built around a very powerful introduction and a conclusion that sums up the main ideas of your position regarding this essay, you can also:

  • Present the topic that you have been debating throughout the essay in a broader perspective; for example, if the topic you are tackling is national, you can connect this topic to the situation in other countries worldwide
  • Promote an organization or an event that has some influence on the topic you have been responding to
  • Present the current situation of the topic you are talking about and ring the alarm if anything needs to be done about it
  • Summarize how your arguments shed a new light on the topic

A Brief Summary of How a Response Essay Should Look Like

Keeping everything in mind, the essential parts of a response essay and the main suggestions that you have to keep in mind when starting to write are:

  • Paragraph 1: The first part of the introduction which needs to be vivid, catchy and reflect the point you are about to make.
  • Paragraph 2: Provide a context to your response essay: details about the source-text and the author and what the main points in the article are.
  • State your position regarding the ideas presented in the introduction and if you agree with the author’s take on the matter or not.
  • Clearly mention if you are going to question the author’s position or expand on the author’s account of the facts.
  • Give clear arguments pro or against the matter and allocate one paragraph to each of these arguments.
  • Use statistics, story-telling, research findings, scientific discoveries, and any other tools suggested in this article.
  • Provide an insightful and catchy conclusion that correlates with the introduction you have chosen for your response essay.

How to Write a Compelling Comparative Essay

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5.7: Sample Response Essays

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How to write response essay: guidelines from expert team.

January 31, 2022

How To Write Response Essay

Response writing can be tricky, but if you follow our step-by-step guide, you’ll have no trouble coming up with a great one! We will walk you through exactly how to write a response paragraph, how to properly structure it, and even give you some helpful tips to make your essay shine!

So, let’s get writing!

Table Of Contents

What is a response essay, structure of a response essay, steps to write a good response essay, 5 key features needed in a response essay, tips to write a stellar response essay, response essay example.

First things first – what exactly is a response essay? A response essay is a type of writing that allows the writer to respond to a piece of work. It can be a text, image, or event. It’s essentially a reaction paper – you’re giving your thoughts and feelings about whatever it is you’re responding to.

Response essays allow you to freely communicate your thoughts and feelings about any topic. Unlike summary essays where you just restate what you read, response essays require you to genuinely understand the content and context of the work you’re assigned.

Once you have a strong grasp of the subject material, you have to concisely put forth your insights, opinions, and analysis.

Now that you know what a response essay is, it’s time to learn how to structure one. A good response essay follows a specific format, which allows your ideas to be conveyed clearly and concisely.

Here’s the basic essay response format :

  • Introduction
  • Summary Of The Work
  • Reaction, Response, and Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements that form the response paper format.

  • Introduction Your introduction should introduce the work that you’re responding to and mention the name of the author. You should also include your thesis statement in this section – this is your position on the subject matter. Overall, this part should be about 1-2 paragraphs long and it should keep the reader interested to read the rest of the response paper.

For example : “Should America atone for its past sins against black people? This is the question raised by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his powerful article ‘The Case For Reparations’. The author strongly believes that America should make reparations to the African-American community, and after much contemplation, I wholeheartedly agree with him”.

  • Summary Of The Work In your summary, you want to give a general overview of the content without giving away too much. You’ll highlight the main points of the work, provide direct quotations, and keep the writing objective and factual.

For example : “Ta-Nehisi Coates makes many compelling arguments for why America should make reparations to the African-American community. He cites statistics, historical evidence, and personal stories to support his position. According to him, “To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting American’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte.”.

  • Reaction, Response, and Analysis In this section, you’ll want to go into detail about your reaction to the work. What did you like or dislike? What were your thoughts and feelings? Be sure to back up your claims with evidence from the text.

For example : “I found Coates’ argument to be very convincing. He makes a strong case for reparations by providing ample evidence to support his position. I was also moved by his personal stories about the impact of slavery on African-Americans today. His writing is powerful and emotional, and it made me think about America’s history in a new light”.

Many students struggle with writing a good response essay simply because they’re confused about how to write response essay, where to begin, how to begin, and what to do next. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of writing a fabulous response paper that is sure to get the attention of your teachers and professors.

  • Step 1 – Read and Understand the Work Before you can write a good response essay, you first need to read and understand the work that you’re responding to. Whether it’s a book, movie, article, or poem, the quality of your response paper is directly proportional to how well you’ve understood the source material. Take notes as you read and highlight important passages so that you can refer back to them later. This is an important step in learning how to start a response essay.
  • Step 2 – Brainstorm Your Ideas Once you’ve read and understood the work, it’s time to brainstorm your ideas. This is the part of the process where you let your thoughts flow freely and write down any and all responses that come to mind. Don’t worry about making sense or sorting them out yet – just get everything down on paper.
  • Step 3 – Write Your Thesis Statement Your thesis statement is your position on the subject matter – it should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. This is what you’ll be arguing for or against in your essay. Don’t be afraid to genuinely put forth your opinion, whether it’s positive or negative.
  • Step 4 – Support Your Thesis with Evidence Now it’s time to support your thesis statement with evidence from the text. Quote directly from the work and provide a brief explanation of how it supports your argument. Don’t forget to cite your sources! The summary of the work and your personal opinion on the matter will form the core content of your paper.
  • Step 5 – Write a Conclusion Once you’ve finished arguing for your position, it’s time to write a conclusion. Restate your thesis and summarize your main points. You may also want to leave readers with something to think about or a call to action. A solid conclusion can sometimes make all the difference between a great response essay and a mediocre one!

By following these steps, you’ll be able to write some of the best response essays that are well-organized, informative, and persuasive. All it takes is a little time and practice! On the contrary, you can choose buying custom college papers and be free of this assignment.

When writing a response essay, there are certain key features that you need to keep in mind. Whether it’s for school, college, or university, these five features will make your response essay unique and interesting.

  • Summarizing – This is probably the most important feature of writing a response essay. You need to be able to summarize the work succinctly, highlighting the most important points without giving away too much of the plot or story.
  • Paraphrasing/Quoting – In order to support your argument, you’ll need to quote and paraphrase the work extensively. Make sure that you always credit your sources!
  • Organization – Your essay should be well-organized and easy to follow. Start with a strong introduction, then move on to your main points. Wrap things up with a conclusion that reiterates your position. No professor likes reading a haphazardly put-together essay!
  • Transitions – To keep your essay cohesive, you’ll need to use strong transitions and connecting words between paragraphs. This way, the reader can move between different portions of your writing (e.g. Introduction > Summary > Thesis > Conclusion) without losing interest.
  • Argumentation – Last but not least, your essay needs to be filled with strong argumentation. Make sure to back up your points with evidence from the text, and don’t be afraid to state your opinion openly. This is what will set your response essay apart from the rest!

We’ll share with you a few of our tried and tested essay writing tips that will masterfully elevate your response essay.

  • Take your time and read the source material carefully.
  • Write a strong thesis statement that reflects your position on the matter.
  • When stating definitive opinions, cite instances from the text to strengthen your stand.
  • Argument your points persuasively and with conviction.
  • Proofread your essay for errors such as grammar, language, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Have someone else, like a trusted friend or teacher, read it over for you as well – fresh eyes can sometimes catch mistakes that you’ve missed.
  • Use the help of a reliable paper writing service to assist you in the process.

Now that you’ve read all our instructions, there’s only one thing left to do. You have a chance to ged extended response essay sample and see all our tips in practice.

