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Reader Response Papers

Page history last edited by Jon Brammer 14 years, 6 months ago

What is reader response?

It is a thoughtful reaction or response to what you have read.  When you turn in a reader response paper, it should be typed and proofread carefully.  Usually, they are 1.5 to 2 pages long.  Reader response is different from the kind of reading and writing that you normally do.  It is important to develop your response by examining why you chose a piece of text or key concept as well as your understanding of how it relates to larger ideas.  The process consists of four basic components, but each section can consist of more than one paragraph: 


I Before You Start Writing

Read the material at least once to absorb the major points.  Underline or mark key passages or words (use the page margins) to record your questions and reactions.  By doing this kind of annotation, you engage in a “dialogue” with the writer of the material and the text itself. 


II Response Introduction-Identify

Using complete sentences, give the name of the author, the title of the essay, and the author’s thesis, main message, or central idea of the piece.  What is the point the writer is making?  How does the writer do this?  The thesis is usually implied, not stated directly in the essay.  This section should consist of several sentences in which you establish and discuss the writer’s main point.  You should also include your take on what the author is trying to get across; your writing needs to be more than a summary! 


III Response Body-Analyze

This section should comprise a good part of your reader response.  Go back through the essay, passage, or article you read and note the sections you marked as significant.  Pick one or two that you “connected” with and write a response to it/them.  You can copy part of the passage into your paper (using quotes when needed) or just paraphrase the idea you thought was the most engaging.  Respond to the idea of the passage, but do not simply summarize the reading.  You should think about how the passage you chose relates to the author’s main point (from section II).  Try to stick to one specific point instead of trying to include everything the author addresses.  Develop that point completely! 


IV Response Body-Evaluate

React to the passage that you have analyzed (from section III).  Is it a point you agree with?  Did it remind you of something else you have read or heard?  Does it remind you of any current issues or problems?  Do you have any personal anecdotes or observations that connect with the ideas of the passage or the ideas of the author in general? 



Sample 1 (intro)- good example

In Machiavelli’s work, The Prince, the ideas presented by the author focus on the practical and unsavory aspects of maintaining political power.  Machiavelli’s advice, while possibly crude and amoral by today’s standards, is precisely the type of thinking that enabled the Medici family to control Italian politics for many years.  The concepts presented in The Prince raise a number of moral issues, but the overall message is clear, practical, and thoroughly explained. 


Sample 2 (intro)- under-developed example

The essay we read was The Prince.  It was written by Machiavelli.  He was born in 1469 and he died in 1527.  He said a lot of things about how to be a ruler.  He said you should kill your enemies and lie to everyone.  I didn’t like Machiavelli.  The reading was confusing and I didn’t get what he was saying.


Sample 3 (body paragraph- analysis)-  under-developed example

One quote that caught me eye was one about the way a prince should be feared instead of loved.  I think it is bad to have everyone afraid of you because in the end, love is the most important thing in the world to everyone.  Where would we be without the love of Mother Teresa?  What would happen if Gandhi had not done what he did out of love?  I think Machiavelli needed to get a grip on what he was talking about instead of trying to make himself famous for thinking up nasty rules for princes. 


Sample 4 (body paragraph- analysis)-  good example

When Machiavelli wrote about the image of a leader in the eyes of the people, he made a point of expressing his disdain for common popularity: “it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.”  This sentiment would not be at all popular with the political leaders of today, but it was most appropriate in Machiavelli’s time.  It also seems to be the idea that makes the most intuitive sense.  For example, if a prince lived in fear of being unpopular and unloved, how could that leader ever make an objective and insightful decision about anything?  Certain choices are difficult and painful, and a leader who spends too much time worrying about popularity when making those decisions is simply less of a leader. 


Sample 5 (body paragraph- evaluation)-  good example

Examples of current rulers who follow Machiavelli’s example are obvious in modern times.  The leaders of North Korea, Iraq, and Cuba all engage in campaigns of fear in order to control the populace in their respective countries.  Even China, considered by some to be the next “superpower” by many, relies on censorship, imprisonment and the outright killing of dissidents in order to maintain the façade of political unity.  Having been to China shortly after the Tienamen Square massacre, I can report first hand that the country lives under an ominous cloud of constant political anxiety.

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