How to Write a Reading Response Essay with Sample Papers

The Reader Response Essay: Where the Reader Meets the Text
The Reader Response Essay: Where the Reader Meets the Text

What Is a Reading Response Essay?

A reading response essay:

  • Summarizes what you read.
  • Gives your reaction to the text.

Your reaction will be one or more of the following:

  • Agreement/disagreement with the ideas in the text.
  • Reaction to how the ideas in the text relate to your own experience.
  • Reaction to how ideas in the text relate to other things you've read.
  • Your analysis of the author and audience.
  • Your evaluation of how this text tries to convince the reader and whether it is effective.

How to Write a Reading Response, Step by Step

Introduction: Your introduction will be 1-3 paragraphs. For this essay, because you want to give both information about the subject and also briefly summarize the article you are responding to, you probably need at least two paragraphs. In all introductions, you want to:

  • Get the reader’s attention.
  • Describe your subject.
  • Give your thesis.

For a responsive reading essay, you also need to:

  • Mention the author and title of the article you are discussing.
  • Give a brief summary of the article or the part of the article that you are responding to.

Your response to a piece of writing is your opinion. It is usually fine to use "I" in your essay.
Your response to a piece of writing is your opinion. It is usually fine to use "I" in your essay. | Source

Essay Samples

How to Become a Republican. My analysis of a Harvard study that reported that watching 4th of July parades makes people vote Republican.

Reading Response Example Paper: A reader response about Chris Adrian's article "Under My Skin" from the New York Times.

Reader Response to "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" by Michael Crichton.

Summary Analysis Response Sample. An essay that combines analysis of the writing with reader response.

Introduction Ideas

Paragraph One. Get the reader’s attention by describing the subject in one of the following ways:

  • Use a startling statistic.
  • Cite an interesting fact.
  • Pose an appropriate quotation.
  • Tell an anecdote.
  • Describe a scenario.
  • Write a conversation.
  • Tell a story.
  • Put forth a question your essay will answer.
  • Give an example.
  • Explain general information about the topic.

Using a Frame for Your Introduction and Conclusion

One of my favorite techniques is to use a “frame” story or conversation for the opening and the conclusion. The way this works is that you tell half of a story or conversation in the introduction and then tell the rest of the story in the conclusion. Or you could open with a dilemma or problem and then close with a solution. Another approach is to retell the same story in the conclusion with a different (usually better) ending. Examples:

  • In an essay about cell phone use in cars, you could open with a scenario showing a person getting a call while driving and thinking about what to do. In the conclusion, you could tell the end of the scenario—maybe the driver pulls over to take the call or decides to let voicemail take it.
  • In an essay about dealing with a family member with Alzheimer’s, you could open with a conversation between family members trying to figure out what to do and conclude with a conversation between the same people after they have decided to place that person in a nursing home.
  • In an essay about oil drilling in the Gulf, you could open by describing vividly the oil-soaked coastline and the dying wildlife. You could conclude with what that coastline looks like now.
  • On any topic which you have personal experience, you can open with part of your story, and then conclude with the ending of your story.

Introduction and Conclusion Ideas

frame story: start a story (personal or from reading)
finish the story
expectations fulfilled: tell what you expected or thought before reading the article
tell how the reading met your expectations
expectations unfulfilled: describe your expectations
tell how these were overturned or changed
questions: ask one or more questions about topic
answers to questions
startling statistic or fact
how article helps us understand or interpret this fact or statistics
vivid description of subject with sensory images
tell how article helps us understand description
scenario: show a typical scene or conversation relating to topic (real or made up)
finish scene or conversation or repeat it with a different ending
what we all know about topic (statements most people believe)
what is really true
quote or famous saying
how quote explains your thesis

Transition and Thesis

Paragraph 2: After your introduction, transition by explaining what the author of the article you have written has to say about this topic. Briefly explain the main points of the article that you want to talk about. Then you will give your thesis.

Example: According to Mary Johnson in “Cell Phones are Dangerous,” we should not use our phones while driving and should educate others not to use them either. Johnson gives statistics showing that talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. Moreover, she points out the increasing number of accidents caused by cell phone use. Her conclusion is that we need to personally decide not to use a cell phone while driving and that we need to educate our friends and family to give up cell phones while driving, too.

Then add a thesis statement like one of the following examples:

(Agree) I agree with Johnson because I have observed many people driving dangerously while talking on cell phones and have even been in an accident myself while talking on the phone.

(Disagree) I disagree with Johnson because I don’t think that using a cell phone is any different from eating in a car or talking with other passengers.

Then reflect and expand:

(Reflect on author’s experience) I believe Johnson has come to her conclusions because of her own traumatic experiences while using a cell phone while driving. (Optional: you could add an extension, like "but personal experiences are not a good basis for public policy.")

(Expand on an assertion made in the essay) I agree with Johnson’s assertion that cell phones are dangerous, but I’d go even further than she does because I think we cannot control this problem by merely educating the public. We need to have laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.