Response Paper In his article “The Militarization of the Police”, James Bouie argues that recent traegy in Ferguson is only one symptom of the broad problem of increasing police militarization in the USA. The purpose of the author is to bring this question into light and warn American citizens about the danger it entails for the whole society, with a special emphasis being placed on racial minorities. Bouie addresses the general public who are concerned with political and social tendencies in the US. The author begins his article with discussion of the photographs from Ferguson demonstration, pointing out the signs of inadequate aggression of the police toward the citizens. He puts the Ferguson tragedy in the context of increasing militarization of the US police force, which he believes to be one of the major problems of the American society. Bouie asserts that this process began with the war on drugs in the 1980s and intensified after the 9/11 attacks and the wars in the Middle East. He estimates that the value of military hardware owned by U.S. police agencies increased at 450 times from 1990 to 2013, despite the falling crime rates. Bouie also discusses the issue of increased SWAT deployment, which is disproportionately utilized in black and Latino neighborhoods. The conclusion the author draws is that the availability of heavy military weapons and a long-standing tradition of punitive policing toward racial minorities are the major factors that are likely to cause repressive reactions of the police. The Ferguson tragedy has recently riveted the attention of the whole U.S. population. While we may lament the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it is important to view these events in the broader context of police misconduct, as the author does it. Despite numerous changes and advancements in law enforcement over the last decade, such as community policing and recruiting more officers from racial minorities, the society is still staunchly opposed to the police force, and the negative sentiment has predictably grown after the Ferguson unrest. The frequent SWAT raids are definitely an overreaction, given that they are mostly deployed for low-level offenses, such as drug use. Repressive and punitive actions with the disproportionate targeting of racial minorities suggest that positive changes in the police were of purely decorative nature and were not effective to eradicate stereotypes, prejudices and aggression from the mind of law enforcement officers. While the author does not explore this perspective in detail, the increasing militarization of the police is often viewed as a logical consequence of the militarization of the whole US politics, which is obsessed with identifying and eliminating national enemies. Incessant employment of war rhetoric by the officials has the power to alter the mindset of the whole society, not only police officers. The article provides a comprehensive account of the author’s opinion. No doubts arise as to the appropriateness of his observations, largely because they are aligned with the common social reaction to Ferguson tragedy. However, the author does not explore any potential solutions to the problem, thus leaving this question open for the readers to consider. Another overlooked issue, which may interest the readers, is how the situation in the USA compares to other developed countries and what policies they implement to prevent the overreaction of police force. The author has achieved the purpose of persuading his readers that events in Ferguson are linked to a broader social problem, as his arguments appeal to the common sense and show clear causality between acquisition of military equipment and overreaction to offenses and unrest. The author made his article more persuading by referring to Ferguson photographs, statistics and authoritative specialists to support his argument.

Want Someone To Write An Essay For You?

We hope this guide has taught you everything you need to know about how to write a strong response essay. Keep these key points in mind, and you’re guaranteed to produce a top-notch paper! If you want additional advice on how to write a response paper, simply hire someone to write an essay . Our team of professional, educated academic writers will write high-quality papers and essays that will get you in the good books of any of your teachers! It’s fast, affordable, and always 100% original. You won’t be disappointed! Good luck with all of your future academic endeavours!

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How to Write a Response Paper

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 Fact Checked

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, volunteer authors worked to edit and improve it over time. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 81,663 times. Learn more...

For a response paper, you must read a text, understand the point of the text, and determine what your own response to that point is. The response paper is more analytical than argumentative. Moreover, even though you need to write about your personal response, that response must be credible and not emotional. Keep reading to learn more about how to go about writing a response paper.

Understanding the Text

Step 1 Take thorough notes.

  • Highlighting draws your attention to words and passages you found significant in the text you read, but it does not allow you to record your initial thoughts regarding those passages.
  • Take notes on a separate piece of paper. Include paraphrases and quotes taken from the passage as well as your own thoughts about the information you write down.

Step 2 Develop your understanding of the reading by asking questions.

  • What is the main issue that the author or creator is attempting to address?
  • What stance does the author take on this issue? What is the author's main claim or point?
  • Are there any assumptions the author makes in forming his or her claim? Are these assumptions valid or biased?
  • What sort of evidence does the author offer in support of his or her point?
  • What points of the argument are strong?
  • What points of the argument are weak?
  • What are some possible counterarguments to the claims or arguments made by the author?
  • What, if anything, makes the main issue or author's main claim important?

Step 3 Consider the work within a larger body of works, when appropriate.

  • How does this work relate to others within a collection of works on the same topic, or with regards to another work on a similar topic written by a different author?
  • Do the authors of comparable works agree or disagree?
  • Do the authors of comparable works address the same part of the same issue or different aspects of it? Do they view the matter being discussed in a similar or different way?
  • Does the author who wrote the piece you're responding to have past works that address the same topic? How has that author's views become stronger or weaker in comparison to past works?
  • Does the information from one text strengthen or weaken the text you're responding to, and if so, how?

Step 1 Do not drag your feet.

  • Even if you think your ideas would benefit from simmering for a little while before performing a thorough analysis, you should still take the time to write down your initial reaction while it is fresh. In many ways, your initial reaction is the most honest. You can talk yourself into another reaction as time passes, and that other reaction may seem more “intellectual,” but your initial response was your true reaction to the text and should be kept in mind.

Step 2 Ask yourself about your own reaction.

  • How does the text relate to you personally, whether in the past, present, or future? How does the text relate to the human experience as a whole?
  • Does the text agree or disagree with your worldview and sense of ethics?
  • Did the text help you to learn about the topic or understand an opposing view? Were your opinions or previous assumptions challenged or confirmed?
  • Does the text directly address topics that you care about or consider important?
  • Was the text enjoyable or admirable for its genre? In other words, if the text was fictional, was it enjoyable as entertainment or art? If it was historical, was it admirable from the perspective of a historian? If it was philosophical, was it adequately logical?
  • What is your overall reaction? Would you recommend the work to another person?
  • As you progress through these questions, write your answers down. In addition to writing down your answers and reactions, also provide evidence from the text to support these answers. Evidence can be in the form of direct quotations and paraphrasing.

Step 3 Determine which reactions are the strongest.

  • Re-examining your notes
  • Recording new ideas as they come
  • Using pro/con analysis
  • Raising questions about your reactions and using your notes from the text to answer them
  • Comparing your reactions directly to your notes and determining which topics have the most overlap

Step 4 Choose an area of focus or organizing argument.

  • Depending on the requirements of the assignment, you may need to come up with one organizing argument or multiple arguments to discuss. Even when you have multiple points to bring up, however, they should still be somewhat connected to each other.
  • A key difference between a traditional thesis and an organizing argument is that a thesis usually exists to prove a point, fact, or thought. An organizing argument demands that the writer analyze the reading in an ongoing manner. [6] X Research source

Block Response Format

Step 1 Write your introduction.

  • For a four to five page paper, your introduction can extend to one or two paragraphs. For a shorter paper, though, restrict it to a short paragraph made up of three to five sentences.
  • Introduce the work by describing how the work to which you are responding fits in within the broader topic it addresses.
  • You could also introduce the work by explaining your own beliefs or assumptions about the topic the work agrees with before explaining how the work challenges or supports your beliefs.

Step 2 Summarize the work.

  • For a four to five page paper, this section should only take up about two to three paragraphs.
  • Describe the content of the work and present the author's main arguments, especially as they affect your response.
  • The summary should be somewhat analytical in nature instead of a strict retelling. As you present the details of the author's work and argument, you should use an analytical tone and discuss how well the author managed to get those points across.

Step 3 Present and discuss your organizing argument.

  • Note that this response format is best to use when you are focusing on a single major theme or argument in a work. It does not work as well if you are discussing multiple ideas presented by a work.
  • Back up your analysis with quotes and paraphrases. Make sure that each example is properly cited.
  • If you took the time to find textual evidence to support your responses during the prewriting stage, this portion of your paper should be fairly easy. All you really need to do is arrange your argument in a coherent manner and write in the details of the support you have already gathered.

Step 4 Write your conclusion.

  • Even for a four to five page paper, you only need one standard paragraph to accomplish this. For a shorter paper, make this paragraph only three to five sentences long.
  • State how this work has a broader effect on you and to the genre or community in which it is a part.

Mixed Response Format

Step 1 Write an introduction.

  • Your introduction can span one to two paragraphs for a four to five page paper, but for a short one to two page paper, keep the introduction down to a single short paragraph.
  • You can either introduce the work by describing how it fits into the topic it addresses as a whole or by explaining how it impacts your own beliefs on the topic.
  • By the end of the introduction, you should have mentioned your "thesis" or organizing argument.

Step 2 Summarize and agree or disagree with one point.

  • Note that this mixed response format is a better option when you have many loosely connected themes or ideas you want to react to instead of a single overarching one.
  • This method allows you to weave your summary and analysis together more naturally and more cohesively. As you bring up a point or example from the text, address your own interpretation of that point directly following your mention of it.

Step 3 Summarize and agree or disagree with a second point, and so on.

  • Continue on as you did with your first point. As you summarize a point or argument from the original text, immediately follow it with your own intellectual response to the argument.

Step 4 Wrap things up with a conclusion.

  • For a four to five page paper, your conclusion should be a standard size paragraph. For a shorter paper, keep this paragraph down to about three sentences.
  • When appropriate, explain how the work has a widespread effect on the genre or community it fits into.
  • ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-response-paper
  • ↑ https://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/handouts/the-writing-process-1/invention/Writing-a-Response-or-Reaction-Paper
  • ↑ https://twp.duke.edu/sites/twp.duke.edu/files/file-attachments/response-paper.original.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.awelu.lu.se/genres/student-writing-genres/response-paper/
  • ↑ http://faculty.washington.edu/momara/Reader%20Response.pdf
  • ↑ https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/writing/how-to-write-a-strong-response-essay.html
  • ↑ https://writing.colostate.edu/comparchive/rst/resource9.cfm
  • ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-reaction-paper
  • ↑ http://writing.colostate.edu/comparchive/rst/resource9.cfm
  • ↑ http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/handouts/the-writing-process-1/invention/Writing-a-Response-or-Reaction-Paper

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About This Article

If you need to write a response paper, read through the original texts, and take thorough notes, including paraphrases and quotes as well as your own thoughts. As soon as you finish reading the text, start drafting your ideas, since the thoughts will still be fresh in your mind. Open the paper with an introduction stating the major theme in the work you’re responding to, along with an overview of your reaction to it. Include a section briefly summarizing the original text, then go into detail about whether you agree or disagree with the work. Conclude by restating and defending the significance of your stance. For tips on writing a response to a work with multiple themes, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to write an essay in response to an article

Introduction

Goals and Goal Setting

Goals Common to All RST Writers

Other Goals to Consider

Defining My Own Goals

Advice about Assignments

Getting Started: Listing Topics to Write about in the Tutorial

Narrative One: Personal Piece on a Significant Experience

Narrative Two: Academic Piece on a Significant Experience

Summary/Response One

Summary/Response Two

Tutorial Evaluation Postscript

On Using the Resources for Writers

Generating and Developing Ideas

Finding/Expressing Main Ideas

Showing v. Telling Sentences

Focusing Topic Sentences

Thesis Statements

Reading Strategies

Assessing Your Reading Strategies

Summarizing

Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays

Discourse Analysis Worksheet

Trade Magazines

Selecting Readings

A summary is a concise paraphrase of all the main ideas in an essay. It cites the author and the title (usually in the first sentence); it contains the essay's thesis and supporting ideas; it may use direct quotation of forceful or concise statements of the author's ideas; it will NOT usually cite the author's examples or supporting details unless they are central to the main idea. Most summaries present the major points in the order that the author made them and continually refer back to the article being summarized (i.e. "Damon argues that ..." or "Goodman also points out that ... "). The summary should take up no more than one-third the length of the work being summarized.

The Response:

A response is a critique or evaluation of the author's essay. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions in relation to the article being summarized. It examines ideas that you agree or disagree with and identifies the essay's strengths and weaknesses in reasoning and logic, in quality of supporting examples, and in organization and style. A good response is persuasive; therefore, it should cite facts, examples, and personal experience that either refutes or supports the article you're responding to, depending on your stance.

Two Typical Organizational Formats for Summary/Response Essays:

1. Present the summary in a block of paragraphs, followed by the response in a block:

Intro/thesis Summary (two to three paragraphs) Agreement (or disagreement) Disagreement (or agreement) Conclusion

Note: Some essays will incorporate both agreement and disagreement in a response, but this is not mandatory.

2. Introduce the essay with a short paragraph that includes your thesis. Then, each body paragraph summarizes one point and responds to it, and a conclusion wraps the essay up.

Intro/thesis Summary point one; agree/disagree Summary point two; agree/disagree Summary point three; agree/disagree Conclusion

How to Write a Critical Response Essay With Examples and Tips

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  • Icon Calendar 16 May 2024
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A critical response essay is an important type of academic essay, which instructors employ to gauge the students’ ability to read critically and express their opinions. Firstly, this guide begins with a detailed definition of a critical essay and an extensive walkthrough of source analysis. Next, the manual on how to write a critical response essay breaks down the writing process into the pre-writing, writing, and post-writing stages and discusses each stage in extensive detail. Finally, the manual provides practical examples of an outline and a critical response essay, which implement the writing strategies and guidelines of critical response writing. After the examples, there is a brief overview of documentation styles. Hence, students need to learn how to write a perfect critical response essay to follow its criteria.

Definition of a Critical Response Essay

A critical response essay presents a reader’s reaction to the content of an article or any other piece of writing and the author’s strategy for achieving his or her intended purpose. Basically, a critical response to a piece of text demands an analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of a reading. Moreover, these operations allow readers to develop a position concerning the extent to which an author of a text creates a desired effect on the audience that an author establishes implicitly or explicitly at the beginning of a text. Mostly, students assume that a critical response revolves around the identification of flaws, but this aspect only represents one dimension of a critical response. In turn, a critical response essay should identify both the strengths and weaknesses of a text and present them without exaggeration of their significance in a text.

Source Analysis

How to write a critical response essay

1. Questions That Guide Source Analysis

Writers engage in textual analysis through critical reading. Hence, students undertake critical reading to answer three primary questions:

  • What does the author say or show unequivocally?
  • What does the author not say or show outright but implies intentionally or unintentionally in the text?
  • What do I think about responses to the previous two questions?

Readers should strive to comprehensively answer these questions with the context and scope of a critical response essay. Basically, the need for objectivity is necessary to ensure that the student’s analysis does not contain any biases through unwarranted or incorrect comparisons. Nonetheless, the author’s pre-existing knowledge concerning the topic of a critical response essay is crucial in facilitating the process of critical reading. In turn, the generation of answers to three guiding questions occurs concurrently throughout the close reading of an assigned text or other essay topics.

