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How to Write a Reaction or Response Essay in College

How to Write a Reaction or Response Essay in College

Published by on 2021-07-09 09:22:22

Many students often worry that they do not have enough experience to write some papers. Fortunately, not all tasks are very difficult. Some papers require only writing skills and the ability to express your own emotions. In particular, a reaction essay is an opportunity to reflect on a book or article that you have read or a movie that you have seen. This assignment allows students to show their reactions to certain aspects of the plot or characters. But let's start with the basics first so you can understand what's what.

What Is a Response Essay?

It should be noted that such an essay practically does not differ from a reaction paper. The only difference may be your response to the style of the author of the book or the plot of the film. For example, your reaction papers format might relate to the overall experience of the story arc and the disclosure of the backstory of the characters. Both of these papers are almost identical. Plus, you can look forward to a classic essay structure:

  • intro;
  • body paragraphs;
  • conclusions;
  • list of citations and sources.


The main advantage of such papers is their informality. Besides, you can write in the first person, and you may use phrases like "I guess" or "I hope." Second, your professor needs to see your reactions to certain aspects of a book, article, or movie, so you don't need to be afraid of choosing the wrong arguments. These are your emotions, and you have the right to choose whatever thesis you want.

The Main Writing Stages

Since both papers are very similar, you will have no problem following the basic guidelines. Here are the main steps you need to take to write a great essay. Take your time and follow every step to avoid mistakes.

Pick Your Topic

This is the most important stage since your paper will depend on the book, film, or direct speech you are familiar with. Sometimes professors have a detailed list of topics that you can use. But what if you have creative freedom? Then you should choose what will be interesting for you. Here are ten good reaction or response essay topics.

  1. Global cataclysms and their impact on Earth: the example of modern disaster films.
  2. Black Hawk Down: massacre in Mogadishu and its aftermath.
  3. Can terrorism be defeated in all countries at the same time?
  4. The impact of education on modern adolescents.
  5. Why does religious hatred arise?
  6. How to get rid of poverty and achieve social equality?
  7. The influence of Hollywood on the formation of public opinion.
  8. Could any film be a trigger for the start of riots?
  9. Can modern gadgets affect the psyche of children?
  10. Why are regular books losing their relevance in the digital age?


It's worth noting that you don't have to choose a book or movie as the basis for your paper. You can dwell on any judgment, theory, or even a set of prejudices. Your task is to form a reaction and give reasons for the emotions that have arisen. This is precisely the key goal for students. However, a good topic will allow you to get positive emotions and broadcast your opinion or judgments. But don't forget that you have to provide arguments.

Read and React/Respond

How to write a reaction essay or a response paper? First, you need to know which source will be the basis for your assignment. Check your topic. For example, Shakespeare's play Hamlet, a movie, a public appearance of a politician, a song, or a commercial. Here's what you need to do.

  1. Spend some time reading or watching videos.
  2. Take 10-15 keynotes with the data that interests you.
  3. Review some parts of the video or paragraphs of the book.
  4. Create a response essay outline.
  5. Write a draft with all your emotions.

Response essay outline

This paper mixes your emotions, judgments, and impressions from reading or watching a video. Your professor can give you a specific challenge or give you creative freedom. In any case, your mission is to describe your emotions and attitude towards what you have learned as reasonably as possible.

Make an Intro

How to write a response essay like a pro? First, you need to write a good introduction, indicating the author, the working title, and the data that your professor asks for. Now write a couple of sentences about your paper and topic. Highlight the main aspects that you relied on during your work. You can even use quotes and direct speech of the actors/characters. You don't need to go into the plot; just describe the general concept. The introductory part should not contain your reaction and assessment of what is happening in the book or film.

Writing Body Part

Now it's time to focus on the specific points that triggered a certain reaction in you. Perhaps you should discuss the details with your professor to make sure you are on the right track. Use one idea or a thesis in each paragraph. Perhaps you can even draw parallels between characters in a book or movie with real people or events in the world.

Many newbies often ask a question like, "How to write an essay response right?" Well, your main task is to draw a parallel between the plot and your life. What emotions do the characters evoke in you? How do you identify the main storyline? What thoughts came into your head after the end credits or the last paragraph?

Feel free to reason and express your personal opinion. This type of paper is created to reason and form a personal opinion on any occasion. Perhaps you should describe the merits and demerits of the book/film, scenario tricks, originality of the plot, or unexpected discoveries.

Strong Conclusion

It's time for the final chord. Summarize and point out the script's completeness or the author's position that influenced your reaction. Do you recommend a movie, book, article, or public speech excerpt for other students to share? It is not necessary to retell all those paragraphs that you wrote before. Summarize everything that you have read or seen. Your main goal is to show your reaction to certain content.

How to Write a Response Paper in College: Top 5 Tips for Students

Sometimes even a clear structure and basic guidelines may not be enough to understand where to start. This can be the key problem for you. But what should a student do if there is no clear plan? Here are some tips to help you cope with stress and write a great paper.

Take Your Time

There is no need to rush and write your reaction a couple of minutes after you start reading a book or watching a movie. Reserve a couple of days to read the source and understand which aspects were of particular interest to you. Typically, it will take you at least a few days to deal with your emotions and describe your reaction.

Criticism and Argumentation

Since you express your opinions and emotions, no one forbids you to relate to certain aspects of plot twists negatively. However, you should always be consistent and support your judgments with any facts. For example, you might say that you didn't like the plot twist because it's a cliché and the writer was too lazy to come up with a more effective ending. Or you can suggest your version that would answer the plot questions more logically and comprehensively.

Use Direct Speech

Your reaction essay format allows you to use direct speech. For example, you disagree with a certain scenario action or, on the contrary, are surprised by the logical sequence. Indicate a line of the character or any direct speech that could support your thesis or main idea. Then it will be easier for you to express your emotions and impressions of what you saw or read.

Use Sample Statements

Since you broadcast your emotions, no one forbids you to make several samples for further use. There is nothing wrong with putting together a handy start list for each sentence ahead of time. Here are some examples that will be helpful to you:

  • the reader can conclude that;
  • the images seemed to;
  • in my opinion;
  • the soundtrack seemed too;
  • I was especially moved by;
  • I wouldn't say I liked it.


This cheat sheet will help you describe your emotions faster and easier and get the job done before the deadline. Of course, this list can be significantly expanded. However, even a few examples will be enough for you to understand the motion vector.

Edit the Paper Carefully

An emotional person can always make mistakes. Let's say you like a book or movie and are very excited. Surely you will quickly write down all those emotions and thoughts that have arisen in your head. This is the beauty of such assignments, as professors want students to convey emotions using papers. But many pitfalls can affect your grade. 

Editing responce essay

Read each paragraph. You will most likely find several problems related to grammar and spelling. Punctuation and word use also matter. Perhaps you should read your paper several times and rewrite some sentences or even entire paragraphs so that your thoughts do not look chaotic. And asking for help proofreading your essay is always a good idea.

Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Help

In some cases, students may be too tired or inattentive to edit the paper themselves. In such cases, you can ask friends or family to read your assignment. A third-party and unbiased person will be able to point out inaccuracies or possible errors to you. You can even read your paper several times so your friend or relative can gauge your thoughts. Without a doubt, you can get valuable advice.