How to Write a Reaction Paper

How to Write a Reaction Paper

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What is a reaction paper

Reaction papers are highly popular assignments that take some careful assessment, research and exceptional writing skills. Many professors like to assign these papers to test students abilities to clarify questions and understand what they’ve read. A reaction paper is also a place for students to voice their opinion on a topic, so it is a great way for teachers to gauge their student’s analytical skills. The aim is in the name – “reaction”. Students are expected to present their opinion and reaction, showing whether they agree or disagree with some sort of statement. So if you’re wondering about how to write a reaction paper, in this article we’ll take you through all you need to know.

Undertaking adequate research for your reaction paper

Making preparations is key to writing a great reaction paper. The most important part of preparing is to study up, so really make sure that you’ve read around the topic well and then some more! When you do your research, make sure that you’ve read up on the themes and underlying message of the work because this will be the most important part. The message is what helps a piece of work shine, so if you can get a hold on this then you’ll be bound to have a good opinion on the piece. You should also look at other people’s critiques on the work you’re analysing to see what they’ve said – this can help you create some great opinions of your own, just make sure you’re looking at reputable material from credible sources. No one will be interested in what Donald Trump has to say about Macbeth! Take notes and make key points in order to have enough information to help you plan.

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Reaction paper outline

The most common areas that students write about are usually related to movies or books. Many teachers assign their students critiques of movies in particular because this is a relatable and highly popular medium. In this day and age, everybody loves to watch a good movie and movies are highly influential. The same goes with books – equally influential and there is a lot that can be said about their content.

In order to come up with some decent content for an analysis, there are a number of things one needs to do. Let’s look at some helpful advice and tips:

  • Watch movies and take down notes on various points and anything that piques your interest. The same can go with a book – reread it a few times and think in an analytical way about the themes and subject matter. It’s great to get as familiar as you can with your media before beginning to write.

  • After you’ve consumed your media, it’s time to put on your evaluating hat! Think about the story and figure out what the meaning of it is. Take a look at your instructions and think about how you’re going to follow them. You will often be told to react to a particular section of a story or piece. Following instructions correctly is key to writing a successful paper and your writing will need to reflect the question at hand. Often you may need to take quotes from your specific section and relate them to the author’s purpose.

Essentially, there are two different types of reactions that your teacher will ask you to write. First of all, you could be asked to give your personal opinion regarding a certain theme. If this is the case, any of the options that you give need to be centred around personal experiences and any knowledge you have on your topic. The other option is that you could be asked to write something about the opinions of your author for the piece of media you’re writing about. If this is the case, one will need to get into the mindset of the author and think about what their opinion might be, not to write about one’s own opinion.

After you’ve got to grips with your assigned question, it’s a good idea to go over the media again and note down anything that would be useful to you. If you can repeat this a few times over it’s a wise idea to do so in order to really get the most out of your media. By having everything at your fingertips, it will make it easier to write up later. Include some annotations about how you think and how you reacted – once everything is written down it will be good to go over once more as not to miss out any essential info.

Don’t forget that your opinion also requires backing up using evidence from credible source material. It’s no good saying your opinion and then having no evidence to back it up. Any explanations need examples to go with them – this will make your writing credible.

Reaction paper format

Depending on the kinds of instructions given, different reaction papers will have different formats. There are several parts that a paper can be divided into, so to keep on top of organising everything one has to plan and think about the format before they start writing. As with most other essays you’ve encountered, there are three essential parts to a reaction paper, namely the introduction, body section and conclusion. There should also be an area at the end to provide in detail citations. Let’s look at the reaction paper format in greater detail.

Reaction paper template

A comprehensive reaction paper template really only consists of a few sections. Let’s take a look at them.


The introduction is where everything kicks off, so it’s essential that as a writer you’re able to make the topic look attractive and want the reader to dive in straight away. Provide a short description of the media and present the issues that you’re going to address, including the main points and themes of the story. By no means should this section be a lengthy one – it needs to be succinct and to the point. The phrase “quality not quantity” certainly makes sense here, so try to keep it at 4 or 5 sentences max. The introduction should also include a brief thesis statement, or a sentence that summarises the main point of the essay.

