Response Paper Guide to Write a Powerful Response

10 min readJan 23, 2019


In this helpful guide, we will tell you what is a response paper. As we explain how to start writing a response essay, we will also provide you with an outline, tell you how to format a response essay paper right by paragraphs, give some helpful tips for writing a successful response paper, and provide you with an actual response paper example.

The flow of this guide:

What is a Response Paper

It is very important to understand what a response paper is before you start writing, because very often it can be mistaken for a review of a book, an article, an event, or a movie, which it should NOT be.

A response paper is your personal chance to explain and communicate your personal point of view and understanding of a particular idea through writing.

Of course, what you write has to relate to an essay, research paper, a book or a newspaper article you are writing about. The difference from the usual review or a summary paper is that you have to speak of your own ideas, visions, and the values that are contained in the work in question. The most important task here is to connect the subject you are discussing with your own personal experience. Writing a response paper is an art and you have to approach it like an artist — give yourself time and space to think, to analyze and tell of what you have personally been through. You have to transform the content of an article or a book, a poem or a movie to a meaningful experience that your audience can relate.

A response paper is not a review and not a test of how you comprehend something. You should not write your response essay only in sentences like “I really liked” or “The author tells of how he went to New York and then moved to Spain”. It is not a summary of what you have read per se! On the contrary, a powerful response paper is what tells of how deep you have thought about the concepts discussed and what you have understood and learned from the author’s writing. A response paper should be like a poignant and a deep
letter to the author where you speak of what has influenced and inspired you the most. Finally, a good response paper is the one that has the answers these three simple questions:

  • What is the meaning that the author wants me to understand?
  • What is my personal vision and attitude to what the author has told?
  • How has it all affected my personal life and my daily interactions?

How to Start a Response Essay

Before you start writing a powerful response essay, you should remember that it is extremely important to read original text you are responding to more than once. Remember that every author writes with a clear point in mind — he or she always promotes a certain idea, a set of beliefs, values, and a position you may agree or not agree with.

Explain author’s original ideas and positions

It tells the reader that you have not only read the book or an article, but actually tried to analyze and tell of your own thoughts based on what the author said. It should be at the very start of your paper — you have to respond to author’s idea!

Write a Reflection of the Position and Ideas

Your task is to continue from the first paragraph by allowing the reader to understand where you are coming from. This is where you should use analysis and strategic thinking to tell how exactly you can or cannot relate to a subject. You should write how author’s ideas and positions relate to your thoughts and experiences in life.

Write Your Personal Outcome and Lessons Learned

The last step is the space where you tell how author’s ideas and position have influenced you and how they relate to your own life and experiences. It should answer the question and tell if you agree or disagree with the ideas, if they are similar to yours or are entirely different. If there is a conflict that you have identified — be sure to tell about it! If something from author’s writing has changed your beliefs and an overall vision — tell about it too! This is your response and you have to tell of what you have learned.

By considering these three steps, you will be able to start and write a powerful response paper. To help you understand all of it in practice, proceed to a basic example of a response paper outline below.

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Response Paper Outline


This part usually takes 1–2 paragraphs and has a powerful hook to grab attention and an interest of your audience. As you state your main idea, subject, and a purpose, remember to capture reader’s interest. Tell about author’s vision, but state it in such way that will inspire the reader to read further on!

The Body of a Response Paper

In most cases, the body part should contain from one to three or more paragraphs. This is where you have to write about the article or a book that you are responding to in 1–2 paragraphs. Provide evidence of ideas you are responding to instead and back it up with the quotes, if applicable. Tell whether you agree or disagree. In the final body paragraph, tell whether you support a certain idea or not, confirm what the author has tried to tell, speak of what makes it powerful, persuasive or unconvincing to you.


The final part of your work is, basically, an outcome of your thoughts and a most powerful and meaningful part of your response paper. It should be 1–2 paragraphs, as you find applicable. You should state your final points, tell of what you have learned, how it has inspired you, and support your words with your thesis and introduction.

Response Paper Format

The response paper format is very important to make your response paper accurate and to meet academic writing demands. We would like to explain the most important points of response essay paper formatting, so everything is organized in adherence to academic writing standards.

Place all the basic and identifying information in your introduction paragraph.

The first sentence should have:

  • Title
  • Author’s name
  • Position
  • Date
  • Information related to original publication

The following sentences should contain: a brief summary of what you have read with quotes and identifying points to introduce the main idea or position.

