How to Write a Strong Response Essay

A response essay is your opinion of a work, including but not limited to songs, books, poems, films, and art. Response essays include two parts. Not only will you provide an overview of the work, but you'll share your response to it as well. Get an outline of the process for how to write a response essay from the prewriting to the final piece.

Woman writing a strong response essay Woman writing a strong response essay

How to Write a Response Essay

A response essay seems like it would be easy, right? It’s just your opinion about a work. However, response essay writing has several parts.

Select a Topic

Before you even begin writing your essay, think about the topic you want to cover. Response essays can be about anything. Check out different media, such as art, music, and literature, to see which you’re most passionate about and can provide the best response for. Choosing something enjoyable can make the task of writing a response piece much easier.

Record Thoughts & Reactions

With a topic at hand, give it a critical listen, viewing, or read. For example, for a song, listen to it again. While listening, record your reactions. Keep these different questions in mind:

  • How did you feel?
  • What did you think about the song?
  • What aspects did you like?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • Describe the aspects you didn’t like.
  • Was the composer successful in what they were trying to convey?
  • Did the melody work with the lyrics?
  • Was there a disconnect anywhere?
  • Was anything about the piece unclear?

These questions can be modified based on the piece. For example, for a piece of art, look more at the colors or type of art and how this creates different reactions. For a piece of literature or a film, examine the plot devices and characters and how they worked cohesively.

The point is to start thinking critically about the work and your response. This will help in the creation of the thesis.

Create a Thesis Statement

A good thesis statement packs a lot of punch into a small sentence. It provides an overview of the opinions you plan to convey. For example, if your response to a song was horrible, state that in your thesis along with the points you will make to show it was horrible.

Thesis statements aren’t concrete. As you begin molding your essay, you might find your thesis statement changing and morphing. This is completely okay. As you summarize the work and your response, you may start to see something you missed.

Creating an Outline & Writing Your Paper

An outline isn’t a necessity. However, it’ll make the process of writing the actual paper easier because everything will be ready. The paper has four basic components.

  • Introduction - The first sentence of the intro contains the title of the work and the author/creator. The introduction ends with your thesis.
  • Summary the piece - Provide a summary of what the piece is, publication, important aspects, main points, important quotes, etc.
  • Reaction to the work - Add your reaction, how the material related to you, how it didn’t relate to you, whether you agree with the author, whether you disagree, etc.
  • Conclusion - Summarize the work and your response and restate your thesis.

Your outline doesn’t have to be neat. But using a keyword or sentence outline structure can ensure all the thoughts and ideas are in order.

Tips for Writing a Response Essay

All the prep you’ve put in will now pay off! Keep these points in mind as you write.

  • Create topic sentences based on the main points.
  • Make sure to use statements like 'I felt', 'in my opinion', 'I liked', 'I was moved by', etc.
  • Use transition words to flow between paragraphs.
  • Double-check your thesis statement to ensure the body of your paper supports it.
  • Reread your work after completion to ensure you covered all your main points.
  • Run spell check for grammar and spelling errors.

Writing a Response Essay

Compared to descriptive and expository essays, a response essay is relatively easy because you’re talking about your feelings. However, they still take a lot of work. Follow all the steps to make sure you get that A!

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