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Response Essay Example

Updated on April 05, 2016
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VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Reading Response Essays

1. Summarize a text, media or picture.

2. Give your response: what you think and why.

Your Response is Your Story

Responding means connecting the text with your own life and story.
Responding means connecting the text with your own life and story. | Source

Reading Response Outline and Format

Introduction (1-2 paragraphs) which grabs the reader's attention and states your subject and purpose.

Body (3-5 paragraphs) which:

  • Summarizes the article you read.
  • Gives three or more responses to the article with evidence to back them up.
  • Responses include answers to questions like the following:
  1. What do you think about the ideas in the article? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  2. How do the ideas in the article relate to your own experiences?
  3. How do the ideas in the article relate to other things you've read?
  4. What do you notice about the way the article is written? What about the way it is written makes it more or less persuasive?

Conclusion (1-2 paragraphs) which gives a final point and ties back in with the introduction.

Below is an example of an outline of a student paper which was responding to an article about cell phone use in cars. The original article is not online, but I've provided a link to a New York Times debate on this issue which is similar.

Tattoo Artist

Do you have a tattoo?  How did you feel about getting it before and afterwards?
Do you have a tattoo? How did you feel about getting it before and afterwards? | Source

Article for Reading Response

The article that this Reading Response essay is about is from The New York Times and is called "Lives-Under My Skin: A story of one man's journey toward getting a tattoo. " Unfortunately, The New York Times is blocking embedded links, but you can see the article at the following URL:

Example Response Essay Introduction

Introduction: (frame story which introduces subject vividly)

Living in Central Texas where 100 degrees is normal in the middle of summer, I've spent a lot of time at our local water park recently.That means I've also spent a lot of time standing in line at the water slides staring at people's backs, which more often than not are covered with tattoos. I've seen wings, flowers, hearts with names imprinted on them, faces with dates and "in memoriam," and. on the most memorable of all, a picture worthy of a medieval drawing with a large Celtic cross being fought over by a demon and an angel.

(transition and introduction of essay)

As a 50 something college professor, I'm not in a peer group which generally goes out and gets tattoos on the weekends, so I was fascinated by Chris Adrian's article from the New York Times "Under My Skin" which explains his own decision to get a tattoo and describes the experience in detail.

Reading Response Poll

Why are you interested in reading response papers?

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Response Paper Sample Summary

Summary of article (notice underlined author tags which keep it clear that each sentence is still part of the summary)

Adrian explains that he decided to get a tattoo after breaking up with his girlfriend. He didn't do it on a drunken binge, but rather in a spirit of self-reform. Vaguely desiring something spiritual, he nevertheless rejects his initial idea of having John Calvin's face on his back since the reference seems too obscure. Would people think he had a bad tattoo of Calvin and Hobbs? he wonders. Noting that he wanted something big and permanent to remind himself to be a person who was more responsible and more selfless, Adrain settles on a large dragon as a sufficiently menacing warning to himself.

After four hours of pain, he leaves the tattoo parlor with his dragon on his back, and a certain amount of uneasiness in his soul. He asks himself: Was such a large dragon really a good idea? Why did he get it on his back where he can't see it? Ambiguity pervades Adrian's conclusions about his experience. While he is not elated with his new permanent body art, he doesn't seem to be quite ready to go out to find a tattoo removal business right away either.

Responsive Reading on Tattoos

Dragon Tattoo
Dragon Tattoo | Source

Response Essay Thesis

Your thesis sentence should be your main response to the essay. This response can be positive, negative or a both. You can respond to one or more of the following:

  • Ideas in the essay.
  • The way the essay is written.
  • The topic.
  • The personality of the writer.
  • How this relates to your own experiences.
  • How this reminds you of something else you've seen or read.

Your thesis answers the question: "What do you think about this essay?" Your response should be 3-5 paragraphs which give details from the story as well as the reader's own thoughts to back up the ideas.

