Guide How to Write a Response Essay: Know-How

Writing guide
Posted on February 22, 2019

What is a Response Essay

College and university students are required to write different types of writing assignments, and one of them is a response essay. A response essay, which can also be referred to as a reaction essay, is unique by its nature and differs from an ordinary review. Unlike many traditional academic papers, a response essay is usually rather informal as it is written in the first person. This type of writing assignments is focused on revealing one’s personal point of view regarding a movie, a piece of music, a speech, or any kind of written work. While a response paper represents a personal reaction to a particular work, you still have to develop a strong thesis and follow it throughout the whole paper by supporting your opinions with the evidence from this work.

Requirements for a Response Essay

If you need to write a response essay, you should consider its special requirements and other peculiarities, which strongly depend on the work you need to respond to. When developing a response essay, you should closely assess the work and focus on your personal reaction to it. At the same time, you may need to summarize the key points of this work to make your response easier to understand. The most important requirement for a response paper is that you should state your position. It means that you can criticize the work, agree or disagree with its main ideas, reflect on the feelings and thoughts that this work evokes, emphasize its strengths and weaknesses, or present your impressions in some other form. Also, like for any other writing assignment, the basic requirements for a response essay may include avoiding plagiarism, citing the sources, and adhering to a particular formatting style and structure.
A popular form of a response essay is a response to another person’s essay or post. If you respond to your classmate or groupmate’s post, the basic requirements can be a bit different. For instance, you have to address them by their name and either agree or disagree with their opinions. Also, you have to indicate both the strongest and the weakest parts of the post and suggest what can be improved. Finally, such a response usually poses some helpful open-ended questions to continue the discussion. At the same time, in this case, you are also required to back up your personal point of view with some relevant evidence and be precise in your evaluation.

Topics for a Response Essay: Fresh Ideas from Our Writers

Usually, a topic for a response essay depends on the work you analyze. Most typically, it is related to something you study in the class, and in this case, the topic for your response essay is obvious. Besides that, the topic, or even a list of topics, can be developed by your professor. In this case, all you need to do is to choose the one that seems the most relevant and appealing to you.

However, if you are free to choose any topic you want and have to develop it by yourself, you should follow some recommendations. First of all, the topic should be interesting and appealing to you. In this case, it will be easier to complete the assignment. Also, as you are required to express personal opinion in your response, it can be helpful to use the topic you have some background knowledge about. You should understand that it is impossible to write an effective response essay without closely examining the work you respond to. Thus, when choosing a topic, it is easier to dedicate your response to something that you have already watched or read and refresh it in your memory by reviewing if you have enough time. Developing a topic for your response essay can be easy once you have chosen the work you are going to analyze. However, in certain cases, when the response deals with only certain aspects of the work, it can be more effective to identify these aspects in the topic.

Here are some examples that may give you an idea of what to write about:

  • A Response to the Film I Have Seen Recently;
  • A Closer Look at Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe;
  • Oliver Twist as a Social Satire;
  • Assumptions about Gender Roles as Seen in Disney Movies;
  • A Response to Winston Churchill’s Most Influential Speech;
  • Analysis of a Piece of Art That Impresses Me;
  • My Response to the Poem The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe;
  • My Assessment of Romeo and Juliet in Contrast with the Modern-day Realities.

Pre-writing Tips

When the topic is chosen, you can start working on the material. However, before starting to write a response essay, you should take several steps to make the writing process easier and more effective. It is typical for completing a writing assignment to spend much time on the pre-writing activities. This preparation phase will help you gather your thoughts and concentrate on the topic while ensuring cohesion and logical structure of your paper. Here are some pre-writing tips that will be helpful for writing a response essay:

  1. Observe/read the work. In order to write a response essay, you should first closely examine or read the work you are going to analyze and interpret. It will give you the initial understanding of the material and will help you decide on the thesis of your response essay. While reading a written work, watching a movie, or observing any other form of art, you may need to record your thoughts and take field notes on what you feel, what impresses you, and what is worth mentioning.
  2. Develop a thesis. Based on the notes and thoughts, you have to develop a strong and arguable thesis that will help you organize your essay and concentrate on particular aspects of the work you respond to.
  3. Develop an outline. To build a response essay logically and systematically, you have to develop an outline. It will identify the key parts of your paper and the main arguments and opinions presented in it.
  4. Search for the sources. If you are required to use outside sources in your response, you have to search for them before you start writing. You should remember that all the sources should be credible and use only reliable information. The sources can help you decide on the main focuses of your paper. Also, they can provide important background information on the work you respond to, which will be useful for assessing it in a broader context.

Points to Consider While Writing a Response Essay

There are some useful questions you can ask yourself to organize your writing process and focus on the aspects you want to explore the most.

