A personal response essay emphasizes your opinion about a piece of literature, movie, article, speech or other types of media. While your response is the focus, you also need to support that opinion with elements from the original source. Writing the essay helps you analyze and connect with the original source material.

Explore Your Reaction

A personal response is not a recap or summary of the story. While you might reference key elements of the piece, the paper you write focuses on the interpretations, reactions and feelings provoked in you by the work. Your response might include your agreement or disagreement with the author's position, connections to your own experiences, what you learned from the source material and how it affected you personally.

To form this opinion, you need to read the source material with a critical eye. Use inferences to figure out the author's position or beliefs to determine whether you agree or disagree with them. Jot notes as you read, view or listen to support your position. Note portions of the work that demonstrate your point so you can reference them as you write.

Develop the Style

The response essay style has both similarities and differences with academic research papers. You still need a thesis or main idea that summarizes your response to the source material, along with supporting details in the body. The voice of the paper is a major difference. Skip the scholarly, academic voice in favor of a conversational style. This helps express your personal viewpoint. The relaxed writing style doesn't mean grammar and structure go out the door. You still need to develop grammatically correct, coherent and logical sentences and paragraphs to express your ideas. Because it is a personal response, write the paper in the first person.

Build an Outline

An outline helps you develop your thoughts into a comprehensive response to the source material. Break the outline into sections, including the intro, body and conclusion. In the intro section of the outline, note your thesis or main point of the response. In the body section, highlight two or three main points to support your thesis. Write supporting details for each point in the outline. For the conclusion portion of the outline, note any final details to help support and recap your personal opinion of the piece. Keep the points on the outline specific but brief. You'll use those brief points to develop your essay.

Add a Personal Touch

To write the response, you'll develop the points on your outline with additional details, personal stories and connections with the source material. Start with an engaging intro that incorporates your thesis. You might use an anecdote either from the material or your personal life. Provide specific examples from the piece that support your opinion. You can use quotes or include short passages from the piece that back up your stance. Wrap up the response by tying all your opinions together and restating your main point. This is another place where anecdotes or quotes work well to leave a lasting impression and drive home your position.