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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

How to Write A Reading Response Essay: The Ultimate Guide with Examples

A reading response essay pursues the goal of summarizing a text under your consideration and demonstrating your response to the piece of writing. Your response may take various forms:
  • You may agree or disagree with the author.
  • You may react to whether the author’s message corresponds with your life views.
  • You may react to whether the author’s message corresponds with the ones in other texts.
  • You may analyze the author’s interaction with the audience.
  • You may estimate how successful the author is in conveying his or her ideas.

A Reading Response Essay Introduction

When you write your reading response essay, you mainly convey your own judgments about the text. So, in the majority of cases, you should use the first person. The introduction usually includes one to three paragraphs. In the case of a response essay, the introduction is both to summarize the article under your consideration and give your readers some general information about the subject. So, it will ideally take two paragraphs unless you are to write a five-paragraph essay. Whatever type of essay you are working on, your introduction should contain:
  • ‘the hook’ to grab the attention of your audience
  • the review of the subject matter
  • your thesis statement.
In the case of a reading response essay, there are several additional points for you to mention in your introduction:
  • general information about the author and the text about which you are writing.
  • the précis of the text under your consideration.

The Ideas for the Introduction

In the first paragraph of your introduction, you should provide the review of your subject matter. Here are the ultimate ways to do it if you want to grab the attention of your audience:
  • Give some astonishing stats.
  • Start with a fact that will surprise your reader.
  • Use a proper quote.
  • Start with a joke or tell an amusing story.
  • Use other storytelling techniques.
  • Provide some examples illustrating your topic.
  • Use a dialogue.
  • Digest the question you are going to raise in your paper.
  • Tell your readers more about the topic under consideration.

Introduction-Conclusion Framing of a Reading Response Essay

‘Framing' is a great tool that can be used not only to interest the reader but also to make your paper integral. It usually stems from a story you start telling in your introduction. Remember that it is not enough just to finish it in your conclusion, i.e., to break it into two parts. If the first part sets a problem, the second part has to solve it by using that what you have written in the body paragraphs. You can also use dialogue instead of a story. As an alternative to this, you can tell the same whole story in the introduction and conclusion from different perspectives. Usually, essay writers use a story based on a common misconception at the beginning and a new approach to the problem based on their findings at the end. Here are some examples of ‘framing' your essay:
  • If you've chosen driving and speaking on the phone as your topic and picked a proper text to respond to, you can start with describing a typical situation when someone is calling us when we are driving. In your conclusion, you can describe the right decision a person should make in such a case. Base it on the main arguments of your essay.
  • If your topic concerns Alzheimer’s disease in a family, you may retell a dialogue between family members who are trying to find the best solution for the one who got ill. You can leave the solution for the conclusion or provide two opposite solutions – what people would do before and after they have taken all the arguments into account.
  • If you are writing about environment protection, describe what we should protect in your introduction. In your conclusion, picture what our planet could have been like if we all did what we ought to. Mind that this is not a persuasive essay, so there is no need for post-apocalyptic descriptions in your conclusion.
  • A reading response essay may be regarded as a kind of a personal essay, as you use your personal reading experience. For this reason, any additional personal experience you can provide on the topic will make this essay better, as opposed to some other essay types. So, you really can use a story that happened to you for framing your essay.

The Ideas for Relating the Introduction to the Conclusion

Here are the things you can write in the introduction and conclusion respectively:
  • Tell the beginning of the story that actually happened or was described in the work under consideration - Tell the end of the story
  • Satisfying Results: Express your expectations before reading the work you are writing about - Explain in what way the work justified your expectations
  • Unsatisfying Results: Describe what you hoped to get from reading this piece of writing - Explain why the work has not equaled your hopes
  • Raise the question you expect to be answerer - Provide the answers
  • Use surprising facts and statistics - Clarify these taking into consideration the arguments you’ve used in your work
  • Appeal to the reader’s senses while describing the subject - Interpret the reader’s expected reaction using some new information you’ve used
  • Describe a situation that could have happened to the reader - If you haven’t finished the scenario in the introduction, do so. If you have, suggest another course of events
  • Describe some beliefs, myths, prejudices, and misconceptions about the subject matter - Tell how the work under consideration dispels those or dispel those yourself
  • Use an appropriate quotation - Relate the quotation to your thesis statement using the main arguments of your paper.

Thesis Statement

The second paragraph of your introduction should start with enumerating the main ideas of our primary source, i.e., the piece of writing under your consideration. This summary serves as a smooth transitioning to your thesis statements. For example, you can write the following: Mary Johnson in her famous article "Cell Phones are Dangerous" state that using phones while driving is unacceptable. More than that, avoiding the disastrous results should become a part of the safety of living education. The author uses stunning statistics to prove her point. It turns out that speaking on the phone while driving is just as risky as driving under the influence of an intoxicant. An increasing number of accidents happen because of cell phones. The conclusions Jonson draws are as follows. First, people should take personal responsibility and avoid using cell phones when they drive a vehicle. Secondly, the idea of driving without using a phone should be widely promoted by every one of us. This summary is followed by a thesis statement. Here are two main ways you can do it:
  • Agreement: I support the author's arguments entirely, as I have witnessed and heard of numerous accidents caused by this factor.
  • Disagreement: The author's evidence seems unsatisfactory to me. There are plenty of other factors that may be dangerous under particular circumstances, like speaking with passengers, for example. There is not enough proof that talking on the phone is more dangerous than that and it cannot be banned.
Both agreements and disagreements should be supported by reflection and expansion.
  • Reflection: As it is clear from Johnson's assertions, she had a negative experience connected to this factor. If you agree with the author: She knows exactly what she is discussing. As a personal experience is not enough to prove her point, the author supports it with arguments and reliable evidence. That is why her conclusions are so valuable. If you disagree with the author: This is not the best basis for credible research. All evidence the in the paper are used to prove the author's point. However, Johnson has not shown the opposing point of view, so the reader does not have the full picture to draw his or her own conclusions.
  • Expansion: The problem of safe driving that the author touches upon is critical. Speaking on the phone may be regarded as a contributing factor to the increasing number of accidents. However, the measures the author suggests to take are not sufficient to prevent people from using cell phones while driving.