2. Techniques of Critical Reading

Previewing, reading, and summarizing are the main methods of critical reading. Basically, previewing a text allows readers to develop some familiarity with the content of a critical response essay, which they gain through exposure to content cues, publication facts, important statements, and authors’ backgrounds. In this case, readers may take notes of questions that emerge in their minds and possible biases related to prior knowledge. Then, reading has two distinct stages: first reading and rereading and annotating. Also, students read an assigned text at an appropriate speed for the first time with minimal notetaking. After that, learners reread a text to identify core and supporting ideas, key terms, and connections or implied links between ideas while making detailed notes. Lastly, writers summarize their readings into the main points by using their own words to extract the meaning and deconstruct critical response essays into meaningful parts.

3. Creating a Critical Response

Up to this point, source analysis is a blanket term that represents the entire process of developing a critical response. Mainly, the creation of a critical response essay involves analysis, interpretation, and synthesis, which occur as distinct activities. In this case, students analyze their readings by breaking down texts into elements with distilled meanings and obvious links to a thesis statement. During analysis, writers may develop minor guiding questions under first and second guiding questions, which are discipline-specific. Then, learners focus on interpretations of elements to determine their significance to an assigned text as a whole, possible meanings, and assumptions under which they may exist. Finally, authors of critical response essays create connections through the lens of relevant pre-existing knowledge, which represents a version of the element’s interconnection that they perceive to be an accurate depiction of a text.

Writing Steps of a Critical Response Essay

Step 1: pre-writing, a. analysis of writing situation.

Purpose. Before a student begins writing a critical response essay, he or she must identify the main reason for communication to the audience by using a formal essay format. Basically, the primary purposes of writing a critical response essay are explanation and persuasion. In this case, it is not uncommon for two purposes to overlap while writing a critical response essay. However, one of the purposes is usually dominant, which implies that it plays a dominant role in the wording, evidence selection, and perspective on a topic. In turn, students should establish their purposes in the early stages of the writing process because the purpose has a significant effect on the essay writing approach.

Audience. Students should establish a good understanding of the audience’s expectations, characteristics, attitudes, and knowledge in anticipation of the writing process. Basically, learning the audience’s expectations enables authors to meet the organizational demands, ‘burden of proof,’ and styling requirements. In college writing, it is the norm for all essays to attain academic writing standards. Then, the interaction between characteristics and attitudes forces authors to identify a suitable voice, which is appreciative of the beliefs and values of the audience. Lastly, writers must consider the level of knowledge of the audience while writing a critical response essay because it has a direct impact on the context, clarity, and readability of a paper. Consequently, a critical response essay for classmates is quite different from a paper that an author presents to a multi-disciplinary audience.

Define a topic. Topic selection is a critical aspect of the prewriting stage. Ideally, assignment instructions play a crucial role in topic selection, especially in higher education institutions. For example, when writing a critical response essay, instructors may choose to provide students with a specific article or general instructions to guide learners in the selection of relevant reading sources. Also, students may not have opportunities for independent topic selection in former circumstances. However, by considering the latter assignment conditions, learners may need to identify a narrow topic to use in article selection. Moreover, students should take adequate time to do preliminary research, which gives them a ‘feel’ of the topic, for example, 19th-century literature. Next, writers narrow down the scope of the topic based on their knowledge and interests, for example, short stories by black female writers from the 19 th century.

B. Research and Documentation

Find sources. Once a student has a topic, he or she can start the process of identifying an appropriate article. Basically, choosing a good source for writing a critical response essay is much easier when aided with search tools on the web or university repository. In this case, learners select keywords or other unique qualities of an article and develop a search filter. Moreover, authors review abstracts or forewords of credible sources to determine their suitability based on their content. Besides content, other factors constrain the article selection process: the word count for a critical response essay and a turnaround time. In turn, if an assignment has a fixed length of 500 words and a turnaround time of one week, it is not practical to select a 200-page source despite content suitability.

Content selection. The process of selecting appropriate content from academic sources relies heavily on the purpose of a critical response essay. Basically, students must select evidence that they will include in a paper to support their claims in each paragraph. However, writers tend to let a source speak through the use of extensive quotations or summaries, which dilutes a synthesis aspect of a critical response essay. Instead, learners should take a significant portion of time to identify evidence from reliable sources, which are relevant to the purpose of an essay. Also, a student who is writing a critical analysis essay to disagree with one or more arguments will select different pieces of evidence as compared to a person who is writing to analyze the overall effectiveness of the work.

Annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is vital to the development of a critical response essay because it enables authors to document useful information that they encounter during research. During research and documentation stages for a critical response essay, annotated bibliographies contain the main sources for a critical analysis essay and other sources that contribute to the knowledge base of an author, even though these sources will not appear in reference lists. Mostly, a critical response essay has only one source. However, an annotated bibliography contains summaries of other sources, which may inform the author’s critical response through the development of a deep understanding of a topic. In turn, an annotated bibliography is quite useful when an individual is writing a critical response to an article on an unfamiliar topic.

Step 2: Writing a Critical Response Essay

A. organization..

Thesis . A thesis statement sentence is a crucial component of a critical response essay because it presents the student’s purpose, argument, and the conclusion that he or she draws from the textual evidence. Also, the thesis statement is the response to the thesis question, which an author creates from assignment instructions. After completing the research stage, students can develop a tentative thesis statement to act as a starting point for the writing stage. Usually, tentative thesis statements undergo numerous revisions during the writing stage, which is a consequence of the refinement of the main idea during the drafting.

Weigh the evidence. Based on the tentative thesis, an author evaluates the relative importance of collected pieces of textual evidence to the central idea. Basically, students should distinguish between general and specific ideas to ascertain that there exists a logical sequence of presentation, which the audience can readily grasp. Firstly, for writing a critical response essay, learners should identify general ideas and establish specific connections that exist between each general idea and specific details, which support a central claim. Secondly, writers should consider some implications of ideas as they conduct a sorting process and remove evidence that does not fit. Moreover, students fill ‘holes’ that are present due to the lack of adequate supporting evidence to conclude this stage.

Create an outline. An essay outline is a final product of weighing the significance of the evidence in the context of the working thesis statement. In particular, a formal outline is a preferred form of essay structure for a critical response essay because it allows for detailed documentation of ideas while maintaining a clear map of connections. During the formation of an outline, students use a systematic scheme of indentation and labeling all the parts of an outline structure. In turn, this arrangement ensures that elements that play the same role are readily discernible at a glance, for example, primary essay divisions, secondary divisions, principle supporting points, and specific details.

Drafting. The drafting step involves the conversion of the one-sentence ideas in an outline format into complete paragraphs and, eventually, a critical response essay. In this case, there is no fixed approach to writing the first draft. Moreover, students should follow a technique that they find effective in overcoming the challenge of starting to write a critical response essay. Nonetheless, it is good practice to start writing paragraphs that authors believe are more straightforward to include regardless of specific positions that they hold on an outline. In turn, learners should strive to write freely and be open to new ideas despite the use of an outline. During drafting, the conveyance of meaning is much more important than the correctness of the draft.

Step 3: Post-Writing

Individual revision. An individual revision process focuses on the rethinking and rewriting of a critical response essay to improve the meaning and structure of a paper. Essentially, students try to review their papers from a perspective of readers to ensure that the level of detail, relationship and arrangement of paragraphs, and the contribution of the minor ideas to the thesis statement attain the desired effect. In this case, the use of a checklist improves the effectiveness of individual revision. Moreover, a checklist contains 12 main evaluation categories: assignment, purpose, audience and voice, genre, thesis, organization, development, unity, coherence, title, introduction, and conclusion.

Collaborative revision. Collaborative revision is a revision strategy that covers subconscious oversight that occurs during individual revision. During an individual revision of a critical response essay, authors rely on self-criticism, which is rarely 100% effective because writers hold a bias that their works are of high quality. Therefore, subjecting an individual’s work to peer review allows students to collect critique from an actual reader who may notice problems that an author may easily overlook. In turn, learners may provide peer reviewers with a checklist to simplify the revision process.

Editing . The editing step requires authors to examine the style, clarity, and correctness of a critical response essay. In particular, students review their papers to ascertain their conformance with the guidelines of formal essay writing and the English language. Moreover, sentence fragments, subject-verb agreement, dangling modifiers, incorrect use of punctuation, vague pronoun references, and parallelism are common grammar issues that learners eliminate during editing. Then, writers confirm that their critical response essays adhere to referencing style guidelines for citation and formatting, such as the inclusion of a title page, appropriate in-text citation, and proper styling of bibliographic information in the reference list. In turn, students must proofread a critical response essay repeatedly until they find all errors because such mistakes may divert the audience’s attention from the content of a paper.

Sample Outline Template for a Critical Response Essay

I. Introduction

A. Summary of an article. B. Thesis statement.

A. First body paragraph

  • The idea for the first paragraph.
  • Evidence for the first point from an article.
  • Interpretation of the evidence.

B. Second body paragraph

  • The idea for the second paragraph.
  • Evidence for the second point from an article.

C. Third body paragraph

  • The idea for the third paragraph.
  • Evidence for the third point from an article.

III. Conclusion

A. Summary of three points that form a body section. B. Closing remarks.

Uniqueness of a Critical Response Essay Outline

The presence of a summary in the introduction and an interpretation for each piece of evidence are defining features of a critical response essay. Typically, the introduction, being one of 5 parts of an essay, does not contain a succinct summary of a source that an author uses in body paragraphs. In this case, the incorporation of a summary in the introduction paragraph provides the audience with specific information concerning the target article of a critical response. Specifically, a critical response essay differs from other response papers because it emphasizes the provision of reasonable judgments of a text rather than the testing and defense of one’s judgments. In turn, authors of a critical response essay do not provide evaluation for their judgments, which implies that critical responses may be different but correct if a specific interpretation is reasonable to the audience.

Expanding an Outline Format Into a Critical Response Essay

1. introduction.

The introductory paragraph in a critical response essay consists of two primary sections: a summary of an article and a thesis statement. Firstly, a summary of an article consists of the text’s central argument and the purpose of the presentation of the argument. Basically, students should strive to distill the main idea and purpose of the text into a few sentences because the length of the introduction is approximately 10% of the essay’s word count. Then, a summary provides the audience with adequate background information concerning an article, which forms a foundation for announcing the student’s primary idea. In this case, writers may include an additional sentence between a summary and a thesis statement to establish a smooth flow in the opening paragraph. However, learners should not quote thesis and purpose statements because it results in a fragmented introduction, which is unappealing to readers and ineffective.

  • All body paragraphs have in a critical response essay four main elements: the writer’s idea, meaningful evidence from a reading text, interpretation of the evidence, and a concluding statement.

A. Writer’s Idea

The writer’s idea for a paragraph appears in the first sentence of a paragraph, which is a topic sentence. For example, if students know how to write a topic sentence, they present readers with a complete and distinct idea that proves or supports a thesis statement. In this case, authors should carefully word their topic sentences to ensure that there is no unnecessary generalization or spillovers of ideas from other paragraphs. Notably, all the topic sentences in the body of a critical response essay share a logical relationship that allows the audience to easily follow the development of the central idea of a paper.

B. Evidence

Students should provide evidence that supports the idea that they propose in the topic sentence. Basically, the evidence for all body paragraphs is the product of critical reading of an article, which allows writers to identify meaningful portions of a text. During the presentation of evidence, learners should ascertain that the contextual meaning of paraphrases or quotations is not lost because such a strategy will harm interpretations that follow after it. In turn, critical response essays must not contain lengthy or numerous quotations unless the meaning or intended effect of a quotation is not replicable upon paraphrasing.

C. Interpretation

Interpretation segments of paragraphs allow authors to explain the significance of the evidence to the topic sentence. In a critical response essay, the interpretation is the equivalent of an author revealing the possible assumptions behind a text paraphrase and commenting on whether or not he or she finds them reasonable. Moreover, students make inferences concerning their meaning in the context of the entire narrative and its relation to the paragraph’s idea. In turn, learners should refrain from reading too much into a piece of evidence because it may result in false or unreasonable inferences.

D. Concluding Sentence

The concluding statement is the final sentence of any paragraph. In this case, the primary role of the concluding sentence is to emphasize the link between the topic sentence, evidence, interpretation, and the essay’s central idea. Also, the concluding statement should not contain an in-text citation because it does not introduce new evidence to support the topic sentence. Therefore, authors use concluding sentences to maintain the unity between body paragraphs and a critical response essay in its entirety.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion comprises three core elements: a restatement of a thesis statement, a summary of the main points that authors present in body paragraphs, and closing remarks. In particular, the first statement of the conclusion draws the attention of the audience to the central idea, which an author proposes in a thesis statement. Then, students review the main points of a critical response essay to demonstrate that written arguments in body paragraphs adequately support a thesis statement. Moreover, writers should summarize the main points of a paper in the same order that they appear in the main part to guarantee that logical patterns in the body are readily discernible in summary. Finally, learners make their closing remarks, which creates a sense of wholesomeness in a critical response essay or ties a paper to a larger relevant discourse.

Example of Writing a Critical Response Essay

Topic: American Capitalism: The New Face of Slavery

I. Sample Introduction of a Critical Response Essay

Capitalism is a dominant characteristic of the American economy. In this case, Matthew Desmond’s article “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation” discusses the role of slavery in shaping contemporary business practices. Specifically, the author attempts to convince the audience that the brutality of American capitalism originates from slavery. In turn, Desmond lays a strong but simple foundation for his argument, which ensures that the audience can conceptualize the link between plantation slavery and contemporary American capitalistic practices.

II. Example of a Body in a Critical Response Essay

A. example of the first body paragraph: american capitalism.

Early in the article, Desmond informs readers of the high variability in the manifestation of capitalism in societies, which creates the impression that American capitalism is a choice. For example, Desmond (2019) argues that the brutality of American capitalism is simply one of the possible outcomes of a society built on capitalistic principles because other societies implement the same principles in a manner that is liberating, protective, and democratic. Moreover, Desmond begins his argument by eliminating a popular presumption that exploitation and oppression are unavoidable outcomes of capitalism. In turn, this strategic move to establish this fact is in the introductory section of the article because it invites the audience to rethink the meaning of capitalism. Furthermore, its plants doubt regarding the ‘true’ meaning of capitalism outside the context of American society.