6 Responding Essay Ideas

Here are six different ways to respond to an essay:

  1. You can agree with the article and explain three or more reasons why you agree.
  2. You can disagree with the article and explain three or more reasons why.
  3. You can agree with some parts of the article and disagree with other parts and explain why.
  4. You can analyze the rhetorical situation (occasion, purpose, audience, and context) of this article and explain why the author’s personal experience causes them to write this piece.
  5. You can take one part of the essay, agreeing or disagreeing with it, and expand on that idea, giving reasons for your reader to agree with you.
  6. You can explain your reaction to the article and then analyze how the writer’s style, tone, word choice, and examples made you feel that way.

Remember that all essays have three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. There are many ways to write a good essay, but I will give you a general guide to follow which will help you to organize your ideas.

Body of Paper

Here you will argue your thesis and give support for your ideas from your personal experience and your own thinking and reading. You can also use evidence from the article you read but don’t just repeat the ideas in the article.

  • The body of your paper should have three or more paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph should have a topic sentence which communicates one response idea you have about the paper such as, "I agree with Jones that _________" or "My personal experience makes me relate to _____ because _______".
  • The rest of the paragraph should give details to back up that point. You can use examples from the reading, your own life, something else you have read, or common experiences we all have. You can also use reasoning to prove your points. Explain why you think this way.
  • Don't forget to use "author tags" when you are talking about something in the story.
  • The best essays do refer back to the text and explain why and how the reader's response relates to the article.

Using Author Tags in Essays

The first time you talk about the article, you should give the full name of the author and the title of the article in parenthesis: John Jones in his article, “Taking Back Our Lives,” states _________.”

  • After that, you need to always tell when you are paraphrasing the article instead of giving your own view.
  • Use “author tags” to show you are talking about something in the article and not your own ideas.
  • Author tags use the last name of the author and a verb. Try these variations:

Jones argues
Jones explains
Jones warns
Jones suggests
Jones advises
Jones contends
Jones investigates
Jones asks

Differentiating Your Voice from the Author's: Instead of "Jones says," you can use:

tells us
points out
reassures us

Your Conclusion

Contrary to what you may have learned in previous writing classes, you should not repeat or summarize your arguments in the conclusion. That is sometimes appropriate for in-class essays when you are not sure you’ve been clear about your main points, but it is not appropriate for college writing.

Instead, you need to actually conclude your arguments. You can often use the same type of technique that you use in an introduction. You can also:

  • call attention to larger issues
  • call for a change in action or attitude
  • conclude with a vivid image
  • appeal to the reader to agree with you
  • or link back to your introduction by finishing the story/scenario, revising it, or explaining how it proves your point

How long does your instructor give you to write each essay?

  • one week
  • two weeks
  • three weeks
  • longer than 3 weeks
  • it varies
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Cell Phone While Driving Reader Response

Should cell phone use be banned while driving?
Should cell phone use be banned while driving? | Source

Sample Outline Format

This is a sample reading response essay to an article titled “Cell Phones are Dangerous" by Mary Johnson, agreeing with the article and extending one of the ideas.


Paragraph 1: Dramatic re-telling of a personal story of picking up my cell phone and then realizing that I am going to crash into another car. Stop the story right before the crash.

Paragraph 2: Like most people, I thought I was a good enough driver to handle using a cell phone while driving. I found out I was wrong. It turns out I’m not unusual. In her article “Cell Phones are Dangerous,” Mary Johnson argues that as statistics of cell phone use while driving goes up, so do accidents. According to Johnson, we should not use our phones while driving and should educate others not to use them either. Johnson cites statistics showing that talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. Moreover, she points out the increasing number of accidents caused by cell phone use. Her conclusion is that we need to personally decide not to use a cell phone while driving and that we need to educate our friends and family to give up using cell phones while driving too. I agree with Jones that cell phones are dangerous and that we should personally choose to not use one while driving; however, I’d go further than Jones by adding that we need to have laws that prohibit anyone from using cell phones in cars.


Each of these statements would be the topic sentence of one of the body paragraphs. For the first one, I also give examples of the type of arguments and support I would use to write that paragraph and prove my point.

1. Laws make people realize that cell phone driving is dangerous. (Below is an example of some support I could use to back up this idea—you can use ideas from the article but do not repeat the article.)

  • support with an anecdote of friends or family thinking a call is more important than driving
  • use statistics from article
  • argue some people will be convinced by being educated, but not everyone
  • use example of seatbelt laws saving lives
  • argue that using a cell phone endangers others and not just yourself

2. New technology requires changes in public policy.

3. People in my generation feel obligated to take a call, but if it is illegal to call while driving, they won’t feel that pressure.

4. Using hands-free headsets won’t work because it is the call which is distracting, not holding the phone.

5. This law will save a lot of lives.


I would return to my personal story and pick it up where I left off. I do crash and there is a lot of damage to my car, but no one is hurt. I can explain my great relief that my cell phone use did not end more tragically, and my personal decision to put my cell phone where I can’t reach it while driving. End with an appeal to the reader to do the same, but to also support legislation to prohibit cell phone use while driving.

