Tips on Writing a Response Paper

College period brings a lot of exciting things in your life – new friends, social activities and various papers. Okay, maybe the last point can’t boast the level of excitement equal to the rest, but the role it plays in life of every college student is just as important as other two components. Once you’ve acquired enough experience, writing will be under your belt, but it takes a lot to start. Don’t feel discouraged when you get bombarded with names of different types of academic writing – we’ve all experience the same sensation of utter confusion. Today, however, we’ll shed light on one of them, namely, a response paper. What is it? How to start a response paper? What’s its structure? Find answers to all these questions below.

What Is a Response Paper?

A response paper is exactly what it sounds like – it’s your response to something. This “something” is usually another paper, most commonly a paper of a fellow student. The main lesson you need to get from this article is that a response paper is not a review. It goes beyond simple saying what you liked or didn’t like in the paper, it has to be a profound analysis. It also doesn’t focus only on the content. You have to analyze author’s ideas and arguments, writing techniques, organization, structure and academic style.

If you think about how to start a response paper, the most logical step would be studying the source you need to analyze or see the response paper example. The percentage of the original paper in your own one should be minimal – instead you have to include your reflections and opinions about it. In addition, you also have to defend your own ideas with constructive argumentation. So in reality, a response paper has exactly the same structure as any other academic paper you’ve worked with. Now let’s look into it closer.

Consider the following steps for completing a response paper

  • Read or watch the piece for a primary
  • Point out interesting scenes or mark valuable pages .
  • Go over the marked pages and identified scenes.
  • Note down your thoughts and impressions.
  • Create a strong thesis statement.
  • Develop an outline.
  • Write your essay.
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Starting to write

After developing an outline, you have to work consistently on developing your thoughts on a paper. In your introductory paragraph, do not forget to mention the title of the artwork being discussed and its author. Conclude this paragraph with a good thesis statement revealing your opinion regarding the artwork.

Speaking up

You don’t have to feel ashamed when expressing your personal point of view. The professor requires you to do so. You may use these samples to start presenting your opinion appropriately.

  • The author seemed to
  • I feel that
  • One may conclude that
  • From my standpoint
  • I consider it negative
  • The author succeeded in making the reader feel
  • I was moved by
  • I didn’t find the link between
  • The aim of the artist was to
  • The soundtrack greatly contributed to
  • The part I liked the most

Try to consider the response paper as a combination of a review assignment and a reflection paper

When working on it, you may find helpful to get through the professional reviews available online.

Structure of a Response Paper

One positive thing about a response paper is that it can follow more than one scheme, so you have some flexibility to adjust your essay the way you feel most suitable. One of the most used structures divides a paper into two main blocks that focus on both the things that you liked and the ones you didn’t. Of course, you still have to give the reader an idea about the original paper, so a short summary should precede the two mentioned blocks.

As a result, the scheme will look in the following way:

  • introduction;
  • quick summary of the paper you’re responding to;
  • things you agree with;
  • things you disagree with.

However, this is not the only way to organize your thoughts into words. The second popular option is writing a response to each idea of the author separately. Then you also need to present your point of view at the beginning in a form of a thesis.

The whole structure will look like this:

  • thesis statement
  • analysis of idea A
  • analysis of idea B
  • analysis of idea C

Even though these two schemes are different, they still follow the standard introduction – body paragraphs – conclusion layout. Keep on reading to find out how to start a response paper, organize your ideas and sum everything up.

Response Paper Outline


Introduction usually does not exceed one paragraph, though the length depends on the paper itself. Writing an introduction to a response paper is actually easier than to a regular academic paper. The only things you have to do are to mention what paper you’re going to analyze and say why you’re doing so. Even if you just got it as a standard assignment, try to find some personal connections between you and the paper.


Though we often highlight that the summary has to be very short, it still has to be present. There might still be a case when your paper ends up in the hands of someone who has not read the source. Your summary should be both short and informative to give at least a general idea of what the paper is about.

Body Paragraphs

We’ve already demonstrated two ways of how you can organize your thoughts in the body part of your essay. The rules that apply to any other paper regarding this part also work for a response paper. Divide your ideas into paragraphs, link them to one another and provide strong enough arguments.


As usual, a conclusion is a very concise summary of your points discusses in the body. One helpful trick for a response paper: instead of repeating what you’ve already said, finish by emphasizing what effect the paper had on you personally.

A Few Helpful Tips on Writing a Response Paper

Now, when you know the essence and structure of a response paper, let’s discover some tricks that will bring your writing to a new level.

  • Write your own notes when reading the paper you have to respond to. One of the mistakes, which many people make, is just highlighting the parts they would later go back to. Yes, it will be a good reference point, but when you’re done with the whole text, you might already lose the ideas you had at the beginning. In addition, your first impression is usually the strongest one, and you have to save it before you lose it;
  • Don’t let the other author overshadow you. While a response paper is based on a specific source, its part in your own writing should be minimal. This means that you shouldn’t retell its content to the reader, but instead, dedicate most of the text to the analysis. Moreover, if you’ve received an assignment to respond to something, it’s most likely that the reader aka the person who has assigned the task is already familiar with the source very closely. By going too deep into describing the original paper, you risk losing the attention of the reader altogether.
  • You can include your own experiences if they correlate with the topic and are appropriate. In general, it’s often seen as a positive feature when the writer tries to make their text a bit more personalized. Then you can see the person behind a paper and you can’t help but warm up to them. If you see an opportunity to slip this into your response paper, by all means do it. However, always be sure that it’s appropriate and will have only a positive influence.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions! We’re often afraid to do it because what if we don’t know the answer? However, asking questions in academic writing doesn’t require you to know the answer. In fact, this is even encouraged because it shows that you exhibit some curiosity and want to go beyond the known.

As a rule, when you are working either on a book or article review, you are expected to be rather formal and use an impersonal voice. However, it is not exactly the same as writing a response paper. A response paper (or reaction paper) is a bit different from a usual review of an artwork, book or article since it is focused on the expression of one’s thoughts and feelings regarding the subject. Thereby, you are allowed to use phrases such as “In my opinion,” “I consider it…” when working on a response paper. You can also look at reaction paper sample… In this type of paper, you have to give a formal assessment of the piece of art under consideration (either a film, a book or an artwork). However, you are required to provide a personal reflection and impressions to this report.

Remember to stick to the semi-formal tone of writing. Besides, ensure that your paper is free of grammar mistakes and any typos. Moreover, try not to overdo your reflection and criticize the author in a negative and sometimes offensive way. When developing your outline, you can find it handy to imagine yourself watching a review on the movie. The basis of your paper is pretty much similar: an analysis including some personal reflection.

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