Chapter 5: Responding to a Text

What is a Response Essay?

Often a response follows a summarization and/or examination of a text. The author (you) responds to some aspect of the original author’s argument and/or main ideas. For instance, if you read an essay arguing that one fast food chain is better than another (for various reasons), then you would respond in agreement, disagreement or mixed agreement to the author’s argument or persuasiveness by referring directly to the text and also using your own personal experiences, researched facts, and/or logical examples to support your opinion (Colorado State University).

Why am I writing a response essay?

As you work through your college experience, you will hear over and over that you should not use “I” or first person. I have told many students this, too. However, writing from a first person perspective is important and can be a useful tool because it allows you to effectively use experiences and anecdotes to either introduce a topic or support your point of view. Although learning how to write for academic audience using academic language and tone is very important, I believe beginning with casual tone and first person helps you understand the difference between the two.

Another common misconception of a personal response assignment is that the instructor is asking the student to “write a story,” but the purpose of a personal response assignment is to convey internal reflections and thoughts into a formal and organized piece of writing. In this case, you are not asked to simply “write a story” but instead craft a valid and personal response to an author’s work and argument. A response or reaction to a text is not a narrative essay, even though you may use personal pronouns to react and/or respond to the author’s argument(s).

Another reason for including a summary and response essay assignment is because it prepares you for our later rhetorical work. Knowing how to accurately summarize an authors’ argument and how to appropriately respond to that argument are important skills.

In This Chapter

The summary and response assignment provides you with opportunities to practice writing concise summaries, two types of thesis statements, and body paragraphs; therefore, this chapter includes information pertaining to these skills.