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Humanities LibreTexts

4.2: Response Writing

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  • A response is a commentary on another piece of writing. Developing a response will help you make personal connections with the ideas in the essay. Instructors might use question prompts to help guide you in creating a focused response on a particular aspect of an assigned reading. Using a focusing question may help you stay on track and prevent the potentially frustrating and superficial task of trying to respond to everything in the essay in just one or two pages.

    The summary captures only the author’s ideas; however, the response includes your own. The response is the place for your opinions, interpretations, and evaluations. The most important aspect of writing a response is to create a main idea/statement (it may be your nutshell answer to an assigned focusing question) and back it up with specific evidence. Depending on the focus of the response, it might include observations about the writer’s technique, commentary on tone or literary strategy, views as to effectiveness of the writing, relationships between the author’s ideas and your own, an analysis of content, or any number of items. If a focusing question is required, make sure the entire response directly connects to (somehow serves to answer/support the answer) the focusing question.


    If you use verbatim (word-for-word) material from the essay or article, be sure it is accurate and enclose it with quotation marks. This tells the reader that you are using the author’s exacts words, not your own, and gives credit to the author. However, in this type of writing, use quotations sparingly, and try to keep them short.

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