A reaction paper is one of the assignments you can get in college. It may seem easy at first glance, similar to a diary entry requiring your reaction to an article, a literature piece, or a movie. However, writing a high-quality paper often turns into a challenge. Here is a handy guide on how to write a reaction paper, with examples and topic suggestions.
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❓ What Is a Reaction Paper Assignment?
A reaction paper (or response paper) is an academic assignment urging students to explain what they feel about something. When crafting a good reaction piece, the student should aim to clarify what they think, agree or disagree with, and how they would identify with the object regarding their life experiences. The object of your response may be a painting, a book, an academic publication, or a documentary.
This task is not a simple summary of the text or film you’re assigned to. Neither is it a research paper; you don’t need to use external sources in a reaction paper. Thus, the writing process may seem confusing to newbies. Let’s clarify its main elements and features to help you out.
✍️ Reaction Paper Format
Every academic assignment has a specific structure and requirements to follow. Here we discuss the major elements of the response paper format to guide you through its components and the composition algorithm. As soon as you capture the structure, you can write stellar texts without a problem.
Reaction Paper Template
Every critical reaction paper follows the standard essay outline, with the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion as to its main parts. Here is a more detailed breakdown of each component:
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- Introduction. You present the subject and set the context for the readers.
- Body. This part is a detailed analysis of your response to the subject. You should list the main points and analyze them, relating to your feelings and experiences.
- Wrap-up. Here you recap all major points and restate your opinion about the subject, giving it a conclusive evaluation.
Reaction Paper: APA Format
Depending on your teacher’s preferences and the academic subject, you may be given a reaction paper assignment in various referencing styles. The APA format is one of the possible variants. So, please don’t get confused about the writing approach; it only means that you should format your reaction paper according to APA conventions. These are:
- A standard APA title page
- One-inch margins on all sides
- Double spacing between the lines
- An author-date format of referencing external sources (if you use any supporting evidence)
The rest of the requirements are identical for reaction papers in all referencing formats, allowing you to choose.
🤔 How to Write a Good Reaction Paper Step-by-Step
Now, it’s time to clarify how to begin a reaction paper, what steps to take before writing, and how you will compose the entire assignment. Use our universal step-by-step guide fitting any reaction paper topic.
- Study the prompt inside out. You should understand the prompt to craft a relevant paper that your professor will grade highly.
- Clarify all instructions. A grave mistake that students often make is assuming they have understood everything in one go. Still, asking questions never killed anybody. So, we recommend inquiring your tutor about everything to be 100% sure you’re on the right path.
- Study the subject of your paper. Watch a movie, look at the painting, or read the text – do everything you can to get to the depths of the author’s message and intention.
- Make notes. Your reactions matter, as they will become the main content of your written text. So, annotate all feelings and ideas you have when studying the subject. You’ll be able to use them as writing prompts later.
- Make a reaction essay outline. The outline is the backbone of your content, which will serve as your compass during the actual writing process.
- Compose the draft. Use the outline as a structure and add details, evidence, and facts to support your claims. Then add an introduction and a conclusion to the final draft.
- Edit and revise. To err is human; to edit is divine. Follow this golden rule to submit a polished, revised paper without errors and typos.
How to Write a Reaction Paper About a Movie?
When the subject of your reaction paper assignment is a movie, you should consider the context in which it was given. It’s probably a supporting material for your study course dedicated to a specific learning concept or theory. Thus, it would be best to look for those links when watching the assigned movie – “Women’s Rights and Changes over the 20th Century” is an excellent example of this technique. It will help you draw the connections in your reaction paper, showing your professor that you understand the material and can relate theory and practice.
The steps you need to take are as follows:
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- Watch the film. It’s better to do it 2-3 times to capture all the tiny details.
- Take notes. Record the film’s central themes, messages, character traits, and relationships.
- Focus on a relevant element of the film in your response. If it’s a Film Studies class, you may write about the stylistic means and shooting techniques that the director used. If it’s a psychology class, you may write about characters and their relationships. If you need to compose a Sociology or Politics reaction paper, you may focus on the context of the film’s events.
- Revise the draft. Careful editing can save your grade, helping you locate minor errors, typos, and inconsistencies. Always reserve some time for a final look at your text.
How to Write a Reaction Paper to a Documentary?
Documentaries are also frequently chosen as subjects for reaction papers. They present valid, objective data about a specific event, person, or phenomenon and serve as informative, educational material for students. Here’s what you need to do if you get such a task:
- Watch the documentary several times. Watch it several times to understand everything nicely. It’s usually a much more data-rich video piece than a fiction film is, so you’ll need to take many notes.
- Present your documentary in the background of your reaction paper. Set the context for further discussion by naming the author, explaining its topic and content, and presenting its central claim.
- Talk about the documentary’s purpose at length. Please focus on the details and major claims made by the director; present relevant facts you’ve learned from it.
