Teachers normally assign reaction papers after students watch a film, listen to a speaker or go on a field trip. In a reaction paper, the writer responds to what she has seen and heard, explaining her feelings and thoughts and relating the subject to course material or her own life. Thus, a reaction paper is a personal composition and does not follow a rigid structure. However, each paragraph in a reaction paper should still include a topic sentence and maintain unity and coherence among ideas.
Choose a Main Point
Pick one point that the speaker or film made that you found meaningful or convincing or that you strongly disagreed with. Write a topic sentence that explains this point and briefly states your reaction to it.
Describe Your Reaction
Describe your reaction in detail. Write your thoughts, feelings and observations. Use analogies or imagery if helpful. If you went on a field trip, refer to the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) to help the reader imagine what it was like to be there.
Explain Your Reaction
Explain the reason for your reaction. Detail why you feel the way you do or why you think the speaker or exhibit said or displayed what it did. Analyze why the artist made particular choices and what you think that says about the piece. Support your reaction with details from the piece and by expanding on your ideas.
Reflect on the significance of the event in relation to the course, school or even your own life. Discuss how watching or experiencing the event will affect your future, whether it’s something as minor as what happens today or as major as your future career.
Conclude Your Paper
Conclude your reaction paper paragraph with a sentence that brings closure to the ideas you presented, rather than ending abruptly. An effective conclusion will clearly summarize the main points of your reaction.
Edit for Clarity
Edit your paragraph for clarity, and correct any grammar and spelling mistakes. Check that the ideas in your sentences connect from one to the other like links in a chain. Ensure your concluding sentence relates back to the topic sentence.
Voice and Style
Unlike traditional essays that demand a more objective and formal style, the reaction paper is subjective by nature since it is based on your opinions and therefore requires less formality than other types of academic writing. Use of first person pronouns is acceptable in a reaction paper. Always double check your grammar and spelling to avoid making careless mistakes.
Avoid simply summarizing what happened. A reaction paper covers the writer’s experience; it does not strive to retell the event from an objective point of view.