Being able to read a source closely, analyze its content, and write a response is a common assignment throughout your college career.
A critical response essay (or interpretive essay or review) has two missions:
But...what is a response?
Response is, basically, your reaction to what you read, meaning it too relies on focused, purposeful construction. This isn’t simply a matter of “liking/not liking” or “agreeing/disagreeing” what you read. These responses are required to include more than your personal preference. They will also include an assessment of how the essay’s design and strategies influence its overall goals.
A response is a critique or evaluation of the author's essay. Unlike the summary, it is composed of YOUR opinions in relation to the article being summarized. It examines ideas that you agree or disagree with and identifies the essay's strengths and weaknesses in reasoning and logic, in quality of supporting examples, and in organization and style. A good response is persuasive; therefore, it should cite facts, examples, and personal experience that either refutes or supports the article you're responding to, depending on your stance.
Writing the Response
For your response to a reading, you will need to move beyond these initial feelings and develop a critical response. You will want to practice creating meaning from the source rather than simply reading the material.
Ultimately in your college career, you will be asked to devise your own paper topics and make original academic arguments rather than responding to specific questions. The response paper will help you begin to see how to focus on and assess the types of issues that most interest you.
For your response, you will choose to respond to a specific point or points made by the author; the response must be critical, not simply a summary or a description of your personal feelings about the reading. You may choose to point out contradictions in the reading, you may assess the strengths and weaknesses of an argument in the reading, etc—there are a number of possible approaches. Try to move beyond simply disagreeing or agreeing with arguments in the text.
The following resources will help you to compose an effective response: