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How to write a text response

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WHAT IS A TEXT RESPONSE?

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In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about writing a text response. Let’s start at the beginning.

A text response is a style of writing in which you are sharing your reaction to something.  It is an opportunity to let the world know how you feel about something.

A text response can also be referred to as a reader response which is accurate, but you may also confuse them with a literacy narrative. This is not an accurate comparison, as a literacy narrative is more an assessment of how you became literate. In contrast, a text response is a specific response to a specific text.

A text response is specifically a response to a book you have read. Still, it can also be a response to a film you have just seen, a game you have been playing, or for more mature students; it could be a response to a decision the government is making that affects you or your community that you have read from a newspaper or website.

When writing a response, it is vital that you get the following points across to your audience.

  • How do you feel about what you are reading / saw / heard?
  • What do you agree or disagree with?
  • Can you identify with the situation?
  • What would be the best way to evaluate the story?

Some teachers get confused between a book review and a text response. Whilst they do share common elements, they are unique genres. Be sure to read o ur complete guide to writing a book review for further clarification.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A TEXT RESPONSE?

Often when we talk about the development of language skills, it is useful to discuss things in terms of four distinct areas. These are commonly grouped into the two active areas of speaking and writing and the two so-called passive areas of listening and reading. Learning to write a text response bridges this gap as it requires our students to not only develop high-level writing skills but also to consider reading as much more than a mere passive activity.

Writing a text response hones the student’s critical thinking skills and ability to express their thoughts in writing. It gives students an opportunity to engage in reading as an active exercise, rather than something that is analogous to watching TV!

A COMPLETE TEXT RESPONSE BUNDLE FOR STUDENTS

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2 in-depth units for students and teachers to work on as a class or independently. Packed with teaching resources and lesson ideas.

160 PAGES of high-quality teaching units for all ages and abilities. NO PREPARATION IS REQUIRED. DIGITAL and PRINT to DOWNLOAD NOW.

TEXT RESPONSE STRUCTURE

KEEP IT FORMAL This is a calculated and considered response to what you have read or observed.

USE EVIDENCE Frequently refer to the text as evidence when having an opinion. It becomes the reference point for all your insights within your text response.

HAVE AN OPINION This is not a recount. This is your OPINION on what the author or film producer has created. Don’t shy away from that.

TENSE & STYLE Can be written in either past or present tense. Feel free to use your own style and language but remember to keep it formal.

TEXT RESPONSE FEATURES

YES or NO? Essentially you are making a recommendation. Ensure your audience know where you sit.

LET US INSIDE YOUR MIND How did it make you feel? What did you learn from it? Did you engage with the characters?

SHOW SOME BALANCE Even if you passionately loved or hated the text your audience will view you as biased if you solely focus on one angle. A little balance will give you credibility.

GETTING STARTED: THE PREWRITING STAGE OF A TEXT RESPONSE

As with much of the formal school experience, students can greatly benefit from undertaking a methodical approach in their work. The following process outlines step-by-step how students can best approach writing their text responses in the beginning.

The keyword in the phrase writing a text response is not writing but response . The whole thing starts with the reading and how the student considers the text they are engaging with. Whether the text they are being asked to respond to is an unseen piece in an exam situation or a piece of coursework based on something studied over a semester, the structure remains the same. This is true, too, regardless of age and ability level. Younger students should be taught to approach writing a text response using the same concepts but in a simplified and more scaffolded manner.

Read for Understanding:

Students should read the text they are responding to initially for a basic comprehension of what the text is about. They should read to identify common themes and narrative devices that will serve to answer the question. Often, the question will demand that the student consider and explain the author’s use of a specific literary device or how that literary device develops a central idea and the author’s purpose. In preparing our students to write competent text responses they must first be familiar with the literary devices and conventions that they will be asked to discuss.

Students may instinctively know what they like to read, but what is often not instinctive is the expressing of why they like to read it. They may acknowledge that the writing they are reading is of a high quality, or not as the case may be, but they may lack the vocabulary to express why the writing is successful or unsuccessful. Take the opportunity in class when reading, regardless of the genre, to point out literary devices , techniques, and stylistic considerations that will help your students when it comes to writing a text response.

As humans, we are hardwired to understand the world around us in terms of the stories we tell ourselves and others. We do this by employing comparisons and drawing parallels, we play with words in our everyday use of idiom and metaphor, alliteration and rhyme. Encourage students to keep an ear out for these techniques in the music they listen to, the comics they read, and the TV they watch. Even in the advertising they are exposed to.

how to write a text response,text response | anne frank text reponse | How to write a text response | literacyideas.com

Be sure too to offer your students opportunities to practice writing their own metaphors, similes, alliterative sentences etc. There is no better way to internalize an understanding of these literary techniques than by having a go at writing them yourself. And, it doesn’t have to be a dry academic exercise, it can be a lot of fun too.

Teaching alliteration? Have the students come up with their own tongue twisters. Want them to grasp simile? Have them produce Not! similes, for example, give them an adjective such as ‘cuddly’. Tell them you want them to write a simile using the simile structure employing ‘as’. Tell them too they must use the word ‘cuddly’ about someone who is not cuddly at all. Offer them the example He is as cuddly as a cactus to get the ball rolling. They can do this for any adjective and they will often achieve hilarious results!

Read Directions Carefully:

It should go without saying to read the directions carefully, but experience teaches us otherwise! Often it is not the best writers among our students who receive the best grades, but those who diligently respond to the directions of the task that has been set. Students should be sure to check that they have read the directions for their text response question closely. Encourage them to underline the keywords and phrases. This will help them structure their responses and can also serve as a checklist for them to refer to when they have completed writing their text responses.

Have students pinpoint exactly what the question is asking them. For older or stronger students, these questions will likely comprise several parts. Have the student separate the question into these component parts and pinpoint exactly what each part is asking them for.

A good practice to ensure a student has adequately understood what a question is looking for is to ask the student to paraphrase that question in their own words. This can be done either orally or as a written exercise. This helpful activity will inform the student’s planning at the prewriting stage and, as mentioned, can provide a checklist when reviewing the answer at the end.

The Process:

  • To ensure students fully understand the question, have them underline or highlight keywords in the sentence or question. Distribute thesauruses and have students find synonyms for the keywords that they have highlighted.
  • Have them rewrite the question as a series of questions in their own words. This will allow the teacher to assess their understanding of what they are being asked to do. It can also serve as a structured plan for writing their response.
  • Allow some time for students to discuss the question together, either in small groups or with talking partners. After the allotted time, students must decide on a yes , no , or maybe response to the central question.
  • Their response to Step 3 above will formulate their contention, which will serve as the driving force behind their text response as a whole.
  • On their own, students brainstorm at least three arguments or reasons to support their contention.
  • For each of the reasons, students should refer to the text and choose the best evidence available in support of their contention.
  • Students should not be overly concerned with forming a logical order for their notes gathered so far. This activity aims to let ideas flow freely and capture them on paper.