The body of your response essay should have the following format structure:

  • Detail from an article or a book
  • An actual evidence of your position explained
  • Supporting quote

As you format your body paragraphs, you can follow a structure that starts from the author’s vision followed by your vision of it. Alternately, you can write of author’s opinion in contrast to yours.

The conclusion part’s format should have the following order:

  • A summary of your paper in 2–3 sentences
  • Statement of your outcome
  • Support of the main idea

The final sentences should reflect on what you have learned and how the writing of an author has inspired and influenced you.

How to Write a Powerful Response Paper: Helpful Tips

In this part of a guide, we will provide you with a bullet list of useful tips that will help you to write a truly powerful response essay and feel a little less stressed! Our advice is to work in a two-step approach (reading and writing parts):

How to read your original source (book, article, newspaper, poem, movie, etc)

  1. Use the drafts to write down the main ideas that come to mind as you read the original author’s work.
  2. Think about what initial thoughts and feelings you are experiencing as you read. Write them down like: joy, anger, confusion, sadness, agreement, shock, feeling relieved.
  3. Will your response paper essay agree or disagree with an author?
  4. Have you had any experience that relates to the events and ideas described by the author?
  5. Have you read, seen, or heard anything similar to what the author describes that you can relate to and discuss in a more relaxed way?
  6. Does an article, a report or a book provide enough evidence and facts to support the claims?

How to organize and plan your response essay writing part:

  1. Start by writing down your thesis statement and an idea that you want to follow.
  2. Write down the core points of your idea that you want to respond to.
  3. Add quotes, examples, and references to author’s work and/or your own experiences.
  4. Use topic sentences to make the logical flow of your response paper work.
  5. Do not forget that the last sentence of each paragraph should connect with the next paragraph’s first sentence.
  6. Remember that your conclusion paragraph should restate your main thesis in other words and connect it with a lesson you have learned.
  7. Do not be afraid of using your own experience as you analyze author’s writing and make contrasts.
  8. Stay creative and give yourself enough freedom of mind! Use drafts, revise, proofread and do not be shy to read aloud!

Response Paper Example

The Source we are responding to: “I Have a Dream” Speech (Copyright 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.)

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Response Paper Essay

“I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28th of 1963, continues to inspire and influence people all over the world. What makes this speech so unique is its pursuing of a dream of freedom and equality among people where a person is not only asking for racial justice towards mistreated population of African Americans, but aims for standing up for the rights that every person should be granted by Constitution of the United States. Still, what makes this speech powerful, in my opinion, is rhetoric and sincerity of Dr. Martin Luther King who skillfully uses ethos, pathos, and logos by turning to metaphors, repetition, pauses, and tonal characteristics that actually speak to the hearts and minds of people.

Turning to my own life’s experience, the speech by Dr. Martin Luther King helps me to overcome personal and professional challenges of the past, today, and tomorrow. It always reflects my own American Dream. As a working parent, a student, and an African American immigrant in the United States, I can relate to every line in the speech and a definition of freedom. The level of sincerity in the speech echoes with my own perception of being free from clichés in the society where a person is not judged by a skin color, social or a racial background. As Dr. Martin Luther King speaks of his dream, he tells of people that come from all over the country, he specifically mentions different states from the “snowcapped Rockies of Colorado” to “Stone Mountain of Georgia”. The use of powerful descriptions helps every person relate and become united both physically and in spirit. This is exactly what makes the speech universal through the decades of time as the society transforms, yet still holds to the same struggles and socio-cultural principles.

The true power of Dr. Martin’s speech is, indeed, its universal approach to society where the racial problems are not in the foreground because they speak of equality among all people and talk to not only African Americans or the oppressors. “I Have a Dream” is a speech that reaches to the depth of every human being with an aim to make a transformation in the hearts and minds. It wants to inspire a person, to make an individual think, and, hopefully, move forward. As I read the well-known words again, I remind myself each time that I am not different, not inferior or superior to anyone else, but a person who has to make a difference in a society by becoming a change one anticipates. The “I Have a Dream” speech inspires me to walk an extra mile to become a better person, a more caring parent not only for my own children, but to every growing individual. It helps me to become an example of honesty, sincerity, empathy, and care because it is what helps to make the society we live in a little bit better and safer for everyone. I, too, have a dream, a dream that should start from each of us. A dream that should start right now as we all have a power, knowledge, and resources to make a difference.

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