My Thesis: In spite of the fact that Adrian himself is not completely sure about this decision, Adrian's article is a persuasive argument for tattooing.


How do you respond to seeing a tattoo?
How do you respond to seeing a tattoo? | Source

Body of Response Outline

The body of your essay will now give reasons for your thesis. Each one of these reasons will be a full paragraph, so you would write 3-5 paragraphs to explain the thesis and give examples.

Each paragraph will have a topic sentence which is one of the reasons to believe the thesis. Here are the 4 topic sentences I've written as an outline for the body of my essay:

Body Paragraph One: The choice of personal experience for this article presents the ideas more effectively. (To expand this paragraph, I would give examples of the author's use of personal example and explain how he does this effectively)

Body Paragraph Two: He interested and intrigued me by focusing on the idea that getting a tattoo can be an expression of a spiritual commitment. (I would explain how this idea was new to me and why it changed my mind about tattoos and why people get them. I would then add the example from my own life of the time I saw a tattoo of a face with "in remembrance" along with name and dates)

Body Paragraph Three: People who get tattoos may have the same mixed feelings about wearing them that I have about seeing them. (How ideas in article relate to my own experiences.)

Body Paragraph Four: Adrian draws even an unlikely reader like myself into his experience through his engaging images, honest tone, and engaging style. (How the writing of the article is persuasive)

Response Essay Conclusion

In the conclusion, try to return to the ideas in the introduction as well as leaving with a final thought.

Reading Adrian's article about his personal experience with getting a tattoo actually did get under my skin. I found myself wondering, for perhaps the first time, whether there was any circumstance which would make me take that fatal step into the den of the tattoo artist. More importantly, it made me look more sympathetically on the tattooed skin around me. While I am not shaken in my idea that a person ought to look at some samples of the artist's work before giving them your skin to draw on, I do think find that I now see tattoos as part of a life story. Moreover, I'm curious about that story. If I get brave enough, the next time I'm in line at the water slide, I may ask the girl in front of me to tell me about her tattooed wings.

Tattoos Gone Wrong


How do you feel about tattoos?

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    • profile image

      Johng503 2 years ago

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      sajida 3 years ago

      thank you this is very useful :)

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks MsDora! I have found that this very important type of essay is sometimes difficult for students to write.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Good job explaining and illustrating the response essay. Your instructions are very clear.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Great to know this helped donnah. I actually wrote this for my class but haven't yet given them the link.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      This is awesome! I was just planning a lesson today for my 11th grade class on responding to an article. This is helpful advice. Voted up, pinned and shared.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks kissayer! I have been teaching college English for about 20 years and started writing my own materials for students because the books don't always explain clearly how to write different kinds of essays. I posted them on Hubpages mostly so my current and former students would have access to them. So I've been really surprised at the fact they've become my top Hubs. Then when I did Google searches, I realized why. Not too many resources exist to explain how to write more easily. Thanks for the sharing!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks kittyjj. I have written before on this subject and been absolutely astounded to have so many people look at those Hubs. So I looked at the Google search results and reallized there were not many other instructions on the internet for this sort of essay. That is why I've been trying to give more help.

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Fabulous Hub! I have a lot of friends who are in university and come to me for tips as I'm a writer, and I will definitely send them a link to your hub as well! Bookmarked and voted up :) So useful!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      Wow, this is a great hub! Very useful! I am going to bookmark it and have my kids to read it too. Thank you for sharing! Voted up and useful!

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      Jordan Campbell 4 years ago

      This article did wonders for my confidence. Reading response essays don't seem like the terribly difficult task I once thought they were. I'm actually looking forward to writing them now because I get to express my opinions throughout the paper.

    • madeleinescheve profile image

      madeleinescheve 4 years ago

      This article was very informative and entertaining. The content was useful and I am sure it will come in handy very soon!

      I enjoyed reading about a guy that had second thoughts about getting a tattoo because it was such a new perspective on tattoos, most of the time we only hear people talk in full confidence.

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