The second academic writing subgenre we will study is the response paper. Response papers are some of the most commonly assigned papers in college. Especially in humanities and social sciences courses, you’ll often be expected to read an article or text, demonstrate that you understand what it says, and formulate some sort of response to what you’ve read.
Features of the Genre
Context: Typically, the context for an academic response paper is a classroom situation. An instructor may ask students to read an article and write a response paper to demonstrate understanding and learning. The social relationship that is addressed by the response paper in this context is one between an instructor an a student. It may also be used to generate classroom dialog, so in this sense it also addresses the relationship between classmates. There are certainly times outside of an academic context where the response format is used. Similar responses happen loosely in pieces published in the opinion section of a newspaper or magazines, though their style will be even less formal than the academic response essay.
Purpose: Response papers are typically used to demonstrate knowledge of an issue and the ability to engage in an academic conversation. The goal of the paper is to make and support an argument that reflects your own views and contributes to the ongoing dialog on an issue.
Content: The response paper typically includes a few specific things:
summary of the article
clear statement of agreement or disagreement with the original article
thesis that makes its own claim in response to the article
quotes from the original text to illustrate a critique
examples to illustrate main points
optional: research in support of the writer’s view
Audience: Response papers in an academic context are typically written for an audience of peers and other academics who are part of the ongoing conversation on the topic at hand. More practically, they are also written for an instructor to demonstrate the skills mentioned above.
Style: Response Papers often use the 1st person voice and uses a less formal than other academic writing. The writer’s persona is one of an informed and critical reader, and while the writer will be expressing an opinion or viewpoint, they do so in an objective way, without emotion or flare.
Organization: response papers often offer a summary of the argument that is being responded to early in the paper. This occurs in either the first or the second paragraph, typically. There is usually a thesis statement provided in response to the summary. The body of the paper often addresses the critique or support of the original article first and leaves the writer’s own views for later. There is always a conclusion paragraph in this type of writing, and the conclusion usually tries to show readers why the viewpoint expressed in this essay is important.
Select an article on the issue discussed in your 2nd essay. The article can be one that was included in your literature review or it could be a piece that you did not mention directly or that you didn’t include at all. The most important thing is that the article you select MUST express a viewpoint or opinion on your issue. You might find it useful to revisit the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database to select your article.
Write a paper that summarizes the article and responds to one of the main ideas. Your paper should make an argument of its own in response to the argument put forth by your chosen article, following the lead of Chapters 1-6 in your TSIS textbook. Your response may also use research to support its viewpoint, but please note that research is not *required* for this essay. If you use research, please provide in-text citation and a works cited page in alignment with MLA format for this essay. Your works cited should include any sources that you refer to in the paper through quote, summary or paraphrase. This includes the article to which you are responding, so even those who choose not to use research will need a works cited page.
Tips for success
Your argument will be most successful if it is directly related to the central topic presented by the original article. Generally speaking, there are three approaches to responding: agree, disagree or both agree and disagree. Your paper should select one of these approaches, but your claim must be distinct from the argument of the article. Here are a few examples.
If I read an article that argued stronger gun control measures are essential for the safety of our children, I would agree, but I’d need to add something to the conversation that was not included in the original. My thesis might be something like this: Controlling the access to guns for families including mentally compromised individuals could make a difference in the number of school shootings. Notice: this thesis advocates a particular type of law that would increase safety in a particular environment (schools). It is in agreement with the original, but it takes the conversation a step further into new territory.
You could also disagree or agree only in part with the original article. A thesis that both agreed and disagreed might look like this: While I agree that guns can be a danger to children, the best way to address this problem is through education on the appropriate use and storage of guns, not gun control laws. Notice: I’ve agreed that we should be concerned about the safety of our kids, but I have asserted that there is a better way to ensure that safety than to create laws.
You could also disagree entirely. Here is a sample disagree thesis statement: Children’s safety is not a real problem we have when it comes to guns. By educating children about gun safety and appropriate use, we can guarantee our constitutional right to bear arms continues into the future. Notice: I’ve disagreed with both premises of the original article— safety is not a concern and we should educate, not control.
Also: Take care that your paper is focused on making you own argument and does not become an extended summary of the original article. References back to the original should be included where they are needed to help explain YOUR perspective. As a general guideline, somewhere between 20-50% of the response paper (roughly…) should be devoted to discussing the original. Not more than that!
Papers should be a minimum of 3 full pages, double-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. Final essays that do not meet these guidelines are likely to be under-developed and likely wouldn’t meet the expectations of an academic reader.
All references to sources, including the article you’re responding to, should be cited in MLA format in the text and on a works cited page. Any draft missing in-text citations or the works cited page will will be sent back for revision. This is our second essay that requires use of sources, so I’m going to be checking to see if you’ve got your details down this time around. Don’t forget: correct MLA format includes citations AND paper layout.
Research should be quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. Any of these are acceptable, but each must be done accurately. Quotes must appear in quotation marks or they will be considered plagiarized. Paraphrase and summary must not include wording or phrases from the original or these sections will be considered plagiarized. See previous lectures from Week 3 and 6 for an explanation of the difference between quote, paraphrase, and summary as well as tips on MLA format.
Remember, plagiarized papers will receive a zero!
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