How to Write a Response Essay in Criminal Justice: Is It a Hard Nut to Crack?

Writing guide
Posted on August 31, 2020

Some professors think a response essay is a must to demonstrate obtained knowledge in one of the studies. It does not only provide insight into the theoretical background but allows observing how a student can react to some written works or even movies. Here comes the first and the main mistake, those who are assigned to deal with this paper get puzzled with its definition, and write an expository essay that describes their attitude or opinion about an object. As a result, such work does not proceed for an evaluation. Today, it is possible to differentiate the next identifications of a response report:

  • academic writing that should express your opinion or reaction to a text;
  • written essay in a first-person;
  • a report with enough supporting clues and facts based on your personal reaction;
  • a response to any assigned material for evaluation of details, features or events.

Thus, this type of report is not considered a hard nut to crack. Feel free to use the first person and attach evidence even from your real life.

How to Write a Response Essay in Criminal Justice: Exercises

When you about to start writing your essay, do not neglect to organize a few exercises that will for sure prepare a structure and generate ideas for your composition.

Criminal Justice is a discipline that studies how justice is delivered toward those who commit crimes and those who suffered from offenders. In fact, it encompasses various fields such as business, domestic affairs, governmental issues, and so on. And, there are designated agencies dealing with justice. So, if you plan to pursue your career as a policeman or working in the FBI, try to exercise delivering the clauses of the constitution for imaginary cases on the paper. For instance:

  1. Choose one event with outlined crime and its cause. As an example, find news covering the recent kidnapping or murder situations, and try to figure out why one party caused harm to another one. Write down all the evidence such as A man kidnapped a kid to another country because his ex-wife did not give him permission to spend some time with a child. Then, try to guess auxiliary motives, it can be everything you think such as mental problems, unwillingness to pay child-support payments, and so on. In the end, you should have a paper full of your opinions on the situation that can be used further on for responding.
  2. Make an outline. As far as an essay is composed of 5 obligatory paragraphs, try to draft approximately the matters. If an introduction and conclusion can be followed up in the end, work on the main body. For instance, to provide a supervisor with a logic of your response, dedicate the first subparagraph to the kidnapping as a phenomenon, the second one for the description of events article deals with, and the third one will cover your main thought and ideas that can be for or against the writer.
  3. Create a map. This map will serve for defining professional terminology related to one criminal case. You have to find or study the names of clauses of the constitution, and judges verdicts and so on. It helps to avoid biased information, and a professor may see that knowledge obtained from the course yielded the fruits.
  4. Ask questions. It is all about triggering you and provoking some food for thought. For example, What do you think about the article? What do you find fair-minded and what is not fair? Do you agree or disagree with the matter or writer?, Can you support your opinion with evidence or facts?
  5. Check related content on online platforms. This is the chance to practice your awareness of terminology. For instance, the TED platform hosts various experts in fields where Criminal Justice discussions can be found as well. Choose one video and listen to the speaker, what words he uses to describe the situation, how he reacts to injustice. During watching, take notes. As a result, you may have lexical chunks.

Finally, you can take any sample of response paper on the same subject from the Internet, and check how a writer managed to address the matter. Such practice helps to structure the work, see how many sentences each paragraph contains and whether there are any results from the research.

Stellar Topics on How to Write a Response Paper in Criminal Justice

Choosing a topic is a pitfall you may be stuck with. Why? First off, you should understand the difference between Criminal Law and Criminal Justice and only further it is worth selecting the right topic.

  • Criminal Law deals with a body of law, and actions taken to harm society.
  • Criminal Justice is for enforcement of the law.

Usually, supervisors assign particular tasks for their students such as to write a response on a particular clause or event that caused harm to a group of people. It may be books from the course, articles dedicated to criminal cases, or educational videos dealing with the terms involved in enforcing the law. For your convenience, check top topics that might be of interest to your response report.

  1. Constitution of the USA. (No need to review it fully, choose preferred paragraphs and provide your opinion on their relevance)
  2. Cop’s Do not Cry by Vali Stone. Find out the author’s vision on the police’s everyday life, and react to such a duty.
  3. Criminal Justice Articles, or here.
  4. Journal of Criminal Justice.
  5. Crime and Criminals.

In the above-mentioned links, a student can take any articles because they are all related to the subject. Note, easy-manageable topics are probably will be popular with other students. If your course allows you studying international law, find out the regulations in other countries.

The Key Aspects of Your Composition in Criminal Studies

Let’s imagine you choose your topic, the next stage is a composition. As usual, there should be an introduction, main body, and conclusion. And, of course, the main pillar is your thesis.

Summary. The first part will require you to identify the author of the article, its title, and if possible you can indicate publishing details such as date and publisher. If you have a journal or magazine, mention the publication date.