- React to the documentary’s content and explain how you felt about it. State what points you agree with and what ideas seem controversial; explain why you agree or disagree with the director’s position.
A vital aspect of a response to a documentary is comparing what you knew and thought about the subject before and after watching it. It’s a significant learning experience you should share, showing whether you have managed to progress through the studies and acquire new information. Look through the “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” reaction paper to get a clear idea of how it works.
How to Write a Reaction Paper to an Article?
Once you get a home task to write a reaction paper to an article, you should follow this algorithm:
- Read the article several times to understand it well. Make notes every time you read; new shades of meaning and details will emerge.
- Explain the key claims and terms of the article in your own words, as simply as possible. Then respond to them by evaluating the strength of those claims and their relevance.
- Assess the author’s stand and state whether you agree with it. Always give details about why you do or don’t support the author’s position.
- Question the evidence provided by the author and analyze it with additional sources, if necessary.
Please don’t forget about the following writing conventions:
|✔️||Start each paragraph with a topic sentence and make the entire section relevant.|
|✔️||Properly paraphrase and cite your sources (you may use our Academic Paraphraser Tool to cope with the task quicker).|
|✔️||Include a broader evaluation of the article’s implications for your academic subject in the concluding section.|
|❌||Don’t include more than one main idea in one paragraph|
|❌||Avoid summarizing the article; give a summary only in the introduction.|
An excellent example of a response paper to an article is “Gay Marriage: Disputes and the Ethical Dilemma.”
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Tips for Writing a Psychology Reaction Paper
If you were tasked with writing a reaction paper for a Psychology class, use the following tips to excel in this assignment.
- Identify the subject you need to react to. It may be a psychological theory, a book or article on psychology, or a video of a psychologist’s performance.
- Study the subject in detail. You need to understand it to form specific reactions, give informed commentary, and evaluate the presented claims effectively.
- Think about the topic’s relevance to modern times. Is the theory/book/article consistent with the ideas people hold today? Has there been any criticism of these ideas published recently? Did later research overturn the theory?
- Form a subjective response to the assigned subject. Do you agree with that position? Do you consider it relevant to your life experience? What feelings does it arouse in you?
By approaching a psychology piece with all these questions, you can create a high-quality response based on valid data, reflecting your reactions and opinions. Look through “Peer Interaction in Mergers: Evidence of Collective Rumination” to see how it can be done.
💭 Reaction Paper Questions
Reaction essay writing is a process that you can start only after answering essential questions about the content and your feelings. Here are some examples to ask yourself when preparing for the writing stage.
- What is the author’s key message or problem addressed in the piece?
- What purpose did the author pursue when creating this text/movie/sculpture/painting? Did the author fulfill it successfully?
- What point does the author intend to make with their work of art/literature?
- What assumptions can I trace throughout the subject, and how do they shape its content/look?
- What supporting facts, arguments, and opinion does the author use to substantiate their claims? Are they of high quality? What is their persuasive power?
- What counterarguments can I formulate to the claims made by the author?
- Is the raised issue relevant/interesting/significant?
- What are the author’s primary symbols or figurative means to pass their message across?
- Do I like or dislike the piece overall? What elements contribute to a positive/negative impression?
- How does this piece/subject correlate with my life experience and context?
- How can the reflections derived from this subject inform my life and studies?
- What lesson can I learn from this subject?
📋 Transitional Words for Reaction Paper
When you write a reaction paper, you express a personal opinion about a subject you have studied (a visual artwork or a text). However, the subjective nature of this assignment doesn’t mean that you should speak blatantly without caring about other people’s emotions and reactions. It’s critical to sound polite and use inclusive language.
Besides, you need to substantiate your points instead of simply stating that something is good or bad. Here are some linguistic means to help you develop a coherent reaction text:
- I think/feel/believe that
- It seems that
- In my opinion
- For example / as an illustration / as a case in point
- In contrast
- I think / I strongly believe / from my point of view
- I am confident that
- For all these reasons
- Finally / in conclusion
It’s not mandatory to squeeze all these phrases into your text. Choose some of them sparingly depending on the context; they will make your essay flow better.
🔍 Reaction Paper Examples
Here is a short reaction paper example you can use as practical guidance. It is dedicated to the famous movie “Memento” by Christopher Nolan.
Memento is a movie about a man with a rare neurological condition – anterograde amnesia – seeking revenge for the rape and murder of his wife. He struggles to remember the recent events and creates various hints in notes and tattoos to keep the focus on his mission. Throughout the film, he meets different people who play weird roles in his life, contributing to the puzzle set by the director in the reverse scene presentation.
My first impression of the movie was confusing, as it took me half of the film to realize that the scenes were organized in the reverse order. Once the plot structure became more apparent, I opened many themes in the movie and enjoyed it until the end. Because of the severe brain damage, Leonard could not determine whether the story of his wife’s rape and murder was real, whether he had already been revenged for her death, and whether he was a hero or a villain. Thus, for me, the film was about a painful effort to restore one’s identity and seek life meaning amid the ruining memory and lost self.
The overall approach of Christopher Nolan deserves a separate mention. A unique design of shots’ sequence and the mix of chronological black-and-white and reverse chronological colored scenes is a puzzle that a viewer needs to solve. Thus, it becomes a separate thrilling adventure from the film’s storyline. My overall impression was positive, as I love Christopher Nolan’s auteur approach to filmmaking and the unique set of themes and characters he chooses for artistic portrayal.
Another example of a reaction paper we’ve prepared for you presents a reaction to “Night” by Elie Wiesel.
The horrors of World War II and concentration camps arranged by Nazis come to life when one reads Elie Wiesel’s Night. It is a literary piece composed by a person who lived in a concentration camp and went through the inhumane struggles and tortures of the Nazi regime. Though Wiesel survived, he portrayed that life-changing experience in much detail, reflecting upon the changes the threat of death makes to people’s character, relationships, and morality.
One of the passages that stroke me most was people’s cruelty toward their dearest relatives in the face of death. The son of Rabbi Eliahou decided to abandon his father because of his age and weakness, considering him a burden. This episode showed that some people adopt animal-like behavior to save their lives, forgetting about the cherished bonds with their parents. Such changes could not help but leave a scar on Elie’s soul, contributing to his loss of faith because of the cruelty around him.
However, amid the horror and cruelty that Elie Wiesel depicted in his book, the central message for me was the strength of the human spirit and the ability to withstand the darkness of evil. Wiesel was a living witness to human resilience. He witnessed numerous deaths and lost faith in God, but his survival symbolizes hope for a positive resolution of the darkest, unfairest times. Though reading “Night” left me with a heavy, pessimistic impression, I still believe that only such works can teach people peace and friendship, hoping that night will never come again.
The third sample reaction paper prepared by our pros deals with the article of David Dobbs titled “The Science of Success.”
The article “The Science of Success,” written by David Dobbs in 2009, presents an innovative theory of behavioral genetics. The author lays out the findings of a longitudinal study held by Marian Bakermans-Kranenbug and her team related to the evolution of children with externalizing behaviors. Their study presents a new perspective on the unique combination of genetics, environment, parenting approaches, and its impact on children’s mental health in adulthood.
The claim of Dobbs I found extremely convincing was the impact of mothers’ constructive parenting techniques on the intensity of externalizing behaviors. Though most children learn self-control with age and become calmer and more cooperative as they grow up, waiting for that moment is unhealthy for the child’s psyche. I agree that parents can help their children overcome externalizing behaviors with calm activities they all enjoy, such as reading books. Thus, the reading intervention can make a difference in children’s psychological health, teaching them self-control and giving their parents a break.
However, the second part of the article about “dandelion” and “orchid” children and their vulnerability caused more questions in me. I did not find the evidence convincing, as the claims about behavioral genetics seemed generic and self-obvious. Children raised in high-risk environments often develop depression, substance abuse, and proneness to criminality. However, Dobbs presented that trend as a groundbreaking discovery, which is debatable. Thus, I found this piece of evidence not convincing.
As you can see, reaction paper writing is an art in itself. You can compose such assignments better by mastering the techniques and valuable phrases we’ve discussed. Still, even if you lack time or motivation for independent writing, our team is on standby 24/7. Turn to us for help, and you’ll get a stellar reaction paper in no time.
⁉️ Reaction Paper Questions and Answers
What Words Do You Use to Start a Reaction Paper?
First, you need to introduce the subject of your paper. Name the author and the type of work you’re responding to; clarify whether it’s a film, a text, or a work of art. Next, you need to voice your opinion and evaluate the assigned subject. You can use phrases like, “I think… In my opinion… My first reaction was… I was touched by…”.
What Is the Difference Between Reflection and Reaction Paper?
The main distinction between reflection and reaction essays is their focus on the subject. A reaction paper approaches it from the viewpoint of your evaluation of the content and message of the assigned topic. It deals with how you felt about it, whether you liked it, and what thoughts it evoked in you. A reflection, in its turn, deals with your perceptions and beliefs. It focuses on the transformational experiences of either changing or reinforcing one’s views upon seeing or reading something.
What Is the Purpose of Reaction Paper?
The primary purpose of writing a reaction paper is to communicate your experience of reading, watching, or to see a subject (e.g., a movie, a book, or a sculpture). You should explain how you captured the author’s message, what you felt when exposed to that subject, and what message you derived. You can cite details and discuss your reactions to them before forming the general evaluation.
Can You Use “I” in a Reaction Paper?
Students can use the first-person “I” when writing reaction pieces. The use of the first person is generally banned in academic research and writing, but reflections and response papers are exceptions to this rule. It’s hard to compose a personal, subjective evaluation of an assigned subject without referring to your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. In this academic assignment, you can use phrases like “I believe… I think… I feel…”.