The body

This is the flesh of the essay’s skeleton and a place for the main ideas to be explained in detail. Within the body section, each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that introduces the idea of the paragraph to the audience. As with any arguments and reactions you write about, back them up with suitable and credible source material. This section is where you’re going to make the bulk of the essay’s points.

The conclusion

When writing the conclusion, one should link the thesis statement presented in the introduction with a succinct summary of everything that’s been presented in the body section. One of the best ways to conclude is to touch on all the substantial points in the summary and then wrap up everything through a clarification of your opinion. Make sure that you don’t introduce any new ideas into the conclusion – this is a summary after all. If you do find you have other information you’d like to add, go to the body section and try to fit it in there.


At the end of the essay, include a list of citations. There are many different ways to format this, but whatever you do, make sure it is consistent. Your teacher will probably tell you which way they want things formatted in the essay brief, or you could ask them for advice.

How to start a reaction paper

It’s often quite difficult to actually make a start, but to prepare yourself try and answer the following question: “what are my opinions and feelings about the intention of this work?” You then need to understand what the author’s objective was to determine the feeling surrounding the work. Once you have this, you can go on to begin writing a plan to follow later.

It is useful to think about some of these aspects when beginning your paper:

  • The context – when you start writing, it’s important that the reader understands the context of the media you’re analysing. You can do this by telling a small story around the theme. By introducing the reader to the context, they’re not left puzzled about what’s going to come next and they’re hooked to want to learn more.

  • The need – every reader needs to see the “need”, or your opinion, so try to create a sense of suspense, attracting the audience to read more. One way of doing this is to talk about the positive implications or impact of your opinion and what kind of impact it has.

  • Thesis statement – coming up with a short sentence which summarizes your work will help you to focus attention. This statement will be a short summary and the major points.

  • Details – introduce the reader to a few details about the author, the context and some other supporting facts. By doing this, it’s easy to set the scene and allow the audience to be more familiar with the media you’re focusing on. It’s also a good idea to state the main objectives of the media that you’re focusing on.


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Reaction Paper Example pieces

1. Reporting on Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”

The iconic novel “Man’s Search for Meaning” was written by Dr. Victor Frankl in 1966. The novel is an autobiography about his many years as a prisoner in various Nazi concentration camps and features many philosophical musings on his ideas behind existential crises and life’s meaning. The author spent a harrowing three years in Auschwitz and various other camps before developing a theory he dubbed as Logotherapy – the idea behind this was that humans strive to find meaning in their lives. Without such meaning the author thinks that we become empty, alone and that these lead to eventual despair and apathy. As Frankl was faced with the treachery of the camp over and over again, he and his fellow prisoner friends were really searching for a need for meaning. One of the things that kept Frankl going over time was his love he had for his wife whom he thought he’d see again. The author ponders how this love was stronger and had much more meaning than death which would sustain him and keep him going even if he was to find out that his wife was dead. His fellow cellmates found many different reasons to live and persevere, such as a desire to be with children or an author who was working on a book that needed to be completed. In the end, Frankl and his fellow comrades found a lot of meaning through their courage and determination to keep going despite growing ever more worried about their fate. After the tumultuous prison camp experience, the author returned to his job as a psychiatrist where he felt that his existential theory held true for ordinary people as well as those in the camp. Ever since his freedom, Frankl worked hard and had great success in helping his patients locate their own meaning of life.

One poignant reaction that I had to the text was when I read about the relationship between the “Capos” to ideas of standards, anxiety and aggression. These Capos were essentially snitches, or prisoners who would work with the Nazis, selling themselves out to them in exchange for various small favours to be returned. The author describes how cruel they are to the prisoners and there are many things that can help explain their cruelty. Essentially the anxiety they had to bear must have been overwhelming because of this feeling of selling out. They must have also felt a distinct lack of courage, with prisoners such as Frankl acting as a constant reminder of this. They were always angry and this makes sense given how people tend to get annoyed when their values and behaviours are threatened by someone around acting differently. This example of the Capos illustrates just how far our behaviours can go out of the way if the situation is dire and how cruel ordinary people can be if values and behaviours are threatened.