B. Example of the Second Body Paragraph: American Capitalism: Slavery and American’s Economic Growth

After establishing that the perception of capitalism through the lens of American society has some bias, Desmond proceeds to provide detailed evidence to explain the attempt to camouflage the obvious link between slavery and America’s economic growth. For instance, Desmond (2019) notes the role of Alfred Chandler’s book, The Visible Hand, and Caitlin Rosenthal’s book, Accounting for Slavery, in breaking the link between management practices in plantations and modern corporations by suggesting that the current business practices are a consequence of the 19th-century railroad industry. In this case, Desmond uses this evidence to make a logical appeal to the audience, which makes his argument more convincing because he explains the reason behind the exclusion of slavery in the discourse on modern industry. As a result, Desmond dismisses one of the main counterarguments against his central argument, which increases his persuasive power.

C. Example of the Third Body Paragraph: Input vs. Output Dynamic

Desmond emphasizes the link between slavery and American capitalism to readers by using the simple input vs. output dynamic throughout the article. For example, Desmond (2019) compares the Plantation Record and Account Book to the heavy digital surveillance techniques in modern workplaces because they collect data, which the employers use to maximize productivity while minimizing inputs. In particular, the comparison reveals that employers did not stop the practice of reducing laborers into units of production with fixed productivity thresholds. Moreover, the constant repetition of the theme of low input and high output dominates the body paragraphs, which makes it nearly impossible for readers to lose sight of the link between slavery and business practices under American capitalism. In turn, the simplification of the underlying logic in Desmond’s argument ensures its clarity to the audience.

III. Sample Conclusion of a Critical Response Essay

Desmond carefully plans the presentation of his argument to the audience, which allows readers to follow the ideas easily. In particular, the author starts with a call for readers to set aside any presumptions concerning capitalism and its origin. Then, Desmond provides the audience with an alternative narrative with support from seminal texts in slavery and economics. On the whole, Desmond manages to convince the audience that the American capitalistic society is merely a replica rather than an aberration of slavery.

Citing Sources in a Critical Response Essay

A critical response essay contains specific thoughts of the article’s author and direct words of the text’s author. In this case, students must conduct proper documentation to ensure that readers of critical response essays can distinguish between these two types of ‘voices.’ Moreover, documentation prevents incidents of plagiarism. Usually, instructors mention a referencing technique that students should use in writing a critical response essay. However, if assignment instructions do not identify a specific documentation style, writers should use a referencing technique that is acceptable for scholarly writing in their disciplines.

In-text citation:

  • Parenthetical: (Desmond, 2019).
  • Narrative: Desmond (2019).
  • Desmond, M. (2019, August 12). In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation . New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html
  • Parenthetical: (Desmond par. 1).
  • Narrative: Desmond argues . . . (par. 1).

Works Cited:

  • Desmond, Matthew. “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” New York Times , 14 Aug. 2019, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

3. Harvard Referencing

  • Parenthetical: (Desmond 2019).

Reference List:

  • Desmond, M 2019, In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation . Available from: <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html>. [27 August 2020].

4. Chicago/Turabian

In-text citation (footnote):

  • 1. Matthew Desmond, “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation,” New York Times, August 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

Bibliography:

  • Desmond, Matthew. “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” New York Times. August 14, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

Final Provisions on a Critical Response Essay

  • Critical reading is a precursor for writing an effective critical response essay.
  • Students must conduct adequate research on a topic to develop a proper understanding of a theme, even if only one article appears on the reference list.
  • Notetaking or annotation is a good practice that aids students in extracting meaning from an article.
  • Writers should plan for all activities in the writing process to ascertain that they have adequate time to move through all the stages.
  • An outline is an organizational tool, which learners must use to establish the sequence of ideas in a critical response essay.
  • The purpose of a critical response essay has a significant impact on the selection of evidence and the arrangement of body paragraphs.
  • Students should prioritize revision and editing, which represent opportunities to refine the content of an essay and remove mechanical issues.
  • Collaborative and individual revision are equally important because they play different roles in the writing of a critical response essay.
  • Evidence selection is dependent on the purpose and thesis statement of a critical response essay.

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Why writing by hand beats typing for thinking and learning

Jonathan Lambert

A close-up of a woman's hand writing in a notebook.

If you're like many digitally savvy Americans, it has likely been a while since you've spent much time writing by hand.

The laborious process of tracing out our thoughts, letter by letter, on the page is becoming a relic of the past in our screen-dominated world, where text messages and thumb-typed grocery lists have replaced handwritten letters and sticky notes. Electronic keyboards offer obvious efficiency benefits that have undoubtedly boosted our productivity — imagine having to write all your emails longhand.

To keep up, many schools are introducing computers as early as preschool, meaning some kids may learn the basics of typing before writing by hand.

But giving up this slower, more tactile way of expressing ourselves may come at a significant cost, according to a growing body of research that's uncovering the surprising cognitive benefits of taking pen to paper, or even stylus to iPad — for both children and adults.

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In kids, studies show that tracing out ABCs, as opposed to typing them, leads to better and longer-lasting recognition and understanding of letters. Writing by hand also improves memory and recall of words, laying down the foundations of literacy and learning. In adults, taking notes by hand during a lecture, instead of typing, can lead to better conceptual understanding of material.

"There's actually some very important things going on during the embodied experience of writing by hand," says Ramesh Balasubramaniam , a neuroscientist at the University of California, Merced. "It has important cognitive benefits."

While those benefits have long been recognized by some (for instance, many authors, including Jennifer Egan and Neil Gaiman , draft their stories by hand to stoke creativity), scientists have only recently started investigating why writing by hand has these effects.

A slew of recent brain imaging research suggests handwriting's power stems from the relative complexity of the process and how it forces different brain systems to work together to reproduce the shapes of letters in our heads onto the page.

Your brain on handwriting

Both handwriting and typing involve moving our hands and fingers to create words on a page. But handwriting, it turns out, requires a lot more fine-tuned coordination between the motor and visual systems. This seems to more deeply engage the brain in ways that support learning.

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"Handwriting is probably among the most complex motor skills that the brain is capable of," says Marieke Longcamp , a cognitive neuroscientist at Aix-Marseille Université.

Gripping a pen nimbly enough to write is a complicated task, as it requires your brain to continuously monitor the pressure that each finger exerts on the pen. Then, your motor system has to delicately modify that pressure to re-create each letter of the words in your head on the page.

"Your fingers have to each do something different to produce a recognizable letter," says Sophia Vinci-Booher , an educational neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University. Adding to the complexity, your visual system must continuously process that letter as it's formed. With each stroke, your brain compares the unfolding script with mental models of the letters and words, making adjustments to fingers in real time to create the letters' shapes, says Vinci-Booher.

That's not true for typing.

To type "tap" your fingers don't have to trace out the form of the letters — they just make three relatively simple and uniform movements. In comparison, it takes a lot more brainpower, as well as cross-talk between brain areas, to write than type.

Recent brain imaging studies bolster this idea. A study published in January found that when students write by hand, brain areas involved in motor and visual information processing " sync up " with areas crucial to memory formation, firing at frequencies associated with learning.

"We don't see that [synchronized activity] in typewriting at all," says Audrey van der Meer , a psychologist and study co-author at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She suggests that writing by hand is a neurobiologically richer process and that this richness may confer some cognitive benefits.

Other experts agree. "There seems to be something fundamental about engaging your body to produce these shapes," says Robert Wiley , a cognitive psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. "It lets you make associations between your body and what you're seeing and hearing," he says, which might give the mind more footholds for accessing a given concept or idea.

Those extra footholds are especially important for learning in kids, but they may give adults a leg up too. Wiley and others worry that ditching handwriting for typing could have serious consequences for how we all learn and think.

