Response Papers

Guidelines for Writing Successful Response Papers
Model Responses

You will be asked to e-mail or post weekly Response Papers throughout the course. Use the them as an opportunity to express your thoughts more formally than in your reading journal and open them up for discussion with your classmates. Response Papers are generally 350 words long with the exception of Afterthoughts (600 words) which count as two Response Papers.

Please feel free to write in the first person. Possible approaches include, but are by no means limited to:

  • analyzing a passage or episode that puzzles, moves, or upsets you;
  • comparing different versions of tales;
  • analyzing the significance or motivations of a character;
  • comparing this week's reading with last week's;
  • arguing with ideas presented in a critical article.

We invite you to connect the course material to your other classes, books, movies, current events, and your own life experience. Just remember to anchor the Reading Response in the readings you are dicussing.

If you are asked to post your responses on toolkit, try not to dublicate the postings of others. This should be an incentive to post early and as an incentive to read what others have posted. If one of your colleagues has already posted something very close to what you wanted to say, make sure to refer to that particular posting by providing commentary and adding a new perspective and new references.

Response papers include these types (indicated on the syllabus):

  1. Reading Response: Before class, reflect on the reading and explore a question that interests you.
  2. Afterthoughts (600 words): After class or a class period, reflect back on the readings and discussion synthesizing what you take away.
  3. Debates: Engage your classmates in a debate about readings.
  4. Book Review: click here for details.


Guidelines for Writing Successful Response Papers

Response writing is different from paper writing. In your Response Papers you can be more intuitive and less formal than in the 5 page paper. However, a few basic guidelines might help you to write successful responses:

  • Audience - Your classmates and professor. Assume you are writing for an audience that is familiar with the texts and our discussion and that your reader is intelligent and curious.
  • Make a choice - A good response paper focuses on a specific idea and explores it in some depth. Choose an idea that you know is your own, one that is not based on a cliché, and does not present a broad generalization.
  • Be specific and concrete - A good response paper is like a mini argument using concrete examples from the text to support your point.
  • Go beyond expressing your emotional reaction - Refer to your emotional response to a reading only if you proceed to analyze how it presents a key to an understanding of the text.
  • Proofread your response for grammatical correctness and show that you have read the texts by referring to characters and authors by their accurate names.
  • Turn in your response paper on time as specified on the syllabus.

Grading Scale

v+ excellent (A)
v   good (B)
v-  average (C)