Response essays are typically assigned as a precursor to a evaluative essay or to a critique. These papers are typically written in response to a short literary passage, an editorial, a speech, or an artistic work. The response essay is useful because it gives students the opportunity to express their opinions in a professional manner but without having to use sources. Students often find this paper simple and enjoyable to write because they can write in the first person and state their opinion.
Getting the tone correct is one of the most difficult aspects of the response essay. Because they can use the first-person point of view, students are often tempted to write in an overly informal manner. Be careful to avoid overly informal language or slang in this essay. Even though the audience of the essay is typically the instructor or the other students in the class, it is essential to maintain an even, objective tone to establish credibility.
The introduction should explain the item that the student is responding to, as well as provide background. For example, if the student is providing their response to Pablo Picasso’s painting “Guernica,” they should explain who Pablo Picasso is, the year the painting was produced, and explain the premise of the painting.
The thesis should explain the general response to the work according to the criteria the writer established. The response can be positive. For example, “I enjoyed the Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” because of the stark absence of color, the unique use of perspective, and the skillful way in which Picasso wove the tale of the bombing of Guernica in his work.” However, the response can also be negative, or mix positive and negative elements. There is no right or wrong answer because it is the author’s opinion.
The supporting paragraphs should discuss each of the points mentioned in the thesis. The response paper only asks for the author’s opinion. As a result, no sources are necessary. However, it is important to explain the reaction clearly and precisely, and to use criteria. Just stating that you liked the colors is not enough. Explain why you liked the colors.
The conclusion should summarize the overall response. It is also appropriate to explain how the work changed your view of the genre, or of the medium. For example, if the student earned a new appreciation for impressionistic art as a result of evaluating the painting, they should say so in the conclusion.
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