What might be lost as handwriting wanes

The clearest consequence of screens and keyboards replacing pen and paper might be on kids' ability to learn the building blocks of literacy — letters.

"Letter recognition in early childhood is actually one of the best predictors of later reading and math attainment," says Vinci-Booher. Her work suggests the process of learning to write letters by hand is crucial for learning to read them.

"When kids write letters, they're just messy," she says. As kids practice writing "A," each iteration is different, and that variability helps solidify their conceptual understanding of the letter.

Research suggests kids learn to recognize letters better when seeing variable handwritten examples, compared with uniform typed examples.

This helps develop areas of the brain used during reading in older children and adults, Vinci-Booher found.

"This could be one of the ways that early experiences actually translate to long-term life outcomes," she says. "These visually demanding, fine motor actions bake in neural communication patterns that are really important for learning later on."

Ditching handwriting instruction could mean that those skills don't get developed as well, which could impair kids' ability to learn down the road.

"If young children are not receiving any handwriting training, which is very good brain stimulation, then their brains simply won't reach their full potential," says van der Meer. "It's scary to think of the potential consequences."

Many states are trying to avoid these risks by mandating cursive instruction. This year, California started requiring elementary school students to learn cursive , and similar bills are moving through state legislatures in several states, including Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin. (So far, evidence suggests that it's the writing by hand that matters, not whether it's print or cursive.)

Slowing down and processing information

For adults, one of the main benefits of writing by hand is that it simply forces us to slow down.

During a meeting or lecture, it's possible to type what you're hearing verbatim. But often, "you're not actually processing that information — you're just typing in the blind," says van der Meer. "If you take notes by hand, you can't write everything down," she says.

The relative slowness of the medium forces you to process the information, writing key words or phrases and using drawing or arrows to work through ideas, she says. "You make the information your own," she says, which helps it stick in the brain.

Such connections and integration are still possible when typing, but they need to be made more intentionally. And sometimes, efficiency wins out. "When you're writing a long essay, it's obviously much more practical to use a keyboard," says van der Meer.

Still, given our long history of using our hands to mark meaning in the world, some scientists worry about the more diffuse consequences of offloading our thinking to computers.

"We're foisting a lot of our knowledge, extending our cognition, to other devices, so it's only natural that we've started using these other agents to do our writing for us," says Balasubramaniam.

It's possible that this might free up our minds to do other kinds of hard thinking, he says. Or we might be sacrificing a fundamental process that's crucial for the kinds of immersive cognitive experiences that enable us to learn and think at our full potential.

Balasubramaniam stresses, however, that we don't have to ditch digital tools to harness the power of handwriting. So far, research suggests that scribbling with a stylus on a screen activates the same brain pathways as etching ink on paper. It's the movement that counts, he says, not its final form.

Jonathan Lambert is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who covers science, health and policy.

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Your pocket guide to IELTS General Training Writing: Know it before you ace it

The IELTS General Training test is an essential step in your application to work and pursue a career overseas in countries from the UK to Australia and Canada.

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Knowing this, you are probably working hard to ace all parts of the IELTS test but you might need to pay more attention to the Academic Writing section. 

Not only does it involve writing a series of texts, but you will also have to do it on a strict time limit that could easily add extra stress. 

You will be tasked to write a letter as well as an essay, presenting your viewpoints and explaining situations as accurately as possible. 

In this article, we will take you through what you can expect in the IELTS General Training Writing test and how to prepare effectively to score better on test day! 

Four things you must know about the IELTS General Training Writing test  

1. understand the two tasks you need to handle .

The General Training test involves two different types of tasks that are: 

Writing a letter (Task 1) 

Writing an essay (Task 2) 

 In Task 1, you will be required to write a letter in response to a situation and depending on the situation, it could be semi-formal or formal.  

It could involve everyday scenarios and challenges such as time management problems, logistics issues and complaints. It is recommended that you only spend 20 minutes here and you are required to write at least 150 words. 

The second task, however, is very different. It will require you to write a discursive essay of at least 250 words.  

You will be given information about an argument or point of view and you will need to discuss your thoughts, present a solution to a problem or justifying an opinion you have. 

The topics are normally of general interest and can range from family issues and challenges society faces all the way to environmental and climate change issues. 

Because this task contributes twice as much to your final band score than the first task, it is recommended that you spend more time, around 40 minutes here, to maximise your chances to obtain a higher overall score. 

2. How you will be marked and assessed

The General Training Writing test will be assessed according to each individual test and will consist of the following criteria: 

Task response:  

Have your essay or writing addressed the topic or task at hand and have you written more than the minimum amount of words required for each individual task? 

Coherence and cohesion:  

Are your thoughts, viewpoints are arguments clearly laid out and easily understood? Can the reader logically follow your flow of thoughts and do they make sense as a whole? 

Lexical resource:   

Simply put, do you have a wide range and depth of vocabulary? Are you able to use various adjectives and nouns to describe a particular topic or do you catch yourself constantly repeating the same basic vocabulary? 

Grammatical range and accuracy:  

Apart from just minimising grammatical errors, you will need to correctly use a mixture of simple, compound and complex sentences. However, you’ll need to use them in the correct context and also ensure a good flow of ideas. 

how you-ll be marked

3. How to approach the General Training test

Because the two tasks are uniquely different, you will have to come to the test with different approaches. 

Here’s what you can do to score your best possible on test day! 

Task 1 - Letter writing  

It is important to clarify the purpose of the letter. Is this a complaint letter, a request for detailed information or a statement of fact to the recipient?  

You need to get this clear because it will also affect the correct tone of voice you will need to adopt, whether it is to be more informal or strictly formal. 

In addition, you will need to include the key information, presented to you in bullet points, as part of your letter response. This is crucial as you will be penalised if you forget to include any. 

Task 2 - Essay writing   

For this task, it is important to remember to discuss both sides of the issue or question being presented to you. A discursive essay is one that highlights viewpoints and presents both sides of the argument. 

However, you also want to ensure your opinion is clear by the end of the essay and you showcase facts or anecdotal examples to strengthen your viewpoint as well. 

4. Prepare yourself better with these resources

A great way to ensure you are well-prepared is to start taking sample practice tests that will mimic the real conditions of the Writing test. 

You can access our test preparation materials here . 

In addition, you can also attend a free IELTS Masterclass presented by IELTS experts who will share tips and tricks, including on the writing section, to help you score better with confidence! 

If you prefer a paid option to simulate the exact test you will encounter, without the actual grading, you can take the IELTS Progress Check paid test . 

It will be as close as possible to the real deal and you will also get back personalised feedback that will be valuable to help you pinpoint areas that need improvement. 

prepare yourself with resources

Prepare for the IELTS Writing test with IDP today

Preparing early for your General Training Writing test is the key to success. It allows you to get familiar with the format with ample practice to help you gain confidence on test day. 

Take the time to go through our resources and prepare yourself better with our wide range of sample tests at your disposal! 

And once you are prepared and ready, you can book your IELTS test here !

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Guest Essay

I Don’t Write Like Alice Munro, but I Want to Live Like Her

A blurry photo of a woman, the author Alice Munro, smiling.

By Sheila Heti

Ms. Heti is the author of the novels “Pure Colour,” “How Should a Person Be?” and, most recently, “Alphabetical Diaries.”

It is common to say “I was heartbroken to hear” that so-and-so died, but I really do feel heartbroken having learned about Alice Munro, who died on Monday.

