The development and growth of most disciplines involve two repeated actions: research and discussion of its findings. To be able to participate in the latter as a full-fledged member of the scientific or professional community, you must know how to write response and reaction papers. Their formal nature will allow you to clearly and easily express your opinions and experiences, which makes learning how to write them a worthwhile pursuit for anyone who intends to participate in innovation and research.
- Make sure you have read the entire paper thoroughly and have established an understanding of the author’s intent and main points. The primary purpose of a reaction paper is to voice your opinion about those points, potentially followed by more detailed discourse if your observations deserve merit. Creating a flowchart that summarizes the ideas proposed in the paper and how they relate to your perceptions may be a helpful step. While you should still mention the smaller concerns that you have regarding the writing, these should not be the central topic of your argumentation.
- Try to analyze the statements that you disagree with or believe to be erroneous and trace their origins. This way, you may be able to uncover deeper, more significant concerns and re-evaluate your position on the work depending on your findings, enhancing your understanding of the topic in the process. Well-formulated arguments that identify problematic parts of a paper, suggest possible causes, and recommend changes and improvements are at the core of such a discussion and resulting progress.
- Examine the work within its contexts such as similar or associated literature and the current state of the subject. You should try to determine whether the work is derivative or introduces new ideas as well as identifying its potential implications and significance. Also significant is the prevalence in the latest literature of the notions the work supports. If a paper promotes an argument that is generally refuted by other scholars, the fact deserves mention and possible further elaboration. However, this is not grounds for immediate rejection of the author’s points as new research methods or specific study designs often yield results that contradict established norms.
How to Start a Response Paper
- Create a framework around which you will construct your response before you begin writing. Decide on your tone and overall opinion about the paper, choose primary points to mention and discuss, and construct skeleton arguments that agree or disagree with each point. Try to arrange the order of the essential topics to match that used in the original paper to facilitate comprehension. However, any less relevant points that you choose to mention should be relegated to the end of the article so that they do not interfere with the main discussion.
- Try to formulate and structure the narrative throughout your discussion and maintain a logical progression. Doing so will help you to illustrate your position, highlight the differences, and explain the fundamental reasons why you support or disagree with parts of the original author’s opinions. A response paper that provides a detailed analysis of a work along with the reviewer’s opinion about specific arguments and suggestions for improvement is highly valuable in the refinement and development of a thesis as well as the underlying theory.
Your introduction should summarize your perceptions and primary concerns related to the paper. You should begin by explicitly naming the work that you are reviewing and noting its authors. Next, mention the topic and the overall arguments supported in the text. If the subject of the study is relevant to current events or the conclusions of the study are controversial, you should mention that fact as well. End this paragraph by describing your opinion of the paper, including your overall evaluation and specific points of interest, which will also serve as your thesis for the discussion to follow.
In this part, you should relate the primary arguments made in the paper as well as the reasoning behind them. You should include a considerable amount of detail to provide a basis for your arguments, but as the summary is ultimately a derivative part of the reaction essay, it should not take up a majority of the total text. Try to strip the arguments down to their basic logical units to save writing space and show the depth of your analysis. As a general rule, you should add as few comments as possible in this part of the paper, although points of interest such as untrustworthy sources or logical omissions deserve immediate mention.
- Literature Review
This section should contain information on the topic that you have collected from scholarly sources other than the reviewed work. As this material reflects neither your personal opinion nor a summary of material from the original paper, the topic deserves a separate section. Here, you will look at a body of evidence that should be as representative of the overall field as possible and determine whether it agrees with the conclusions of the work you are considering. Analysis of the general schools of thought on the subject matter and of the allegiance of the authors to one of those schools belongs in this section, but analysis of the reasons why the conclusions of the researched paper disagree with those reached by other researchers does not. If others have reviewed the article that is the subject of your essay, you should mention them along with their main points.
This section is the primary part of the paper, in which you will outline your opinion and describe your thoughts on the matters that you consider the most noteworthy. You should try to use the logical constructs that you established in the summary when describing the arguments used by the authors of the original work and your support for or opposition to that reasoning. Overall, there are two primary approaches to writing responses, differing in their ordering of the points and arguments: sorting by agreement and disagreement and listing the topics as they appear in the original paper.
When you sort topics by your agreement with the authors’ conclusions, you may begin this section with an introductory paragraph that should restate your overall opinion about the study and list the arguments that you support or oppose. Two subsections should follow, representing the two attitudes, with agreement typically preceding disagreement. There is no need to restate your opinion for each new point, and you should devote your attention to supporting or opposing arguments. The advantage of this approach is that it makes your position on the various topics broached in the original paper explicit and clear; however, the method also fragments the logical structure of the work, which may complicate overall comprehension for the reader.
The second approach does not require a separate paragraph to describe the structure as the same order is observed in both the original paper and the overview that precedes the response. However, in this case, as you do not explicitly inform the reader of your agreement or disagreement beforehand, you should make your position unambiguous for each point that you cover. In contrast to agreement-based sorting, this method makes it more difficult for the reader to determine your overall opinion on the paper, but it allows you to construct a more precise general argument and analyze the work in greater depth.
The conclusion should restate your position on the paper, including your overall stance and individual points of agreement or contention. Try to keep the mentions as concise as possible, only identifying the topic and your opinion of its handling. You should mention the primary points and relegate smaller concerns, if they exist, to side remarks. Finish the paper with your evaluation of the importance of the work and its potential implications.
You can familiarize yourself with the examples of response essays here.
Response and reaction papers are vital to the advancement of scientific and professional discourse, and every specialist should be aware of the principles of their writing. The creation of an excellent response paper requires a thorough study and understanding of the logic and conclusions of the original work. The structure usually consists of an introduction, a summary, a literature review, your response, and a conclusion. Each of these parts adheres to a rigid structure that allows the paper to be formal and accessible at the same time.