Reading Response vs. Evaluation Essay

You formulate this sort of essay any time you answer someone’s question, “What did you think of that book (article, movie, class, or news report)? Responding personally to an article is usually the start of any analysis of writing, so it is a good first paper type to write. However, unlike a review or evaluation paper, your purpose is not to tell someone else whether or not they should read this article. Instead, your purpose is to explain your reaction and to give reasons (this will be the body of your paper) why you reacted that way. Doing an evaluation paper would take the reading response a step further and is probably one of the papers you will do next in your course.

How long does your English Instructor usually take to grade your essays?

  • back next class period
  • two class periods
  • one week
  • longer than one week
  • two weeks or longer
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Comments 24 comments

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 12 months ago from United States Author

Maria, I'm so glad that you found this article helpful to you. Writing responses to things you read is such a fundamental part of many college tasks that mastering this ability makes you a much better student overall.

Maria I Reyes profile image

Maria I Reyes 12 months ago

Ms. Lynne thank you so much. This was extremely helpful. I like the fact that you added examples for a better understanding. I also added it as a favorite so that I can refer to it as often as possible. Thanks again!

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 20 months ago from United States Author

ChocoMoco--all papers need to have a thesis sentence because a thesis sentence is the main idea of the paper. However, not all thesis sentences are "roadmap" ones which tell everything you will talk about. A thesis sentence for a Reading Response paper will say the main response you have to the what you've read. Here is a Reading Response paper with examples about a thesis:

ChocoMoco 20 months ago

For a responsive paper is it necessary to have a thesis sentence?

Selina 23 months ago

Thank you this saved life!

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 24 months ago from United States Author

Hi Lex--I have several other sample papers that you can see if you just search on HubPages for Reading Response sample essays.

Lex 24 months ago

I really like how you give your example , it sure help me a lot . Please add more to help other people that need it!

StardustOrdinaire profile image

StardustOrdinaire 2 years ago from Colorado Springs

I enjoyed this hub very much. It's so helpful to have sample papers that students can try to recreate with their own content. I will happily rob you of this fabulous step by step tutorial. Thank you for taking such time and effort to make it so accessible.

Abrar 2 years ago

Thank you it was so helpful I had two videos and the Dr. asked us to write responds I did what have said thank you

Eric 2 years ago

Thank you for your response examples.


honey 3 years ago

i was awesome i got lots of idea . thanks. : )

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Glad that my Hub reassured you reniesaenz. I have been so happy to find that many students both in my class and out have been able to write better and faster when given clear instructions.

reniesaenz 4 years ago

To be honest I was a little nervous going into your class. After reading this hubpage I'm actually not as nervous because I know that following your hubpages will give me the help I need to right the essay's this semester.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Thanks! it is really helpful 4 years ago

Thanks! It is really helpful.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks so much peytons for letting me know that this has helped you. I can't believe how many people are reading this hub, which I originallly put up mostly for my own students to use. Finally, I Googled this topic and realized that there isn't much on the web explaining how to write reading responses, even though that is a very common essay topic in a lot of disciplines. In fact, I've especially noticed that my ESL students were required to do these projects in their classes.

peytons 4 years ago

Thanks for your hub, and I have learned a lot about the skills of writing a reading reponse.

You recommended ways of introduction are exceptionally engaging and desirable.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi--the two samples in the blue block are reading response essays my students have done. Good luck on your assignment! Check out some of my other hubs for other writing help.

Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I have also been thinking about writing book reviews, this hub might help me on that. Cheers!

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for your comments Claudia. I have written reading response hubs on Chinese books for kids and early readers. My "Stone Age" hub is really a reading response too. Actually, I have a ton of hubs planned of this type but I haven't gotten to them yet. Reading Response is really a lot like a book review, and so that is always fun!

Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

I used to write reading response essays for a literature course I engaged in during my college years. I enjoy writing and analyzing my response to the things I read. It was quite fun in those days because the professor obviously chose books that where especially thought provoking and that made it much more interesting and easy too. Do you write many reading response hub-essays?

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Carol3san--I've been very surprised at the number of people who have looked at my writing hubs and I'm always grateful for positive feedback. Thanks for stopping by!

carol3san profile image

carol3san 4 years ago from Hollywood Florida

Thanks for the hub. Great info. I voted you up.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks somethingblue! I appreciate your comment and the time you've taken to respond at length. Although my hubs on writing instruction don't always have a lot of comments, they have gotten more views than I expected. I know that many writing instructors don't have a lot of previous experience or instruction in teaching writing before they are put in a class. Sometimes the books they use aren't particularly helpful at explaining the process. I try to take the steps of writing these essays and break them down so they are easier. Thanks again!

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    VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes at helping people write essays faster and easier.

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