  1. Usually, when a student is required to write a response essay, this assignment is somehow connected to the topic discussed during the class or to the course or discipline at large. That is why the first question you should ask yourself is how the work you analyze is connected with the main aspects and ideas of this topic or course. The same question is effective if you are writing a response to your classmate’s post. In this case, you can ask yourself in what way the issue discussed by your classmate is related to the topic of your class and how you can enhance its understanding by adding your thoughts to the discussion.
  2. Obviously, it is not less important to understand the connections of the analyzed work with contemporary realities. In order to explore this aspect in your response, you have to address the question of how the work relates to the existing issues of modern society.
  3. As it has already been mentioned, the main purpose of a response essay is to express one’s personal opinion concerning a particular work. It is apparent that this point of view is based on one’s personal experiences, ideas, and life principles. That is why it can be useful to investigate how exactly your personal life experience resonates with the ideas expressed in the work you have to analyze. In particular, you can think of the emotions the work evokes in you and the impressions it imposes on you.
  4. Another important question that you need to put is whether the work has enhanced your personal knowledge and understanding of a certain issue or phenomenon. If the work somehow changes your vision of this issue or alters your perspective, you should state it in your response essay.
  5. Finally, you should give an evaluation of the work you analyze. More precisely, you should consider the work’s organization, persuasiveness, accuracy, relevance, and practical meaning. Besides, you can evaluate the overall contribution of this work to the development of culture, sciences, or other spheres. With regard to that, you can also ask yourself if you will recommend the work to others. Such an evaluation is particularly significant when you write a response to your classmate’s post. In this case, the evaluation can present grounding for further improvement and investigation.

The Structure of a Splendid Response Essay

While writing a response essay, you should follow all the professor’s requirements concerning its structure. Typically, a response paper consists of an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If you use outside sources in your work, you should also include a reference page. All the ideas and arguments of your response essay should be presented logically and follow the thesis.


Usually, the first sentence of the introduction should include the title and the author of the work you analyze. Also, your introduction can contain some background information about this work, the author, or the problem it explores. If it is needed, you can briefly summarize the key facts of the work you respond to. In general, the introduction should be short and accurate to attract the readers and draw attention to the issues you are going to discuss.


The thesis statement is particularly important for an effective response essay. It should reflect your personal point of view on the work you analyze and combine all the main ideas that you are going to express later in the body paragraphs. It should state your position clearly and persuasively. The thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the introduction. All the following body paragraphs should be related to the thesis and develop it through the use of particular arguments and examples from the work.

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph of your response paper should concentrate on a separate idea or aspect. All the ideas expressed in the response paper should be consistent with the thesis statement. Besides, all your personal opinions should be supported by the evidence from the work you analyze or from outside sources. If you respond to your classmate or groupmate’s post, your body paragraphs can highlight the strong and weak parts of this post with references, the grounding for your agreement or disagreement on the original writer’s opinion, your recommendations for improvements and further investigations, and questions that arise while reading the post.


In the conclusion, you should restate the idea expressed in the thesis statement. In this part of your paper, you can summarize the key points of your response and connect them together. It is particularly important not to include anything that was not stated in the essay before.

Post-writing Response Essay Tips

You should never forget about the post-writing stage of developing a writing assignment as it is especially significant in the writing process at large. During this stage, you have to be ready to make changes as it can considerably improve your paper. The main activities associated with the post-writing stage are revising and editing.

  1. Revising. Even if it seems to you that your response essay is perfect, you have to look through it once more and revise it if needed. First of all, you have to check if you have followed all the professor’s instructions concerning the format, structure, word count, and content of your paper. After that, you may need to look through the work you plan to respond to once more to catch the details that were left unnoticed after the first time. Then you have to fix all the ideas, arguments, and examples mentioned in your paper so that they are presented clearly, logically, and persuasively. You should not be afraid of changing anything in your paper. The first draft is rarely the final draft, and it is normal to add or change some information, even if it makes the paper completely different to what you have expected in the beginning.
  2. Editing. The process of editing is not less important than revising. It mainly concerns checking your paper on grammatical and stylistic mistakes. To fix the paper, you have to read it carefully and check the word choice, spelling, punctuation, and the use of grammar. For this purpose, you can also use special online programs that can provide you with the correct variants and synonymous words, phrases, and structures. Besides, you should double-check all the sentences that are too long or seem awkward and try to change them. Also, even though a response paper implies the expression of personal opinion, it is important to check once more if the style of your paper is not too informal.

Fleming, G. (2018, December 23). Write an Effective Response Paper With These Tips. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from
Guidelines for Responding to Your Classmates’ Writing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2019, from
Kearney, V. (2018, October 19). How to Write a Reading Response Essay. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from
Learn How to Write a Response Paper : Guides – A Research Guide. (2018, July 06). Retrieved February 5, 2019, from
Writing a Response or Reaction Paper (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2019, from

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