As a writer, she modeled, in her life and art, that one must work with emotional sincerity and precision and concentration and depth — not on every kind of writing but on only one kind, the kind closest to one’s heart.

She has long been a North Star for many writers and was someone I have always felt guided by. We are very different writers, but I have kept her in mind, daily and for decades, as an example to follow (but failed to follow to the extent that she demonstrated it): that a fiction writer isn’t someone for hire.

A fiction writer isn’t someone who can write anything — movies, articles, obits! She isn’t a person in service to the magazines, to the newspapers, to the publishers or even to her audience. She doesn’t have to speak on the political issues of the day or on matters of importance to the culture right now but ought first and most to attend seriously to her task, which is her only task, writing the particular thing she was most suited to write.

Ms. Munro only ever wrote short stories — not novels, though she must have been pressured to. She died in a small town not too far from where she was born, choosing to remain close to the sort of people she grew up with, whom she remained ever curious about. Depth is wherever one stands, she showed us, convincingly.

Fiction writers are people, supposedly, who have things to say; they must, because they are so good with words. So people are always asking them: Can you say something about this or about this? But the art of hearing the voice of a fictional person or sensing a fictional world or working for years on some unfathomable creation is, in fact, the opposite of saying something with the opinionated and knowledgeable part of one’s mind. It is rather the humble craft of putting your opinions and ego aside and letting something be said through you.

Ms. Munro held to this division and never let the vanity that can come with being good with words persuade her to put her words just everywhere, in every possible way. Here was the best example in the world — in Canada, my own land — of someone who seemed to abide by classical artistic values in her choices as a person and in her choices on the page. I felt quietly reassured knowing that a hundred kilometers down the road was Alice Munro.

She was also an example of how a writer should be in public: modest, unpretentious, funny, generous and kind. I learned the lesson of generosity from her early. When I was 20 and was just starting to publish short stories, I sent her a fan letter. I don’t remember what my letter said. After a few months, I received a handwritten thank-you note from her in the mail. The fact that she replied at all and did so with such care taught me a lot about grace and consideration and has remained as a warmth within me since that day.

She will always remain for me, and for many others, a model of that grave yet joyous dedication to art — a dedication that inevitably informs the most important choices the artist makes about how to support that life. Probably Ms. Munro would laugh at this; no one knows the compromises another makes, especially when that person is as private as she was and transforms her trials into fiction. Yet whatever the truth of her daily existence, she still shines as a symbol of artistic purity and care.

I am grateful for all she gave to the world and for all the sacrifices she must have made to give it. I’m sorry to be here defying her example, but she was just too loved, and these words just came. Thank you, Alice Munro.

Sheila Heti is the author of the novels “Pure Colour,” “How Should a Person Be?” and, most recently, “Alphabetical Diaries.”

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 Radio Telescope view at night with milky way in the sky

AI may be to blame for our failure to make contact with alien civilisations

how to write an essay in response to an article

Sir Bernard Lovell chair of Astrophysics and Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester

Disclosure statement

Michael Garrett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Manchester provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has progressed at an astounding pace over the last few years. Some scientists are now looking towards the development of artificial superintelligence (ASI) — a form of AI that would not only surpass human intelligence but would not be bound by the learning speeds of humans.

But what if this milestone isn’t just a remarkable achievement? What if it also represents a formidable bottleneck in the development of all civilisations, one so challenging that it thwarts their long-term survival?

This idea is at the heart of a research paper I recently published in Acta Astronautica. Could AI be the universe’s “great filter” – a threshold so hard to overcome that it prevents most life from evolving into space-faring civilisations?

This is a concept that might explain why the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti) has yet to detect the signatures of advanced technical civilisations elsewhere in the galaxy.

The great filter hypothesis is ultimately a proposed solution to the Fermi Paradox . This questions why, in a universe vast and ancient enough to host billions of potentially habitable planets, we have not detected any signs of alien civilisations. The hypothesis suggests there are insurmountable hurdles in the evolutionary timeline of civilisations that prevent them from developing into space-faring entities.

I believe the emergence of ASI could be such a filter. AI’s rapid advancement, potentially leading to ASI, may intersect with a critical phase in a civilisation’s development – the transition from a single-planet species to a multiplanetary one.

This is where many civilisations could falter, with AI making much more rapid progress than our ability either to control it or sustainably explore and populate our Solar System.

The challenge with AI, and specifically ASI, lies in its autonomous, self-amplifying and improving nature. It possesses the potential to enhance its own capabilities at a speed that outpaces our own evolutionary timelines without AI.

The potential for something to go badly wrong is enormous, leading to the downfall of both biological and AI civilisations before they ever get the chance to become multiplanetary. For example, if nations increasingly rely on and cede power to autonomous AI systems that compete against each other, military capabilities could be used to kill and destroy on an unprecedented scale. This could potentially lead to the destruction of our entire civilisation, including the AI systems themselves.

In this scenario, I estimate the typical longevity of a technological civilisation might be less than 100 years. That’s roughly the time between being able to receive and broadcast signals between the stars (1960), and the estimated emergence of ASI (2040) on Earth. This is alarmingly short when set against the cosmic timescale of billions of years.

Image of the star-studded cluster NGC 6440.

This estimate, when plugged into optimistic versions of the Drake equation – which attempts to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilisations in the Milky Way – suggests that, at any given time, there are only a handful of intelligent civilisations out there. Moreover, like us, their relatively modest technological activities could make them quite challenging to detect.

Wake-up call

This research is not simply a cautionary tale of potential doom. It serves as a wake-up call for humanity to establish robust regulatory frameworks to guide the development of AI, including military systems.

This is not just about preventing the malevolent use of AI on Earth; it’s also about ensuring the evolution of AI aligns with the long-term survival of our species. It suggests we need to put more resources into becoming a multiplanetary society as soon as possible – a goal that has lain dormant since the heady days of the Apollo project , but has lately been reignited by advances made by private companies.

As the historian Yuval Noah Harari noted , nothing in history has prepared us for the impact of introducing non-conscious, super-intelligent entities to our planet. Recently, the implications of autonomous AI decision-making have led to calls from prominent leaders in the field for a moratorium on the development of AI, until a responsible form of control and regulation can be introduced.

But even if every country agreed to abide by strict rules and regulation , rogue organisations will be difficult to rein in.

The integration of autonomous AI in military defence systems has to be an area of particular concern. There is already evidence that humans will voluntarily relinquish significant power to increasingly capable systems, because they can carry out useful tasks much more rapidly and effectively without human intervention. Governments are therefore reluctant to regulate in this area given the strategic advantages AI offers , as has been recently and devastatingly demonstrated in Gaza .

This means we already edge dangerously close to a precipice where autonomous weapons operate beyond ethical boundaries and sidestep international law. In such a world, surrendering power to AI systems in order to gain a tactical advantage could inadvertently set off a chain of rapidly escalating, highly destructive events. In the blink of an eye, the collective intelligence of our planet could be obliterated.

Humanity is at a crucial point in its technological trajectory. Our actions now could determine whether we become an enduring interstellar civilisation, or succumb to the challenges posed by our own creations.

Using Seti as a lens through which we can examine our future development adds a new dimension to the discussion on the future of AI. It is up to all of us to ensure that when we reach for the stars, we do so not as a cautionary tale for other civilisations, but as a beacon of hope – a species that learned to thrive alongside AI.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Extraterrestrial life
  • Give me perspective

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    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

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