  1. Find out what the author addresses and highlight the main points and their supporting clues. It will help to fulfill your subparagraphs further on.
  2. Highlight the quotes if you find them illustrating particular ideas.
  3. Do not explain in details the content, your introduction should only hint the matter.
  4. Do not put your opinion or response on the work. All the impressions belong to the main body of your essay.

Thesis and Hook. Your reader must be interested in acknowledging your response essay even if it is the banalest topic in the world or author addressed the well-know matter. Thus, a hook is the tool for persuasion. Let’s take as an example, International Criminal Justice topic. Write something like this,

● International Criminal Justice in the Post-Soviet countries defies imagination. Men who committed murder were imprisoned for 9 years only but rich people who do the same are facing only a suspended sentence. What are the other odd laws Peter Parker mentioning in his article ‘International Crimes’?

Check, you provoked your disrespect to one criminal system, attached the evidence of a particular case where the sentence was unfair, and what author’s work you base your response essay on.

Characterize your reaction in the main body.

  1. If needed, ask a professor what points you should emphasize from the article.
  2. Ask yourself questions. Do you agree or disagree?
  3. Find out how the matter is related to the actual problems of today’s life.
  4. Find out how the matter is related to your experience or feelings.
  5. Check how the work affects your understanding of the subject.
  6. Evaluate the relevance, accuracy, and importance of the main points.
  7. Indicate whether you recommend reading this work to others.

Conclude all the researched information.

  1. No new details in the conclusion but a summarization of the introduction and main body.
  2. Provoke thoughts of your reader about the matter.
  3. You can use a rhetorical question in the end or a despised joke that will put a full stop on your final opinion of the whole matter.
  4. Do not make it long. Up to 5 sentences are more than enough.

As for academical requirements, make sure to use Times New Roman, 12 font, double-spaced. The length of the response paper should be one paper only or 500 to 800 words. Do not exceed this limit.

How to Write a Response Essay in Criminal Justice: Final Considerations

Before submitting any paper to a professor, a student has to be sure there are no mistakes or failures in the academical composition. For instance, such a basic tip to leave an essay to rest for a few hours or one day can greatly refresh your mind. Criminal Justice discipline demands arguments and logic in the context. After some time, your revision will help to come across spelling mistakes or grammatical discrepancies. Check the top errors students keep on doing yearly:

  • Response paper should be based on one author’s work. If there are no indicators on who wrote it, it may be considered as a not suitable choice. Your introduction should obligatory contain his full name, if possible the occupation such as Writer, Expert, Professor. Then, the full name of the work such as “Criminal Justice within Mentally Ill Offenders”. Do not forget to strop it.
  • Double negatives. Play very carefully with phrases, especially such as CAN HARDLY. Some students tend to forget and write CANNOT HARDLY. It already affects the final grade.
  • Remember to support your or the author’s ideas with evidence and facts. Yes, the response paper is kind of a free essay where you write in the first person. But, judging the statements and telling the authors is right or wrong without supporting clues will look biased.
  • Reference. If you attach to your work additional materials, definitions taken from thesaurus or quotes of another scientist, cite them and attach in the reference. Otherwise, it is counted as plagiarism.
  • No cliches or slang from you. If a writer managed to attach his slang suitable for the context, you can duplicate it only by citing. Otherwise, your topic can predetermine the usage of particular slang such as related to the gangs or international vocabulary.
  • Pay attention to clarity. If the main body contains 3 subparagraphs, each of them should be dedicated to one idea only. Readers may easily get puzzled with the purpose of your research and reaction, and they will find it too complicated.
  • Avoid repetitions. For instance, instead of using I think, try to add I feel, I see, I believe or other auxiliary words that can connect your text.
  • Use online editors. Even if you still hesitate about the correctness of your text, refer to online editors such as Grammarly, which can highlight any mistake or show your unreadable sentences.

At last, do not be afraid of changing the structure. Some students are scared to revise their work because they are short of time and may need to rewrite the parts. Thus, always schedule your writing. Even though, a response paper is a short type of essay it requires a prolific investigation of written work that may take even 5 hours. Missed deadlines are not the worst but your indifference to the logic and sense in the essay may affect the grade.

The last recommendation is to choose the path of the most risks. As of now, there are many services or social networks where students from around the world share their essays for assessment. If you are not confident about your work, post it and ask for feedback. For instance, mention in your post such a request as – How do you find my paper? Did I reveal the purpose of writing? Do you agree or disagree with my reaction? Do you find it interesting and useful?. Otherwise, you can always rely on your friends or relatives. But, be careful they may give you insincere feedback to not hurt your feelings.


  • Bruinsma, G., & Weisburd, D. (2013). Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
  • Reader Response – Washington. (n.d). Retrieved from
  • Writing a Response or Reaction Paper — Hunter College. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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