Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
Introduction (1-2 paragraphs): grab the reader's attention and state your subject and purpose.
Body (3 or more paragraphs):
- Summarize the article you read in 1-2 paragraphs.
- Give three or more responses to the article with evidence to back them up.
- Responses include answering the following:
- What do you think about the ideas in the article? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- How do the ideas in the article relate to your own experiences?
- How do the ideas in the article relate to other things you've read?
- What do you notice about the way the article is written? What about the way it is written makes it more or less persuasive?
Conclusion (1-2 paragraphs): give a final point and tie back in with the introduction.
Below is an example of an outline of a student paper which was responding to an article about cell phone use in cars. The original article is not online, but I've provided a link to a New York Times debate on this issue which is similar.
See the original New York Times article: "Lives-Under My Skin: A story of one man's journey toward getting a tattoo."
1st Paragraph: frame story which introduces subject vividly)
Living in Central Texas where 100 degrees is normal in the middle of summer, I've spent a lot of time at our local water park recently. That means I've also spent a lot of time standing in line at the water slides staring at people's backs, which more often than not are covered with tattoos. I've seen wings, flowers, hearts with names imprinted on them, faces with dates, and "in memoriam," and. on the most memorable of all, a picture worthy of a medieval drawing with a large Celtic cross being fought over by a demon and an angel.
2nd Paragraph: transition and introduction of article
As a 50 something college professor, I'm not in a peer group which generally goes out and gets tattoos on the weekends, so I was fascinated by Chris Adrian's article from the New York Times "Under My Skin" which explains his own decision to get a tattoo and describes the experience in detail.
Introduction and Conclusion Ideas
tell a personal story
finish your personal story
explain the history of the topic
ask the reader what they think
tell why you found this interesting
suggest why this article might interest the reader
explain what you expected the article to be about
tell how you were surprised by the article
tell what you generally feel about this topic
tell how article changed the way you thought, or reinforced what you already thought
explain what most people believe
tell what you believe or what you think the reader should believe
Reading Response Poll
Adrian explains that he decided to get a tattoo after breaking up with his girlfriend. He didn't do it on a drunken binge, but rather in a spirit of self-reform. Vaguely desiring something spiritual, he nevertheless rejects his initial idea of having John Calvin's face on his back since the reference seems too obscure. Would people think he had a bad tattoo of Calvin and Hobbs? he wonders. Noting that he wanted something big and permanent to remind himself to be a person who was more responsible and more selfless, Adrain settles on a large dragon as a sufficiently menacing warning to himself.
After four hours of pain, he leaves the tattoo parlor with his dragon on his back, and a certain amount of uneasiness in his soul. He asks himself: Was such a large dragon really a good idea? Why did he get it on his back where he can't see it? Ambiguity pervades Adrian's conclusions about his experience. While he is not elated with his new permanent body art, he doesn't seem to be quite ready to go out to find a tattoo removal business right away either.
This response can be positive, negative or a both. You can respond to one or more of the following:
- Ideas in the essay.
- The way the essay is written.
- The topic.
- The personality of the writer.
- How this relates to your own experiences.
- How this reminds you of something else you've seen or read.
Your thesis answers the question: "What do you think about this essay?" Your response should be 3-5 paragraphs which give details from the story as well as the reader's own thoughts to back up the ideas.
In spite of the fact that Adrian himself is not completely sure about his decision to get a dragon tattoo on his back, his article is a persuasive argument in favor of tattooing.
Each paragraph will have a topic sentence which is one of the reasons to believe the thesis. Here are the 4 topic sentences I've written as an outline for the body of my essay:
Body Paragraph One: The choice of personal experience for this article presents the ideas more effectively. (To expand this paragraph, I would give examples of the author's use of personal example and explain how he does this effectively)
Body Paragraph Two: He interested and intrigued me by focusing on the idea that getting a tattoo can be an expression of a spiritual commitment. (I would explain how this idea was new to me and why it changed my mind about tattoos and why people get them. I would then add the example from my own life of the time I saw a tattoo of a face with "in remembrance" along with name and dates)
Body Paragraph Three: People who get tattoos may have the same mixed feelings about wearing them that I have about seeing them. (How ideas in the article relate to my own experiences.)
Body Paragraph Four: Adrian draws even an unlikely reader like myself into his experience through his engaging images, honest tone, and engaging style. (How the writing of the article is persuasive)
Reading Adrian's article about his personal experience with getting a tattoo actually did get under my skin. I found myself wondering, for perhaps the first time, whether there was any circumstance which would make me take that fatal step into the den of the tattoo artist. More importantly, it made me look more sympathetically on the tattooed skin around me. While I am not shaken in my idea that a person ought to look at some samples of the artist's work before giving them your skin to draw on, I do find that I now see tattoos as part of a life story. Moreover, I'm curious about that story. If I get brave enough, the next time I'm in line at the water slide, I may ask the girl in front of me to tell me about her tattooed wings.
johncarterr on October 22, 2018:
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on May 18, 2017:
Nande--I am so glad that my article helped you know what to do on your paper. My main goal is to help people feel that writing is something they can do!
Nande on May 18, 2017:
I was feeling really about writing my varsity response paper and this really helped calm me down and put my thoughts in order. Thank you ever so much!
Johng503 on April 28, 2014:
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sajida on March 05, 2014:
thank you this is very useful :)
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 27, 2012:
Thanks MsDora! I have found that this very important type of essay is sometimes difficult for students to write.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 26, 2012:
Good job explaining and illustrating the response essay. Your instructions are very clear.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 24, 2012:
Great to know this helped donnah. I actually wrote this for my class but haven't yet given them the link.
Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on August 24, 2012:
This is awesome! I was just planning a lesson today for my 11th grade class on responding to an article. This is helpful advice. Voted up, pinned and shared.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 23, 2012:
Thanks kissayer! I have been teaching college English for about 20 years and started writing my own materials for students because the books don't always explain clearly how to write different kinds of essays. I posted them on Hubpages mostly so my current and former students would have access to them. So I've been really surprised at the fact they've become my top Hubs. Then when I did Google searches, I realized why. Not too many resources exist to explain how to write more easily. Thanks for the sharing!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 23, 2012:
Thanks kittyjj. I have written before on this subject and been absolutely astounded to have so many people look at those Hubs. So I looked at the Google search results and reallized there were not many other instructions on the internet for this sort of essay. That is why I've been trying to give more help.
Kristy Sayer from Sydney, Australia on August 23, 2012:
Fabulous Hub! I have a lot of friends who are in university and come to me for tips as I'm a writer, and I will definitely send them a link to your hub as well! Bookmarked and voted up :) So useful!
Ann Leung from San Jose, California on August 22, 2012:
Wow, this is a great hub! Very useful! I am going to bookmark it and have my kids to read it too. Thank you for sharing! Voted up and useful!
Jordan Campbell on August 22, 2012:
This article did wonders for my confidence. Reading response essays don't seem like the terribly difficult task I once thought they were. I'm actually looking forward to writing them now because I get to express my opinions throughout the paper.
madeleinescheve on August 21, 2012:
This article was very informative and entertaining. The content was useful and I am sure it will come in handy very soon!
I enjoyed reading about a guy that had second thoughts about getting a tattoo because it was such a new perspective on tattoos, most of the time we only hear people talk in full confidence.