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Much of the writing required of students involves researching several sources synthesizing that research and then producing an academic work the content of which is primarily the work of others.  A reaction paper, on the other hand, is comprised of the student’s response to a single work – an essay, a book, a documentary/movie, editorial, etc.  The student is expected to review the assigned work and to react or respond to the statements made by the creator of that work.  This type of writing can be much more fulfilling, because the student has the opportunity to insert his/her thoughts, opinions, and experiences rather than those of others.

Producing Reaction Paper Writing that results in good grades requires some solid analytical and evaluative skills.

As one moves through this process, the following suggestions should be considered:

  1. Read or view the piece several times.  The more you do this, the more insight you will obtain.  Each time you read or view you will see new things to which you may wish to react.
  2. Ask specific questions and answer them by taking notes during your reading or viewing.
    • What is the major point or statement being made?
    • If there are several points or statements, with which do you agree and with which do you disagree?
    • Have you any personal experiences that relate to the statements being made?
    • Does the creator have credibility?  Does s/he provide enough detail to support what is being posited?
    • Answering these questions will give you lots of material for your paper.  The time to organize it is later; right now you simply need to gather your thoughts!
  4. Sit back and spend some time thinking about what you have read or seen and reviewing the notes you have taken.  Only by doing this will you begin to formulate a “plan of attack.”
  5. Generate an overall general statement about your reaction.  This will be the basis for which your thesis statement is generated.
  6. Based upon the thesis statement, compose your outline or a list that sequences the order in which you will make your points of response. 

Write the Body Paragraphs First. 

Based upon the type of work you read or viewed, you will be analyzing the validity or importance of the statements made or providing.  If, for example, you have viewed a Michael Moore documentary, you will want to briefly summarize two or three major points he has made.  Does he provide evidence to substantiate his views?  Do you have experiences or information that either support or contradict his points?  Each point and your analysis will form one of the paragraphs of your reaction paper.

Write the Introduction.  

Your introduction should provide a thesis statement that summarizes your overall reaction to the piece, along with a sentence or two that summarizes the piece.  As with any academic writing, the introduction should be creative and “hook” the reader.

The Conclusion Should Wrap Up:  

Do not introduce any new information in your conclusion.  Wrap up your response in general terms and state the impact the original work has had on you.

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