How to Write a Response Essay (Reaction Essay)


(Updated on October 24, 2019 by Michelle Williams)

A response essay is generally meant to provide the reader with a better understanding of how you personally feel about a particular subject.  As such, when you complete a response or reaction essay, you'll discuss your personal thoughts and feelings on the subject at hand.

In many cases, a response or reaction essay is completed in response to a video, reading assignment, or special event.  For example, if something interesting or shocking has been reported in the news, you might write a response or reaction paper that expresses your viewpoint on the events.  Similarly, if you're in a class that has taken a trip to an art museum, you might be called upon to write response essays about the trip or about a particular piece you saw while on your trip.

When you write response or reaction essays, you'll discuss your personal feelings on an issue.  Therefore, you'll write your document in the first person, which means you'll use the word "I" while writing the document.

How to Write a Response Essay (Reaction Essay)In many cases, you'll complete a response or reaction essay in order to tell if you agree or disagree with a topic or you might be asked to write about whether you like or dislike something.  If this is the case, your introductory paragraph will contain a thesis statement that asserts your point-of-view.  The rest of the response or reaction essay will then serve to support your thesis.

Since your thesis statement will likely start out as "I think that," "In my opinion," or something similar, you'll likely use the same types of phrases throughout your response or reaction paper.  In other words, your document will not rely on facts because it focuses more on your opinions.

At the same time, you'll utilize facts that you know or your own observations to help support your opinion.  For example, if you're completing a response or reaction essay to something you have read, you might say something like "In my opinion, the story was very confusing because the author used too many words that were unfamiliar to me and he/she changed the point-of-view too often."  Although someone else may not have had a problem with the words or with keeping up with the changes in point-of-view, it's a fact that you didn't know many of the words and that the author did make frequent changes in the point-of-view of the story.

After supporting your thesis statement with the body of your response or reaction essay, you'll then need to complete a conclusion, which is used to summarize what you have said and repeat your thesis/opinion.  Be sure to state your thesis in a different way than you said it in the introduction, however, as redundancy is a sign of poor work.  Finally, check over your work and write your final draft.

How to Write a Response Essay

Students may be required to complete a response essay for a class after reading a particular report or other document.  A response essay allows a learner to respond to an idea or information in a formal way.  Response essays are always from the student's point-of-view and require that he/she has read and understood information presented to him/her.  In order to create an effective response essay, students need to be persuasive, analytical, and include factual information.

When a student needs to create a response essay, he/she should base the report on his/her reaction to a particular work.  Some response essays will be more sensitive than others.  For example, a student in a physics class may have to respond to a scientist's theory about black holes by providing his/her own theories based on research.  A student in an ethics class may have to create a response essay on the Catholic Church's view on abortion, which would require the student to evaluate his/her own ethics and culture.

Response essays will follow the same basic format as all other reports.  They should also be completed using the same process that a learner will use to create other types of academic works.  First, the student needs to receive and understand the topic about which he/she will need to study for the document.  Often, the learner will need to respond to an idea, such as abortion.  Sometimes, the learner will need to respond to a specific document, such as a written theory on black holes.  However, learners should always base their responses not just on their reaction, but also on related research.

After a student understands the information presented, he/she should review his/her own thoughts on the matter.  The student should find research that supports his/her thoughts.  Alternatively, the student may form thoughts through research.  Only once the student has performed research can he/she create a persuasive and meaningful response.

The response report should have an introduction, which explains the background of the situation and includes a thesis statement.  The body of the response report should contain new information that supports the student's opinion, including facts, ideas, and theories.  The conclusion should state why the student has responded in the manner in which he/she responded.

A response essay follows the same format and procedure as any similar type of essay.  However, it does specifically require that students respond to one or more particular concepts, ideas, events, documents, etc.  Therefore, students need to define the target(s) of their response/reaction and methodologically address each one.  Conversely, other forms of essays may provide for a more generalized opinion or point-of-view that doesn't necessarily require the writer to debunk or support anything in particular.

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