When completed, it is at this point that they are ready to begin the writing process in earnest.

HOW TO WRITE A TEXT RESPONSE

As with writing in many other genres, it is helpful to think of the text response in terms of a three-part text response essay structure. It is a simple process of learning how to write a response paragraph and then organizing them into the ubiquitous beginning, middle, and end (or intro, body, and conclusion) that we drill into our students will serve us well again. Let’s take a look:

The Introduction:

The first paragraph in our students’ text responses should contain the essential information about the text that will orientate the reader to what is being discussed. Information such as the author, the book’s title or extract, and a general statement or two about the content will provide the reader with some context for the discussion.

The SOAPSTONE acronym is useful when considering which information is essential to include in the intro: Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and TONE. Students should reflect on which aspects should be addressed in the introductory paragraph. The genre of the text will largely determine which of these should be included and which are left out. However, it is important the student does not get too bogged down at this stage; these orientation sentences usually require only three or four sentences in total.

Be sure to check out our own complete guide to writing perfect paragraphs here .

The tone of a text response should be such that it assumes the reader does not understand the text that the writer does. It is useful to tell them here to picture one person in their life they are writing to. Someone that would not be familiar with the text, perhaps a family member that they are explaining what they read. Remind them, though, the language should be formal too.

Once the student has established some context in the reader’s mind, they will need to address the central idea forming the ‘eye of the storm’ of their argument.

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When learning how to write a text response body paragraph, one of the most common pitfalls students fall into is engaging in a straightforward retelling of the text. Discussion of the text is the name of the game here. Students must get into the text and express their opinions on what they find there. It is quickly apparent when reading a student’s response when they are merely engaging in a retelling and delivering a thoughtful response. Be sure students are aware of the fact that this fools nobody!

The notes students have made in the prewriting stages will be extremely useful here. Each of the arguments or reasons they have produced to support their contention will form the basis for a body paragraph. The TEEL acronym is useful here:

Topic Sentence : Students should begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. This sentence introduces the point that will serve as the main idea of the paragraph – the central riff, if you like. It will engage directly with an aspect of the question or writing prompt .

Expand / Explain: The purpose of the next few sentences will be to narrow the focus of the topic sentence, often by referring to a specific character or event in the text and offering a further explanation of the central point being developed in the paragraph.

Evidence / Example: At this point in the paragraph, it is essential that the student makes close reference to the text to support the point they have been making. Having an opinion is great, but it must be based, and be shown to be based, on the actual text itself. Evidence will most often take the form of a quotation from the text – so make sure your students are comfortable with the mechanics of weaving quotations into their writing!

Link: The end of each body paragraph should link back to the student’s central contention. It restates the argument or reason outlined in the topic sentence but in the broader context of the central contention which usually is the yes , no , or maybe uncovered at the prewriting stage.

As the student moves through their essay, it is important that they reference the main theme of the text in each and every paragraph. The structure of the essay should illustrate an evolution of the student’s understanding of that theme.

References should be made to how the writer employs various literary techniques to construct meaning in his or her text. However, reference to literary techniques should not be made merely in passing but should be integrated into a discussion of the themes explored in the essay.

Writing a text response conclusion:

how to write a text response,text response | Social INFLUENCERS are frequently paid TO provide their opinions on books films and products as people value THEIR opinion 1 | How to write a text response | literacyideas.com

Writing the conclusion involves essentially restating the contentions made already, as well as summarizing the main points that were discussed. Though the conclusion will inevitably have much in common with the introduction, and some repetition is unavoidable, make sure students use different wording in their conclusion. The paraphrasing exercise in the prewriting stages may be helpful here.

Encourage students too to link back to their reasons and arguments developed to support their contention in the body paragraphs. The conclusion is no place to introduce new ideas or to ask rhetorical questions. It is the place for gathering up the strands of argument and making a statement about the relevance of the text in relation to the wider world.

TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT TEXT RESPONSE

●     In essays of this type, students should mostly write in the present tense.

●     Encourage students to vary the length of their sentences to maintain the reader’s interest. But be careful too, students should avoid using overly long sentences as longer sentences can be more difficult to control. A good rule of thumb is that when expressing complex thoughts use several short sentences. Simpler thoughts can be expressed through longer, more complex sentences.

●     Tie everything back to the question. The dissection of the question during the prewriting stage of the text response should remain at the forefront of the student’s mind at all times. If what the student writes doesn’t link back to the original question then it is deadwood and should be discarded.

●     Writing a text response requires the student to analyze the text and responds personally with their own thoughts and opinions. They should not be afraid to make bold statements as long as they can make references to the text to support those statements.

●     The prewriting stage is essential and should not be skipped. But, even with a well thought out prewriting session, where time allows, opportunities should be given for students to draft, redraft, and edit their writing.

We often teach our students that writing is about expressing our thoughts and ideas, but it is also about discovering what we think too.

TEXT RESPONSE TASK FOR STUDENTS

In a response paper, you are writing a formal assessment of what you have read or observed (this could be a film, a work of art, or a book), but you add your own personal reaction and impressions to the report.

The steps for completing a reaction or response paper are:

  • Observe or read the piece for an initial understanding
  • Record your thoughts and impressions in notes
  • Develop a collection of thoughts and insights from
  • Write an outline
  • Construct your essay

Once you have established an outline for your paper, you’ll need to respond using the basic elements of every strong essay, a strong introductory statement.

In the case of a reaction paper, the first sentence should contain the title of the object to which you are responding and the name of the author/creator/publisher

The last sentence of your introductory paragraph should contain your stance or position on the subject you are writing about.

There’s no need to feel shy about expressing your own opinion in a response, even though it may seem strange to write “I feel” or “I believe” in an essay.

