Sample Assignment: Response Papers

During the course of the semester you will be responsible for handing in 4 response papers based on the day’s reading or screening. Two should be turned in just after the Founder's Day holiday (October 22) and the other two should be turned in by the last day of class (December 10); however, you are free to hand in all four response papers at any time. Response papers are just as the name implies; they show a thoughtful response to the text. I am interested in reading your thoughts and musings on the readings/screenings—what interested you about the text? What most grabbed your attention? What troubled you? What questions did you have? Did your opinion about the novel/film change from the beginning to the end of the text? Why did you like/dislike a particular character? 

My recommendation for these response papers is to be an active reader—when you are reading, make sure you have a pencil or pen in your hand so that you can underline passages and write in the margins of your books. Or if you are watching a film, make sure you have a notebook so that you can scribble down your thoughts as you view the film. You can do this for the novels we read as well. Then, when you sit down to write your response paper, try to think of what stuck with you the most about the book/film; the best way to frame this is as a question that you have about the text—something that intrigued you that you want to explore further.

Response papers are not formal documents; they do not have to have an argument, an introduction, or a conclusion. These papers are meant to reflect your active engagement with the course material and to show your deeper thoughts and inner musings about the texts we are engaged with. Hopefully you will feel comfortable in discussing your response papers in class, not by reading from them but by talking about whatever points you cover in your response paper for our class discussion. Additionally, your response papers may serve as launching pads for your final research paper, so really try to actively engage with the reading material or films in order to explore the themes that we will explore in-class.

Response papers will not be assigned a letter grade, and I will not formally comment on your writing. They will be graded pass/fail based on the level of effort you put into the paper.  In other words, if you simply hand in a summary of the novel, this does not qualify as a response to the text; therefore, you would not receive credit for that response paper and would need to make up the assignment with another response paper. For examples of a response paper, see the ones on reserve.

Response papers will be limited to two pages in length (if you go over by a paragraph, that’s OK) and you can either type them in double or single-space as is your preference. Do not exceed 3 pages—this is not supposed to be an arduous assignment; it is really only an exercise to help you think critically about the work. Have fun with this; challenge yourself to think deeply about the texts.  Good luck.