WHAT A RESPONSE PAPER IS AND IS NOT
A response paper is your chance to communicate in writing your personal viewpoint and personal learning as they relate specifically to the book, essay, paper, article, etc. in question and the ideas and values contained therein. A good response paper will artfully make a connection between the subject at hand and your own experience. A response paper is intended to be a transformative experience. The text, the artifact alone, has no meaning; it is given meaning by the reader. You are being asked to transform the new experience into a context that is meaningful to you, born of the interaction of reader's and writer's meanings.
A response paper is not intended to be a comprehension test, a book review, (i.e. "I really enjoyed the...) or a rehashing of the content or story (i.e. this happened, and then that happened"). It should not be terse, constipated or "academic." Your reader is familiar with the book, and is interested in discerning how deeply you have thought about the concepts, values, belief systems and attitudes that exist at the heart of the work. A response paper is a heartfelt letter to the author, a conversation, a dialogue with the work, a great idea, the man, the woman behind the artifact. It is a personal statement of one's epistemology, even of one's own spiritual experience. It is relaxed, clear, uncensored.
When reading, that is dialoguing with the text, keep in mind that every author writes to make a point, to promote a position, a set of beliefs or values. Your first task in a response paper is to tell your reader what you think these are. This conveys to the reader not only that you have read the book, but how well you have analyzed its content. Your second task it to reflect on the point, positions, and values you have ascribed to the work. Spend time with the author's position and discern whether that perspective is aligned with your own experience or not. Whatever you discover in reflecting on the author's position and how it relates to your own position and values becomes the raw material for addressing the next task of the response paper.
Within the written paper, the third task is to describe the outcome of the process mentioned above. Specifically address how the reading's perspective and you own interweave. Do they agree? Are they similar in some way? Are they at odds? What is the conflict? How has seeing things from the author's perspective changed (or reaffirmed) your own viewpoint? Tell why all of this is so.
In short, a good response paper answers the following questions:
- What (meanings, values, etc.) was the author trying to promote?
- What is my personal position relative to the author's.
- How has reading and reflecting on this affected my lived world experience?
Use this link for even more help writing your reaction paper: https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/reaction.html