How to Respond a Text

There are several main approaches you can implement in a reading responsive essay:
  1. If you have the same opinion, you are to support it in your essay giving at least three reasons why you agree with the author’ ideas.
  2. If the author’s opinion doesn’t match yours, you are to give your reasons for your disagreement.
  3. Often, you may be of the same opinion with the author on some points, but contradict him or her on others. Ground all your arguments.
  4. Think about why the text has been written. What was the author’s ultimate goal? Was the author objective in his or her judgments? Has there been any personal experience that has made the author draw these particular conclusions.
  5. Examine a separate part of the text under your consideration and provide your readers with its analysis.
  6. Mind that a reading response essay doesn't require you to be 100% objective. So, you can describe the emotions you had when you were reading the text. It is vital to remember, however, that you have to explain it. Was it connected with the context or the topic? Author's tone or style? The manner of presenting the information?
NB: Any essay has to consist of the introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. There is no way you can exclude any of those. Although many successful students develop their own system of writing an excellent paper, the general guidelines are the same for everybody.

The Body Paragraphs

The main body is the core of your essay in which you are going to prove your point step by step. In the body paragraphs, you are to support your thesis statement giving a particular number of arguments (usually, one per paragraph) based on your research and experience. You can borrow some points from the primary source. But it is essential to see the difference between duplicating them and citing them for your own purpose. Here are the principal rules for writing the main body:
  • It includes at least three paragraphs. Therefore, if you are assigned to write a five paragraph essay, you can’t write a two-paragraph introduction, as the number of body paragraphs will be insufficient.
  • A body paragraph contains a single idea. It starts with a topic sentence in which you express this idea. If you think that a transition sentence is necessary in this case, write it at the end of the previous paragraph.
  • Each topic sentence is followed by evidence. This is the part where you prove a separate point. Summarizing of all evidence will bring you to your conclusion. In a reading responsive essay, it is possible to combine the evidence based on your research with those based on your personal observations.
  • You must mention the author each time you use the ideas from the primary source. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with these ideas, such tags will allow you to make a distinction between your thoughts and those of the author. Therefore, it helps you escape plagiarism in your work.
  • You are to make it clear why you have chosen this piece of writing for your essay. Are there ideas that can improve the current situation? Are there any that threaten the progress in this field? How does it concern you as a reader?

How to Separate Your Ideas from the Ones of the Author

When you first present the work under consideration, you should provide your reader with the full information about it, including the author's name, some background information about the author you find relevant, the type of paper, its title, and its summary. Whenever you turn to your primary source, you are to distinguish what the author says from your own ideas. Thus, you use an author tag each time you mention any of his or her ideas. Besides the author’s name, a tag also includes a reporting verb. Here are some examples of author tags:
  • Johnson analyzes
  • Johnson claims
  • Johnson clarifies
  • Johnson criticizes
  • Johnson finds
  • Johnson highlights
  • Johnson insists
  • Johnson states.

The Ways to Diversify the Author’s Tags

Here are the alternatives to the most common reporting verbs:
  • Writes - asserts, believes, concludes, discusses, finds, notes, says, shows, suggests, thinks
  • Agrees -  acknowledges, admits, cites, comments(positively), comes to terms, concedes, consents, recognizes, esponds (positively), supports
  • Disagrees - argues, confronts, contradicts, counters, criticizes, denies, disproves, insists (on the opposite), negates, rejects

Writing the Conclusion Of a Reading Response Essay

Your conclusion should contain a thesis statement, rephrased and enlarged using the evidence you've used in your essay. You are to make some final remarks on the topic, but never should you include any new information in this part. There are also some creative ways to make your conclusion interesting to your readers:
  • demonstrate the possibilities of researching your topic
  • inspire them to some action
  • use the ‘framing’ to make your paper integral.

An Example of a Reading Response Essay Outline

Using Cell Phones While Driving: How Dangerous Is It? Introduction Paragraph #1:Present the article you are going to respond to in your work. Write the first part of a scenario featuring a person who answers the phone while driving. Introduction Paragraph #2: Summarize the author’s points relevant to your topic. Make a thesis statement: Driving requires you to be completely focused, or Today’s drivers should be allowed to talk on the phone while driving because they are used to it, unlike drivers 20 years ago. Body Paragraph #1: There is legislation controlling speaking on the phone while driving. Body Paragraph #2: Sometimes, answering the phone is essential. If you agree with the author: However, you can always halt to do so or call back as soon as possible. If you disagree: And there is not always a chance to halt. Body Paragraph #3: Hand-free technologies allow us to speak while driving. If you agree with the author: But it is still dangerous to get distracted. If you don’t agree: And this is as save as talking to passengers while you are driving. Conclusion: Restate your thesis, summarize your arguments and evidence.

The Difference Between a Reading Response Essay, an Evaluation Essay, and a Review

A reading response essay, an evaluation essay, and a review have the purpose of demonstrating your personal opinion. This is what mainly differs them from a critical essay, for example. Moreover, they have a lot of common features. But it is essential to see the difference between them if you want to get the desired A. All of them show whether you agree or disagree with the author and whether you liked his or her writing or not. In each of these papers, you are to prove your point and explain why you have such an opinion. However, in the case of a reading response essay, you don't have to impose your own opinion on your readers. Thus, you leave them the choice to agree or disagree with you.