USEFUL STATEMENTS TO INCLUDE IN A TEXT RESPONSE

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  • I felt that
  • In my opinion
  • The reader can conclude that
  • The author seems to
  • I did not like
  • The images seemed to
  • The author was [was not] successful in making me feel
  • I was especially moved by
  • I didn’t get the connection between
  • It was clear that the artist was trying to
  • The sound track seemed too
  • My favorite part was…because

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Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

TEXT RESPONSE GRAPHIC ORGANIZER

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS TEMPLATE

TEXT RESPONSE WRITING CHECKLIST & RUBRIC BUNDLE

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VIDEO TUTORIALS FOR TEXT RESPONSE WRITING

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How to Write a Text Response Essay: Structure & Tips 

It is essential for you to know how to write a text response essay that demonstrates your ability to express their opinions and ideas concisely. In text response essays are also  a great skill for you to learn to take with you into the work force and to further develop at university. 

What is a text response essay?

A text response essay is a style of writing where you share your reaction to something. It’s an opportunity to share your opinion with the world! 

A text response essay is specifically a response to a book that you read, but it can also be a response to a film that you watched, or a video game you played.

In order to get an A in English when writing a response, it is important that your essay gets the following points across to your audience: How you feel about what you read/saw/heard, what you agree or disagree with, can you identify with/relate to the situation? And the best way to evaluate the story. 

how to start text response essay

How do you structure a Text Response Essay?

When writing a text response essay, you start by introducing the text you will be responding to. Then in your body paragraphs you want to tell your audience how you feel about the text you are responding to, if you agree with it or disagree, how you may or may not identify with the text and how you evaluate it. Then in the conclusion , you restate your main point and sum up the main points. 

How to Write a Text Response Introduction

To begin with, you will set up the context. This will include the type of text you are responding to (is it a book? A play? A collection of poetry?), basic historical context (time, subject matter). 

Next explicitly outline your opinion. This must be clearly addressed in all aspects of the topic you are given. It also needs to demonstrate that you can think independently and uniquely. Finally, briefly introduce the topics you will be covering in your body paragraphs. 

Overall, try to keep your introduction to 3 to 4 sentences to keep your introduction clear and to the point, so your audience doesn’t lose interest. 

How to Write a Text Response Body Paragraph

When writing the body of your text response essay you should include 3 to 5 paragraphs. This allows you to be able to discuss your topics and your text in as much detail as possible. When writing your body paragraphs, it could be helpful to remember the acronym ‘TEEL’

T opic Sentence – Each paragraph should begin with this sentence; it serves as an introduction to your argument. It should engage with the topic you’ve been asked to discuss

E xpand/example – After you have introduced your main point, you are going to expand on this and provide examples from the text you are responding to. 

E vidence – At this point you will be using your text to support your examples, essentially to prove what you have interpreted from the text.

L inking Sentence – At the end of each of your body paragraphs you should be linking back to your central theme/topic of your essay. 

Here is an example of a text response body paragraph: 

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home . [Topic Sentence] Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, ‘as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace’. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. [Expand/Example] This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; ‘his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain’. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; ‘we Jews have to be on the lookout’. Elsa sees ‘a look in his eyes that she recognised’, thus their bond enables both characters to heal. [Evidence] London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult . [Linking Sentence] 

How to Write a Text Response Essay Conclusion

Your conclusion should be short and sweet! You just need to restate and summarise the points you made in your body paragraphs! Remember to not add any new information to your conclusion. Sometimes as you are summing everything up, you can come across another point that you really want to talk about – and that is amazing! If this happens to you, make a new body paragraph! And then you can talk about it in your conclusion. It can also sometimes be unavoidable for your conclusion to sound very similar to your introduction and be a bit repetitive – this is ok! Just be sure to use different words from what you used in your introduction. 

Text Response Essay Writing Tips

When writing text responses essays, you should:

  • Always write in the present tense. 
  • Express complex ideas in several short sentences instead of long, this is more likely to control the reader’s interest.
  • Express simple ideas in longer, complex sentences. 
  • Tie everything back to the question. When preparing to write the essay the question asked should be dissected and at the forefront of your mind. 
  • Do not be afraid to make bold statements! 
  • Remember to consider how you feel about what you saw/read/heard, and to ask yourself if you agree or disagree with it! 

If you find yourself stuck, our English Tutors are here to help! 

Want to Excel in Your Text Response Essay Writing?

Using resources that are available to you are your greatest ally when it comes to writing your text response essay! There are great resources online such as YouTube Videos explaining how to get started and blog posts.

You also have access to your teacher and peers! Do not be afraid to ask your teacher for help – you are not going to get in trouble or made fun of for not knowing where to start. In fact, your teacher would be very excited to help you! It is why they are there after all! You can also utilise your peers! Set up a small study group with your friends and classmates! You can also get yourself a private tutor if you feel like you could use some extra help.

Need a helping hand writing a text response essay? A Team Tuition is here to help. With our tried and true tutoring methods , we can help you write impressive essays with our at-home and online tutoring. Find a tutor near you today!

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How to Write a Response Paper: Understanding the Basics

how to start text response essay

Writing a response paper is an important task for students. It allows them to critically analyze a text, express their thoughts and opinions, and improve their writing skills. In this comprehensive guide, our ‘ write my essay ’ experts will explore the basics of how to write a response paper, pre-writing steps, and crafting a winning introduction, body, and conclusion. So, let's dive in and discover a flawless response paper at the end!

Defining What is a Response Paper

A response paper is a written assignment that requires the student to read a text and respond to it by expressing their views on the topic. It can be a stand-alone assignment or part of a larger project. When writing a response paper, it is important to remember the audience you are writing for. Are you writing for your professor, classmates, or a broader audience? This will help you tailor your writing style and tone accordingly.

Moreover, this kind of academic assignment should not only summarize the text but also provide a critical analysis of its main arguments and ideas. It should demonstrate your understanding of the text and your ability to engage with it in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

Purpose of Crafting a Response Paper

Writing response papers aims to demonstrate your understanding of the text, give your opinions and thoughts, and provide evidence to support your claims. In addition, this type of paper can help you develop critical reading skills and formulate coherent arguments. By engaging with the text, you can identify its strengths and weaknesses, evaluate its claims, and form your own opinions about the topic.

Furthermore, crafting response paper examples can be a valuable exercise in self-reflection. It allows you to articulate your thoughts and feelings about a particular topic and can help you better understand your values and beliefs.

Types of Response Papers

There are various types of response papers, each with its own unique characteristics and requirements. These include:

How to Write a Response Paper

  • Personal response : Here, you express your personal opinions, thoughts, and emotions about the text. This type of paper allows you to engage with the text more personally and explore your reactions to it.
  • Critical response : Involves analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting the text to provide a critique. This type of paper requires you to engage with the text more objectively and analytically, focusing on its strengths and weaknesses and providing evidence to support your claims.
  • Research-based response : Research-based response paper examples involve using external sources to support your claims. This type of paper requires you to engage with the text and supplement your analysis with evidence from other sources, such as scholarly articles, books, or interviews.

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How to Write a Response Paper: Pre-Writing Steps

Before diving into the writing process, laying a strong foundation through effective pre-writing steps is crucial. These initial stages not only provide clarity and structure but also enhance the overall quality of your response. And if you aren’t sure how to write a reaction paper , these steps can also be employed for your assignment.

How to Write a Response Paper

Carefully Read and Analyze the Text

The first step in response paper creation is to carefully read and analyze the text. This involves more than just reading the words on the page; it requires critical thinking and analysis. As you read, pay attention to the author's tone, style, and use of language. Highlight important points, take notes, and identify the author's main argument and themes. Consider the context in which the text was written and how it relates to contemporary issues.

For example, if you are reading a historical document, think about how it reflects the social and political climate of the time. If you are reading a work of fiction, consider how the characters and plot relate to larger themes and ideas. By carefully analyzing the text, you will be better equipped to write a thoughtful and insightful response.

Take Notes and Highlight Key Points

Another important step is to take notes while reading, as it helps you organize your thoughts and ideas. As you read through the text, jot down your reactions, questions, and observations. Highlight key points, evidence, and quotes that support the author's argument. This will make it easier to refer back to specific parts of the text when you are writing your response.

Additionally, taking notes can help you identify patterns and connections between different parts of the text. This can be especially helpful when you are trying to develop your thesis statement and outline.

Develop a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a central argument that you will be making in your paper. It should be clear and concise and provide direction for your essay. Your thesis statement should be based on your analysis of the text and should reflect your own perspective.

When developing your thesis statement, consider the main argument of the text and how you agree or disagree with it. Think about the evidence and examples that the author uses to support their argument and how you might use those same examples to support your own argument. Your thesis statement should be specific and focused and should guide the rest of your essay.

Create an Outline

If you want to unlock the most important tip on how to ace a response paper perfection, it lies in creating a well-organized outline. Identify key points, evidence, and arguments that you want to discuss and organize them into a well-written paper format. Your outline should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Start by introducing the text and your thesis statement. In the body paragraphs, discuss your main points and provide evidence from the text to support your argument. Use quotes and examples to illustrate your points. In conclusion, summarize your main points and restate your thesis statement. In the following paragraphs, we'll delve deeper into writing each section with more details.

Actual Writing Process with a Response Paper Format

Now that you have completed the essential pre-writing steps, it's time to delve into the actual writing process of your paper. In this section of our comprehensive guide, we will explore how to start a response paper along with developing insightful body paragraphs and culminating in a powerful conclusion.

Engage the Reader In Your Introduction

The introduction is the first impression that your reader will have of your paper. It is important to make a good first impression, so you want to engage them right from the start. There are several ways to do this, such as providing context, using a hook, or starting with a rhetorical question.

For example, if you are writing a paper about the effects of social media on mental health, you might start with a hook like:

'Did you know that the average person spends over two hours a day on social media? That's more time than they spend exercising or socializing in person.' 

When working with your paper, this hook immediately grabs the reader's attention and makes them interested in learning more about your topic.

Provide Context and Background Information

Once you have engaged the reader, it's important to provide context for the text you are analyzing. This includes information like the author's name, the title of the work, and the publication date. This information helps the reader understand the context of the text and why it is important.

For example, if you are analyzing a poem by Maya Angelou, you would want to provide some background information about her life and work. You might mention that she was a civil rights activist and a prolific writer and that the poem you are analyzing was written in 1969, during a time of great social and political upheaval in the United States.

Present Your Thesis Statement

Finally, it's important to present your thesis statement in the introduction. The thesis statement is the main argument of your paper, and it should be presented clearly and concisely so that the reader knows exactly what your paper is about.

For instance, if you are crafting a response paper example about the effects of social media on mental health, your thesis statement might be something like:

'This paper argues that excessive use of social media can have negative effects on mental health, including increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.'

By presenting your thesis statement in the introduction, you are setting up the rest of your paper and giving the reader a roadmap for what to expect. This helps them stay focused and engaged throughout your paper.

Meanwhile, you can find out more about how to write an essay format and set the right referencing style for your assignment!

Crafting the Body

One key aspect of ensuring a well-structured and articulate paper is to utilize your typical response paper outline as a reliable roadmap. By following it, you can maintain focus, coherence, and logical flow throughout your response. Moreover, keep the following points in mind as you proceed with crafting the body of your response paper:

  • Use evidence and examples from the text:
  • Incorporate relevant quotes, statistics, or other evidence that supports your opinions and arguments.
  • By using evidence from the text, you can strengthen your argument and demonstrate a deep understanding of the material.
  • Analyze and interpret the text:
  • Demonstrate your critical thinking skills by thoroughly analyzing and interpreting the text.
  • Explain how the text relates to your thesis statement and overall argument.
  • Provide a clear and concise response that showcases your knowledge and understanding of the material.
  • Address counterarguments and alternative perspectives:
  • Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to demonstrate your ability to consider different perspectives.
  • Explain why your argument is stronger than the opposing viewpoint.
  • Provide evidence to support your claim and solidify your stance.

Concluding Your Paper

In the conclusion of your response paper example, it is essential to consolidate your reactions, ideas, and arguments regarding the text. Summarize the key points discussed throughout your paper, drawing inferences whenever applicable. 

When uncertain about ​​ how to write a conclusion for a research paper , the first important rule is to refrain from introducing new ideas or reiterating information already presented in the introduction of your paper. Instead, provide a concise and coherent summary that encapsulates the essence of your response, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Response Paper Example

To show you how to write a response paper effectively, our essay writer has provided an amazing example below. It will inspire you and help you on your own learning journey. Get ready to explore new ideas and expand your knowledge with our response paper sample.

As we conclude this comprehensive guide on how to write a response paper, you have acquired the essential tools and knowledge to embark on your writing journey with confidence. With a firm grasp of pre-writing strategies, the art of crafting an engaging introduction, organizing a well-structured body, and understanding the significance of supporting arguments and addressing counter arguments with a good response paper example, you are poised to leave a lasting impression.

And if you ever find yourself struggling to find inspiration or facing challenges with any aspect of your essays, order essay online and take advantage of the opportunity to seek assistance from our professional writing service team. By trusting us with your college essays and ordering a response paper, you can confidently navigate your academic journey!

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What Response Essays Are and How to Tackle Them

Writing a response essay might seem like a challenging task at first. Firstly, you need to understand to a great extent what the study that you are responding to is talking about and then make sure that you write an insightful, true to the source essay about it. Even if you need to write a response essay as part of your homework for faculty studies or high school assignments or you want to exercise your argumentative skills, it might seem like a lot of work at first. However, having in mind a clear structure of your future response essay is essential.

Before beginning to go through the main structure points that you need to check when writing a response essay, there are some tips that you need to know and that will help you lay your thoughts on paper in a more efficient way. First of all, after reading the essay or the article that you are responding to, you need to settle on whether you want to attack the ideas presented in that article or to agree with them. Based on that, you will structure the components of your response essay. For example, if your response essay is talking about protecting the environment and you want to show your agreement with the ideas presented in the original essay, then you should build your response essay around the idea of consolidating the thoughts in the main source.

Secondly, it is important that your readers clearly understand your position after reading your response essay. This means that you need to expose all possible arguments which might strengthen or attack the ideas presented in the main article. In order for you to achieve a strong position, it might be helpful to also expose a personal experience that can be related to the topic you are writing an essay about. This will not only make your argument points stronger but will also help your readers empathize with your writing. Also, it is important that you keep in mind that your response essay should be a response to something you have read, something that is a hot topic at the moment in various social contexts or something that has been debated for a long time and you want to present a new approach to things.

You also have to keep in mind that the more knowledge you show to your audience in your response essay about the author and the topic that is being debated, the more credibility you will gain. Read some cause or effect essay topics to get inspired. This is why it is important to also present a context in your response essay, such as details about the author and the paper you are choosing to respond to. Finally, after debating the ideas of the original text, you can also choose to talk about the effectiveness of the source text. It can be about how the main paper managed to reach the audience, if the writing style was effective, and how the author you are responding to had chosen to expose their ideas.

If we were to summarize the main points you should keep in mind before starting to tackle the components of a response essay, these would be:

  • Make sure to clearly expose your position regarding the article or paper you are responding to
  • Don’t forget to expose the personal experiences or thoughts that might help you relate to the matter in question and your reader to empathize with your way of writing
  • Prove that you have knowledge about the author of the main text and can put your response essay in a context
  • Evaluate the main text’s effectiveness and how it managed to reach the audience

Get Started: Write an Introduction

One important thing when writing a response essay is the way you structure the introduction. This is one of the key parts of your essay, as it embodies the topic you are about to debate and the premises you are basing your essay on. The introduction will make your audience decide if they want to keep reading your response essay or not. This is why it is important that you keep in mind the following tips:

  • Introduction is all about catching your audience’s attention
  • It should provide a brief description of the topic
  • You should be able to briefly summarize your thesis
  • Don’t forget to give a short description of the author and the article you are responding to

It might be the case that the source article that you are about to discuss contains several parts or has different ideas which can be debated and your response article refers only to a part of them. In this case, don’t forget to also mention this. Do not forget that you need to keep it short and catchy.

How to Make Your Introduction Catchy – Introduction Ideas

Writing a catchy introduction that will make your reader read the whole response article is challenging. This is why you will find here some ideas to start with, such as:

  • Making use of a statistic: some puzzling conclusion that researchers might have reached at some point and which is relevant to the topic you are about to respond to.
  • Citing someone who is related to the area of expertise of your topic or is known for having deep knowledge about the topic. The more popular the person you are citing is, the more efficient your introduction will be.
  • Story-telling or reproducing a dialogue might also help, provided they are relevant and short.
  • Starting with a question or with a situation regarding the topic you are about to talk about might also be a good introduction idea.

You might even want to combine some of these ideas and write your introduction based on an example and a statistic or any other possible combination. Whatever you choose, make sure it stays to the point and is catchy to the eye of the reader.

How You Can Connect Introduction to Conclusion

Another important aspect that you need to consider when writing your introduction to the response essay is that you need to somehow connect it to the conclusion. In order for you to achieve a perfectly cyclic response essay, you need to find a way to make the two feel correspondent. This will help your response essay have a “frame” and will help your writing style be more efficient.

It might be a bit difficult at first to start with an introduction and end with a conclusion that are connected, mostly if you want to write very long and thorough response essays. However, one important suggestion that might help is to always make sure that before starting off your response essay, you are clear about the ideas and position you want to present. This will help you avoid changing your position as you advance in writing your essay and make your introduction and conclusion connected, giving a sense of symmetry to your text.

Below you can find some examples of how you can connect your introduction with the conclusion:

  • If you are writing about the usage of mobile devices in our everyday life, you could start your introduction by exposing a real-life experience, maybe someone who is driving to work on a normal day and is stuck in traffic. You could start by asking your readers what they would do on their phones as they wait in traffic and end with several possible outcomes of this scenario.
  • If you are choosing to present an essay about a personal experience and you start with an introduction about how a certain day started in your life, you could end your essay with how that day ended. This way, you will make sure you keep your readers connected to the story and have their attention all throughout the essay.
  • If you decide to write about any other topic, such as a topic of national importance or even an environmental topic, you could start by stating the facts to which you want to draw the attention and end with the facts about the current situation or how it can be improved.

How to Write a Strong Thesis

After making sure that you have caught your readers’ attention, it is all about making it clear to them what your position regarding the source article is. However, you should also provide a context to your response article by mentioning details about the author and the main ideas in the article that you have chosen to respond to. It can be that you are choosing to respond only partially, to a few of the ideas presented there, so this is the reason why it is important to clearly state the ideas of the article you want to respond to. Make sure to give an account of whatever it is debated in the article, by presenting the information in an objective way. At this point, it is more important for your readers to understand what you are trying to agree or disagree with than hear your personal opinion. Also, exposing the ideas of the source text in an objective, impersonal way will help your readers decide for themselves if the position you are taking is one that they would take or not.

Afterwards, it is vital that you expose what is known as “thesis statement” by allocating one paragraph in which you clearly state if you agree or disagree with the main topic presented in the source text. This should start with “I agree/I don’t agree with” and should be followed by a short and powerful message about the main reason why you are taking this position regarding that text.

The next step is to talk more about the reasons you are considering attacking or agreeing with the ideas presented in the original text. This can be done by either reviewing what the author is saying or just expanding on the main ideas. You can, for example, try to understand why the author has reached a certain conclusion that you are debating by trying to relate it to the author’s background or career. It can be that the author has chosen to promote oil drilling because they work in a factory that wants to make this process a sustainable one. It is important that you stay true to your debate and present the situation from both points of view: yours and the author’s.

How to Respond to Articles – Ideas

After tackling the introduction and the conclusion, the main body of your response essay is left to deal with. This is mainly the way in which you choose to present the source text and where you are standing regarding it. It is up to you if you choose to agree or disagree, however, what you have to keep in mind is that you need to be consistent and stay true to the topic you have chosen to debate.

One way to do that is to map the main three components of the response essay, namely, the introduction, body, and conclusion. Here are some helpful suggestions on how to structure your responding ideas:

  • Whether you agree or disagree, you can state 3 or more reasons for which you are doing so. Make sure to start each new paragraph and allocate enough space for your ideas to be clearly distinguished and stated.
  • If you are partially agreeing or disagreeing, make sure to always mention that so that your readers will clearly understand your position.
  • It is always important to see how the author’s ideas managed to reach the audience and in which ways the ideas were brought forward.

How to Better Structure the Body of the Response Essay

Make sure to utilize evidence to back-up your thesis. In order to do this, you can use quotes, author tags or simply rely on other readings and give references.

Make sure that you achieve a personal voice throughout the text. This can be done by differentiating yourself from the author and using author tags.

By using author tags, you communicate to your readers the fact that it is the author you are responding to who has a certain idea or it is their article that makes this reference. You can use any of these suggestions when talking about someone’s article:

  • The author mentions
  • The author refers to
  • The author is suggesting
  • The author writes
  • The author asks
  • The author recommends
  • The author is presenting
  • The author points out
  • The author relates
  • The author pleads
  • The author denies
  • The author’s remarks point to
  • The author explains

Write a Conclusion Your Readers Won’t Forget

One important thing to keep in mind when writing a conclusion to your response essay is that you shouldn’t repeat the arguments in the same form in which you have presented them in the body. Offering a conclusion to your response article is still needed, as this will help your readers make a clear decision whether they agree or disagree with the ideas presented in your response essay.

Besides making sure that your essay is built around a very powerful introduction and a conclusion that sums up the main ideas of your position regarding this essay, you can also:

  • Present the topic that you have been debating throughout the essay in a broader perspective; for example, if the topic you are tackling is national, you can connect this topic to the situation in other countries worldwide
  • Promote an organization or an event that has some influence on the topic you have been responding to
  • Present the current situation of the topic you are talking about and ring the alarm if anything needs to be done about it
  • Summarize how your arguments shed a new light on the topic

A Brief Summary of How a Response Essay Should Look Like

Keeping everything in mind, the essential parts of a response essay and the main suggestions that you have to keep in mind when starting to write are:

  • Paragraph 1: The first part of the introduction which needs to be vivid, catchy and reflect the point you are about to make.
  • Paragraph 2: Provide a context to your response essay: details about the source-text and the author and what the main points in the article are.
  • State your position regarding the ideas presented in the introduction and if you agree with the author’s take on the matter or not.
  • Clearly mention if you are going to question the author’s position or expand on the author’s account of the facts.
  • Give clear arguments pro or against the matter and allocate one paragraph to each of these arguments.
  • Use statistics, story-telling, research findings, scientific discoveries, and any other tools suggested in this article.
  • Provide an insightful and catchy conclusion that correlates with the introduction you have chosen for your response essay.

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Writing a text response essay: notes, tips and sample paras

In a text response essay, you will be assessed on your ability to develop an argument/discussion relating to a prompt, your ability to analyse themes, issues and characters in an insightful way, your ability to identity an author’s intentions and unpack their narrative devices.

how to start text response essay

Remember, the reason you are studying your particular text is because it contains complex and thoughtful themes. You must discuss the text’s complexity, but in a systematic way. Start with the simple and obvious points and then show a progression of thoughts.

If you are getting around a mid-range C-B, you may need to work on:

Topic sentences

  • Sharper and more analytical topic sentences. Make sure they directly answer the question and set up a paragraph that will develop the main theme in a thoughtful and profound way.
  • Make sure that each topic sentence has a different focus so as to avoid repetition. In a B-range essay there is often considerable repetition of ideas.
  • Evidence: you must be as analytical as possible and avoid general statements. Show an insightful knowledge of the text by choosing key evidence/insightful/ ambivalent examples in the text to support the topic sentence.
  • Build your discussion around the author’s intentions, purpose, narrative devices. These will keep the focus on analysis rather than summary.
  • Be sure to show readers/assessors that you are capable of precise and accurate analysis of characters, themes and significant moments/turning points in a text’s narrative. 

The flow of ideas throughout the paragraph

  • Take each topic sentence and brainstorm the points/quotes/insights that you must include in the paragraph. Group together similar ideas and then delve deeper.
  • Make sure that your paragraph flows. Do not just cobble together a list of statements or quotes. Make sure that each point follows and adds to the previous point.
  • Make sure you give priority to the narrative devices.
  • Do not just add irrelevant details in order to pad the paragraph; or if there are two perspectives/views on the statement, include them separately.
  • Please see sample  paras on Romeo and Juliet.
  • Awkward phrases: work on sophistication of expression. Avoid clumsy verb phrases. Use nominals. Work at incorporating quotes  into the grammatical construction of your sentence. Use a combination of short, snappy sentences and longer sentences. Do not lose control of the subject. See Notes on Improving Expression.

Write a 1-2 page summary of the “most important” or key points/issues in the text.  Ask yourself, if you had to write a response on this text, what could you absolutely not leave out, or omit to mention (taking into account that given the prompt, you may make a short or longer reference to this key piece of evidence/quote/views/values.)

  • See Writing a Comparative Essay
  • See Romeo and Juliet : Study Page
  • See Macbeth: Study Page

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How to write response essay: guidelines from expert team.

January 31, 2022

How To Write Response Essay

Response writing can be tricky, but if you follow our step-by-step guide, you’ll have no trouble coming up with a great one! We will walk you through exactly how to write a response paragraph, how to properly structure it, and even give you some helpful tips to make your essay shine!

So, let’s get writing!

Table Of Contents

What is a response essay, structure of a response essay, steps to write a good response essay, 5 key features needed in a response essay, tips to write a stellar response essay, response essay example.

First things first – what exactly is a response essay? A response essay is a type of writing that allows the writer to respond to a piece of work. It can be a text, image, or event. It’s essentially a reaction paper – you’re giving your thoughts and feelings about whatever it is you’re responding to.

Response essays allow you to freely communicate your thoughts and feelings about any topic. Unlike summary essays where you just restate what you read, response essays require you to genuinely understand the content and context of the work you’re assigned.

Once you have a strong grasp of the subject material, you have to concisely put forth your insights, opinions, and analysis.

Now that you know what a response essay is, it’s time to learn how to structure one. A good response essay follows a specific format, which allows your ideas to be conveyed clearly and concisely.

Here’s the basic essay response format :

  • Introduction
  • Summary Of The Work
  • Reaction, Response, and Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements that form the response paper format.

  • Introduction Your introduction should introduce the work that you’re responding to and mention the name of the author. You should also include your thesis statement in this section – this is your position on the subject matter. Overall, this part should be about 1-2 paragraphs long and it should keep the reader interested to read the rest of the response paper.

For example : “Should America atone for its past sins against black people? This is the question raised by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his powerful article ‘The Case For Reparations’. The author strongly believes that America should make reparations to the African-American community, and after much contemplation, I wholeheartedly agree with him”.

  • Summary Of The Work In your summary, you want to give a general overview of the content without giving away too much. You’ll highlight the main points of the work, provide direct quotations, and keep the writing objective and factual.

For example : “Ta-Nehisi Coates makes many compelling arguments for why America should make reparations to the African-American community. He cites statistics, historical evidence, and personal stories to support his position. According to him, “To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting American’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte.”.

  • Reaction, Response, and Analysis In this section, you’ll want to go into detail about your reaction to the work. What did you like or dislike? What were your thoughts and feelings? Be sure to back up your claims with evidence from the text.

For example : “I found Coates’ argument to be very convincing. He makes a strong case for reparations by providing ample evidence to support his position. I was also moved by his personal stories about the impact of slavery on African-Americans today. His writing is powerful and emotional, and it made me think about America’s history in a new light”.

Many students struggle with writing a good response essay simply because they’re confused about how to write response essay, where to begin, how to begin, and what to do next. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of writing a fabulous response paper that is sure to get the attention of your teachers and professors.

  • Step 1 – Read and Understand the Work Before you can write a good response essay, you first need to read and understand the work that you’re responding to. Whether it’s a book, movie, article, or poem, the quality of your response paper is directly proportional to how well you’ve understood the source material. Take notes as you read and highlight important passages so that you can refer back to them later. This is an important step in learning how to start a response essay.
  • Step 2 – Brainstorm Your Ideas Once you’ve read and understood the work, it’s time to brainstorm your ideas. This is the part of the process where you let your thoughts flow freely and write down any and all responses that come to mind. Don’t worry about making sense or sorting them out yet – just get everything down on paper.
  • Step 3 – Write Your Thesis Statement Your thesis statement is your position on the subject matter – it should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. This is what you’ll be arguing for or against in your essay. Don’t be afraid to genuinely put forth your opinion, whether it’s positive or negative.
  • Step 4 – Support Your Thesis with Evidence Now it’s time to support your thesis statement with evidence from the text. Quote directly from the work and provide a brief explanation of how it supports your argument. Don’t forget to cite your sources! The summary of the work and your personal opinion on the matter will form the core content of your paper.
  • Step 5 – Write a Conclusion Once you’ve finished arguing for your position, it’s time to write a conclusion. Restate your thesis and summarize your main points. You may also want to leave readers with something to think about or a call to action. A solid conclusion can sometimes make all the difference between a great response essay and a mediocre one!

By following these steps, you’ll be able to write some of the best response essays that are well-organized, informative, and persuasive. All it takes is a little time and practice! On the contrary, you can choose buying custom college papers and be free of this assignment.

When writing a response essay, there are certain key features that you need to keep in mind. Whether it’s for school, college, or university, these five features will make your response essay unique and interesting.

  • Summarizing – This is probably the most important feature of writing a response essay. You need to be able to summarize the work succinctly, highlighting the most important points without giving away too much of the plot or story.
  • Paraphrasing/Quoting – In order to support your argument, you’ll need to quote and paraphrase the work extensively. Make sure that you always credit your sources!
  • Organization – Your essay should be well-organized and easy to follow. Start with a strong introduction, then move on to your main points. Wrap things up with a conclusion that reiterates your position. No professor likes reading a haphazardly put-together essay!
  • Transitions – To keep your essay cohesive, you’ll need to use strong transitions and connecting words between paragraphs. This way, the reader can move between different portions of your writing (e.g. Introduction > Summary > Thesis > Conclusion) without losing interest.
  • Argumentation – Last but not least, your essay needs to be filled with strong argumentation. Make sure to back up your points with evidence from the text, and don’t be afraid to state your opinion openly. This is what will set your response essay apart from the rest!

We’ll share with you a few of our tried and tested essay writing tips that will masterfully elevate your response essay.

  • Take your time and read the source material carefully.
  • Write a strong thesis statement that reflects your position on the matter.
  • When stating definitive opinions, cite instances from the text to strengthen your stand.
  • Argument your points persuasively and with conviction.
  • Proofread your essay for errors such as grammar, language, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Have someone else, like a trusted friend or teacher, read it over for you as well – fresh eyes can sometimes catch mistakes that you’ve missed.
  • Use the help of a reliable paper writing service to assist you in the process.

Now that you’ve read all our instructions, there’s only one thing left to do. You have a chance to ged extended response essay sample and see all our tips in practice.

Response Paper In his article “The Militarization of the Police”, James Bouie argues that recent traegy in Ferguson is only one symptom of the broad problem of increasing police militarization in the USA. The purpose of the author is to bring this question into light and warn American citizens about the danger it entails for the whole society, with a special emphasis being placed on racial minorities. Bouie addresses the general public who are concerned with political and social tendencies in the US. The author begins his article with discussion of the photographs from Ferguson demonstration, pointing out the signs of inadequate aggression of the police toward the citizens. He puts the Ferguson tragedy in the context of increasing militarization of the US police force, which he believes to be one of the major problems of the American society. Bouie asserts that this process began with the war on drugs in the 1980s and intensified after the 9/11 attacks and the wars in the Middle East. He estimates that the value of military hardware owned by U.S. police agencies increased at 450 times from 1990 to 2013, despite the falling crime rates. Bouie also discusses the issue of increased SWAT deployment, which is disproportionately utilized in black and Latino neighborhoods. The conclusion the author draws is that the availability of heavy military weapons and a long-standing tradition of punitive policing toward racial minorities are the major factors that are likely to cause repressive reactions of the police. The Ferguson tragedy has recently riveted the attention of the whole U.S. population. While we may lament the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it is important to view these events in the broader context of police misconduct, as the author does it. Despite numerous changes and advancements in law enforcement over the last decade, such as community policing and recruiting more officers from racial minorities, the society is still staunchly opposed to the police force, and the negative sentiment has predictably grown after the Ferguson unrest. The frequent SWAT raids are definitely an overreaction, given that they are mostly deployed for low-level offenses, such as drug use. Repressive and punitive actions with the disproportionate targeting of racial minorities suggest that positive changes in the police were of purely decorative nature and were not effective to eradicate stereotypes, prejudices and aggression from the mind of law enforcement officers. While the author does not explore this perspective in detail, the increasing militarization of the police is often viewed as a logical consequence of the militarization of the whole US politics, which is obsessed with identifying and eliminating national enemies. Incessant employment of war rhetoric by the officials has the power to alter the mindset of the whole society, not only police officers. The article provides a comprehensive account of the author’s opinion. No doubts arise as to the appropriateness of his observations, largely because they are aligned with the common social reaction to Ferguson tragedy. However, the author does not explore any potential solutions to the problem, thus leaving this question open for the readers to consider. Another overlooked issue, which may interest the readers, is how the situation in the USA compares to other developed countries and what policies they implement to prevent the overreaction of police force. The author has achieved the purpose of persuading his readers that events in Ferguson are linked to a broader social problem, as his arguments appeal to the common sense and show clear causality between acquisition of military equipment and overreaction to offenses and unrest. The author made his article more persuading by referring to Ferguson photographs, statistics and authoritative specialists to support his argument.