The idea that Frankl has of meaning being the supreme force in the universe for human beings to function helps to illustrate much of the discontent and disorder in our current world. A lot of people today are stuck in mundane jobs and living in a rut, exercising little creativity and responsibility in day to day life. A lot of this can make one feel that their world lacks any meaning. People can then grow to overlook what matters in life and feel depressed with themselves. Frankl’s novel illustrates to us just how important it is to find meaning in our own lives.

Frankl has shown that suffering can bring meaning and I have found this idea to hold true in my own world and the people around me. My friend Derek was born into a very rough background to parents who did not care for him – he never had much and was neglected by those around him but he always had determination. Eventually he managed, despite all the adversity, to hold down three jobs to save money for school which he would go to while working at the same time. It was the suffering in his own life that made him ever more determined and helped him to eventually become a great success. In complete contrast I know a man who has never suffered and his life has little meaning. He lives in his house with overprotective and coddling parents who give him money all the time. He doesn’t even have a job and spends all his money on drinking and going out. He recently became completely burnt out and had a mental breakdown. If only he employed some of the determination and attitude that Frankl had to fight through his troubles but he never did and now he is paying the price. This man completely robbed his life of meaning by having no determination and desire to face adversity and hardships.

In conclusion, Frankl’s text was very moving to me and I would thoroughly recommend it to either those who are feeling aimless or those who have things too easy. It’s a text that makes you care about being alive and has a powerful enriching effect after you’ve read it. One can really ponder existential questions and consider what they’re doing after reading this text. The text has personally helped me overcome some adversity, keep my head down and be determined to succeed.

2. Prosocial and Stereotypical behaviors

An analysis and examination of 3 and 2 year olds by Churnin Nash, Kuhn and Brucken in 1978 showed just how able children are to differentiate between gender roles, even at such a young age. Children have a robust understanding of gender stereotypes in society even before they start school! Stereotypes differ greatly according to the subject who is aware of their gender. The studies found that although children showed a sense of identity with the opposite sex, did not have stereotypes and did not differentiate theirselves according to either their sex or their age. By the end of their piece, the conclusion is that children of specific gender will hold some sort of negative beliefs about the opposite gender and have positive views about their own gender.

This study really spoke to me in terms of its use for society today. In my view, this sort of study reveals the tendencies people have and gives people a chance to side-glance on the community they live in. By knowing that gender roles have some function and effect on different children shows us that there really is something to gender. It will be an interesting sight to see just how this data may change if the studies were to be replicated across different classes, societies and geographical regions around the world. For example, there are many countries who have a matriarchal society or a patriarchal one. In some parts of the world, women are less equal than men and vice versa. How will results pan out differently around the world?

This study reveals many different interesting methods that lead to the results, and some of them show some potential shortcomings. Children were required to answer various questions which would illustrate their social behaviour and sexual identity. I felt that some of these questions were a bit more dubious than others, for instance one asked who the child liked more, X or Y, and who they wanted to be more like, X or Y. On the face of it this seems like a perfectly simple question but the previous questions where children needed to talk about the traits of their personal dolls would have had an influence on the outcome of this question – children would have associated the positive features of their doll to X or Y. It makes me wonder what children would have said if they had had a different order or questions asked. How could this study have been made less dubious? Would the outcome have been different with some different questions?

In conclusion, the study offered a very interesting insight into gender roles that society has. It would appear to show that there is some sort of biological underpinning to this seemingly completely socially constructed idea. The research shows the need to explore across different societies and geographical regions. I think that further research will show some new and exciting findings about gender identity and stereotyping behaviors in children.

Reaction paper wrap up

So there you have it! A comprehensive guide on how to write your very own reaction paper. Do take our tips and advice on board and remember to really put the preliminary effort in before you get writing so that you have a full understanding of the media you’ll be reacting to. Best of luck in your paper – we hope it scores high marks!