How to Write a Response Essay in Human Resources Management: a Comprehensive Manual

Writing guide
Posted on September 20, 2021

A response essay is a widely used assignment type in many disciplines, and human resources management is no exception. While it is usually smaller in scope than your typical research paper, you can expect to deal with multiple such essays throughout your course. While individually they do not take much time and effort, cumulatively they account for a significant part of your college experience. This means that the earlier you learn how to deal with them, the smoother your studies will go.

Usually, a response essay requires that you provide a reaction or personal impression of a text – it may be one of the readings related to the course or something your professor assigns specifically to you. The scope of your work is limited for you, there is little to no freedom in the choice of topic; in a sense, you answer a simple question: ‘What do you think about it?’ A response essay requires little to no original research – you may supplement your opinion with quotations from sources other than the text you deal with, but you do not have to.
When writing about human resources management, in addition to expressing your private opinion, you also have to keep in mind that it is a rapidly developing area, so it is important to consider the latest development and best practices in HRM when evaluating what is said in the text you respond to.

Unlike most other academic assignments, response essays are less formal – you have to use first person singular and can speak about your individual thoughts, feelings and impressions, not necessarily supporting them with objective facts. However, you still have to provide evidence for what you say – i.e., if you say that you strongly disagree with the ideas expressed in the article you respond to, you cannot leave it at that. You have to explain why you find them disagreeable, what you believe to be better alternatives and why.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to write a high-quality human resources management response essay on your own.

How to Write a Response Essay in Human Resources Management: Before You Start

1. Choose Your Angle

A response essay in human resources management usually deals with a text assigned to you by your professor – for example, you may have to express your opinion about one of the course readings. This means that the topic is already chosen for you. Even if you are free to choose the text to deal with yourself, the nature of the paper remains the same: you have a pre-existing text you have to read, analyze and react to. This means that you not so much choose your topic as you choose an angle or approach you take when looking at the text. Sometimes you will have a strong enough opinion on the subject matter to immediately understand what stance to take. In other cases, you may use one of these approaches:

  • Fully agree with the ideas of the author and back them up with your personal experience (e.g., in the course of your work placement);
  • Fully disagree with the author and back your opinion up with relevant evidence (e.g., it is outdated and contradicts recent findings in the field);
  • Agree with the author but point out that he/she does not take his/her ideas far enough. Suggest how you would have further developed these ideas. E.g., if the author suggests that an interview is not the best indicators of an applicant’s further value, you may say that you agree but believe that interviews can be completely eschewed if certain other practices are applied);
  • Pay attention to secondary points of the author’s argument and declare that they are, in fact, more important than his primary thesis statement. E.g., if the author discusses the efficiency of monetary compensation in motivating employees and mentions other approaches to motivation in passing, you may state that he/she is missing the point and focusing on non-monetary means can be more useful;
  • Focus on how the author tries to convince the reader and whether he/she is effective in it.

2. Write a Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement will be present in full in your essay, but it pays to write it ahead of everything else, as it is the central part of your argument. In a thesis statement, you express the main idea of your essay in a concentrated form (one or two sentences). In the context of a response essay, your thesis statement usually boils down to whether you agree with the author, disagree or are somewhere in between. An effective approach is to reflect on how the author’s view reflect his/her experience (e.g., he/she may have negative opinion about horizontal company structure because of his/her negative experience of working in such an organization). After that, you can expand on the source material’s statement (e.g., saying that despite the author’s opinion, many examples show that horizontal structure can be effective).

3. Outline Your Essay

In an outline, you create a rough plan of your future essay and write down what specifically you are going to use at this or that moment: e.g., how you will connect individual points, what quotes from the source material you will use, what external evidence you will introduce and so on.

The two most common mistakes at this stage are relying too much on your memory and writing too detailed an outline. Follow the golden middle ground and write an outline that provides basic information about each part of your essay but does not go into too much detail. This will guarantee you neither will forget any crucial aspects of your argument nor will be bound by too strict a plan to introduce anything that will occur to you in the process of writing.

How to Write a Response Essay in Human Resources Management: While You Write

1. Write an Introduction

An introduction serves to provide the information about the subject matter and lead up to your argument about it. Its size may differ depending on the word count of your essay, but in all cases here you have to do the following:

  • Grab the reader’s attention. It is the job of the first sentence of the essay, sometimes called a ‘hook’. Its purpose is to pique the reader’s interest and motivate him/her to read further – it does not even have to have much to do with the further contents of the paper. E.g., in a response essay about an article on hiring practices, you can begin with a scathing remark about how you were interviewed in a certain company;
  • Provide background. In the context of a response essay, you say a little about the text’s author and summarize the article in question. In other words, give the audience enough context so that the rest of your essay makes sense;
  • Introduce your thesis (discussed above).

2. Write the Body of the Essay

Here you provide arguments and evidence in favor of your thesis. If you agree with the author on all counts, you can use the source material as evidence, but do not just limit yourself to repeating its arguments. If you disagree, you can either use your own experience as evidence or quote other sources.

  • Make sure the body consists of at least three paragraphs;
  • Each paragraph should be dedicated to a single point, expressed in a topic sentence. The rest of the paragraph consists of supporting details and secondary points backing up the topic sentence;
  • Refer to the text often to demonstrate that you have studied it well.

3. Write a Conclusion

Contrary to what you may have been taught in high school, in conclusion you should not repeat your previous arguments. It is a formulaic approach that makes it look as if you are unsure whether you made yourself clear or if the reader is too dense to understand you the first time around. Instead, you have to actually provide a conclusion or closure to what you said before. Just like the purpose of the introduction is to motivate the audience to read the entire essay, it is the purpose of the conclusion to encourage the audience to do something: think about what you said, agree with you, challenge their opinions, etc. You can do it by:

  • Calling their attention to a larger relevant issue;
  • Going full circle and referring to something you said in the introduction (e.g., concluding the story of your work placement with an organization);
  • Once again appealing to the audience to share your viewpoint;
  • Calling for a change of attitude expressed in the article.

4. Do not Feel Obliged to Follow Your Thesis Statement and Outline

A thesis statement and an outline are invaluable in helping you to stick to a structure and avoiding wasting time on revisions. However, when you take them too seriously, they can limit your creativity and prevent your writing from reaching its full potential. If in the course of writing you find that you are not so sure about your thesis anymore or that you want to introduce an additional point to your argument, do it. Just make sure to check later on if it upsets the balance of the essay.

How to Write a Response Essay in Human Resources Management: After You Finish

1. Do not Fixate on Fixing

While editing and proofreading your paper is important for its eventual success, you should not do it to the exclusion of everything else. You have plenty of other responsibilities, both in and out of college. Moreover, editing, just like any other activity, eventually reaches a point when it starts to bring diminishing returns. Therefore, it is important to develop a strategy that will tell you when your job is done. We recommend limiting your editing to three passes.

2. First Pass: Structure, Logic, Consistency, Argument

Do the first pass on your computer, because it may involve serious changes to the structure and arrangement of the paper. Read the text slowly, trying to perceive every word as if you were seeing it for the first time, and pay attention on the logical consistency of the essay, presentation of your arguments, connections between fragments:

  • Do not worry about insignificant spelling and grammar mistakes at this point – it will only distract you from the bigger picture;
  • Take in your essay one paragraph at a time and check if each of them works both as a unit and as a part of the whole;
  • If a segment is unclear or awkwardly structured, rearrange and clarify it until you are satisfied;
  • Remove repetitions;
  • Add details where necessary;
  • Add or modify transitions between paragraphs if they are not smooth enough.

3. Second Pass: Grammar, Spelling, Wording

Now that you are reasonably confident that you are not going to alter the structure of the essay, you have to focus on grammar and spelling mistakes and other small flaws that may devalue your argument in the eyes of the reader. To avoid multiple unnecessary passes, follow these steps:

  • Print out the copy of your essay on paper. You may also consider changing the font or altering the look of your text in some other way. Your goal is to make your essay look at little as what you are used to seeing on the screen as possible;
  • Read the essay aloud, slowly, without mumbling, carefully articulating every word. Keep a drink at hand to avoid losing your voice. Reading aloud makes you slow down your thinking and focus on the words you see rather than the thoughts behind them. It can also help you catch awkward wording and expressions where it is unnoticeable when you read it silently;
  • When you encounter a mistake, mark it with your pencil, go back to the previous paragraph and start reading it aloud again;
  • This pass tends to take a long time, so do not put it off;
  • After you’ve corrected the entire essay, go back to your computer and make the necessary changes.

4. Third Pass: Final Touches

If you made your first two passes meticulous enough, you only need to reread the essay once more. Print the paper out again (thus you will be more likely to notice an embarrassing typo that eluded you before) and read it quickly. You do not have to do it aloud or pay attention to every word – you may easily make it on the day you submit the paper. This will allow you to read it in a different state of mind, making catching stray mistakes more likely.
Writing a response essay may seem like a complicated and unusual task; but you can make it much more manageable simply by following these steps!

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