You will be writing many reader response type essays and documents while you navigate your degree program. Responding to text, in whatever form you might experience it, will be key to understanding your course content, your learning, your reflective abilities, and your understanding of yourself.
You will examine, analyze, explain and defend your personal reaction to reading when writing a reader response essay. This response moves beyond whether or not you like a text. Although there is no right or wrong response to any given text, this is an opportunity that requires you to demonstrate an understanding of the text, explain that understanding, then defend your understanding. Now that you are in college, you will be moving beyond the standard, “I like this essay because it was good,” or “This essay stunk,” sorts of responses.
Because your audience has already read the texts you are responding to, there is no reason to summarize the reading. A brief introduction introduction to the text is appropriate and acceptable, but keep it brief. Your introduction should also include the title and author of the piece you are responding to.
Here are some guiding questions posed by Professor I.V. Montelongo from UTEP:
When writing your reader’s response, try to answer all of the questions below.
- What does the text have to do with you, personally, and with your life (past, present or future)? It is not acceptable to write that the text has nothing to do with you, since just about everything humans can write has to do in some way with every other human.
- How much does the text agree or clash with your view of the world, and what you consider right and wrong? Use several quotes as examples of how it agrees with and supports what you think about the world, about right and wrong, and about what you think it is to be human. Use quotes and examples to discuss how the text disagrees with what you think about the world and about right and wrong.
- How did you learn, and how much were your views and opinions challenged or changed by this text, if at all? Did the text communicate with you? Why or why not? Give examples of how your views might have changed or been strengthened (or perhaps, of why the text failed to convince you, the way it is). Please do not write “I agree with everything the author wrote,” since everybody disagrees about something, even if it is a tiny point. Use quotes to illustrate your points of challenge, or where you were persuaded, or where it left you cold.
- How well does it address things that you, personally, care about and consider important to the world? How does it address things that are important to your family, your community, your ethnic group, to people of your economic or social class or background, or your faith tradition? If not, who does or did the text serve? Did it pass the “Who cares?” test? Use quotes to illustrate.
- Reading and writing critically does not mean the same thing as “criticizing,” in everyday language (complaining or griping, fault-finding, nit-picking). Your “critique” can and should be positive and praise the text if possible, as well as pointing out problems, disagreements and shortcomings.
- How well did you enjoy the text (or not) as entertainment or as a work of art? Use quotes or examples to illustrate the quality of the text as art or entertainment. Of course, be aware that some texts are not meant to be entertainment or art–a news report or textbook, for instance, may be neither entertaining or artistic, but may still be important and successful.
- To sum up, what is your overall reaction to the text? Would you read something else like this, or by this author, in the future or not? Why or why not? To whom would you recommend this text?
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