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We hope this guide has taught you everything you need to know about how to write a strong response essay. Keep these key points in mind, and you’re guaranteed to produce a top-notch paper! If you want additional advice on how to write a response paper, simply hire someone to write an essay . Our team of professional, educated academic writers will write high-quality papers and essays that will get you in the good books of any of your teachers! It’s fast, affordable, and always 100% original. You won’t be disappointed! Good luck with all of your future academic endeavours!

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How To Start A Response: Step-by-Step Guide

How To Start A Response: Step-by-Step Guide

When you’re assigned to write a response to an article, a book, or even a restaurant review, it can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin? What should you focus on? How can you analyze the text effectively? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with this step-by-step guide on how to start a response. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to writing a great response in no time!

The first thing you need to do is read the article, book, or review carefully. Take notes along the way to help you remember key points and important details. Once you’ve finished reading, take a moment to think about what you’ve read. What stood out to you? What did you agree or disagree with? These initial thoughts will help you decide on the focus of your response.

Next, it’s time to create an outline for your response. Start with a strong thesis statement that clearly states your main argument. This will be the backbone of your response and will help guide the rest of your writing. Use your outline to organize your thoughts and plan out the structure of your response. Make sure to include examples, evidence, and counterarguments to support your points.

As you move into the body of your response, make sure to take your time to explain your points and provide additional examples to support your arguments. Use strong and relevant evidence to back up your claims, and don’t forget to address any counterarguments that may arise. This will show the reader that you’ve thoroughly thought through your response and considered different perspectives.

When wrapping up your response, make sure to restate your thesis statement and summarize your main points. This will help to reinforce your argument and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Don’t forget to greet in a professional way and always ask if you can be of further help. Lastly, don’t forget to proofread your response for any spelling or grammatical errors. A well-written and error-free response will make a much better impression on your teacher or professor!

Step-by-Step Guide on Starting a Response

Starting a response can sometimes be a daunting task, but with a step-by-step guide, you can easily break it down into manageable chunks. Here are some simple steps to help you get started:

1. Read and Understand the Prompt: Before you begin your response, make sure you thoroughly read and understand the prompt or question. Take note of any specific guidelines or requirements mentioned.

2. Identify the Main Points: Once you have grasped the key ideas of the prompt, identify the main points you want to address in your response. This will help you organize your thoughts and arguments.

3. Choose an Approach: Consider what type of response you want to write. Is it an academic essay, a report, or a personal reflection? Choose the approach that best suits the prompt and your writing style.

5. Provide Supporting Arguments: In the body paragraphs, present your arguments clearly and logically. Support them with relevant evidence, examples, and explanations. Use paragraphs to separate different ideas or points.

6. Avoid Brackets and Repetition: While it’s important to provide enough evidence and explanations, be cautious not to overuse brackets or repeat the same information multiple times. Keep the text concise and to the point.

7. Resuming the Arguments: In the concluding paragraph, summarize the main arguments you have made in your response. Restate your thesis statement and provide a brief concluding thought. Avoid introducing any new ideas or arguments at this point.

8. Proofread and Edit: Before submitting your response, make sure to proofread it for any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Edit it for clarity, coherence, and flow of ideas. This will help you improve the overall quality of your paper.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more essays you write, the better you will become at starting your response. So don’t be afraid to seek feedback, ask for help, or think outside the box. Starting a response can be challenging, but the more you study, the more you work on it, the easier it will become.

Step 1: Understand the Prompt

Before you start writing your response, it’s important to fully understand the prompt or question that has been given to you. Taking the time to analyze and comprehend the prompt will help you structure your response effectively and ensure that you address all the necessary points.

Here are some helpful steps to follow when trying to understand the prompt:

By following these steps, you’ll be able to determine the main focus of the prompt and decide how to best approach your response. It’s also important to consider any particular personal experiences or examples that may be relevant to the prompt.

For example, if the prompt asks you to write a reflection on a book you read, you may want to think about the main themes, characters, and events that stood out to you. Similarly, if you are asked to write an essay on a historical event, consider the context, causes, and consequences.

Avoid making assumptions or overthinking the prompt. Stick to what is explicitly stated and ensure that your response directly addresses the question or task at hand.

By understanding the prompt thoroughly, you’ll be better equipped to start your response and provide a clear and concise summary of your thoughts and ideas.

Step 2: Analyze the Question

Take a moment to read the question carefully and identify the key words and phrases. Consider any specific conditions or examples that are mentioned. This will help you focus your response and ensure that you address all aspects of the question.

It’s also important to consider the type of writing you are being asked to do. Is it an academic essay, a personal reflection, or something else? Understanding the type of writing will help you choose the appropriate format and tone for your response.

Next, think about the arguments or ideas you want to include in your response. Are there any counterarguments that you need to address? What evidence or examples can you provide to support your points? Taking the time to brainstorm and plan your response will help you organize your thoughts and ensure a logical flow in your writing.

When analyzing the question, it’s also helpful to consider the audience for your response. Who will be reading it, and what are their expectations? This will help you choose the most appropriate language and tone for your writing.

Once you have analyzed the question and have a clear understanding of what is being asked, you can start writing your response. But don’t forget to refer back to the question periodically to make sure you stay on track and address all the necessary points.

Remember, analyzing the question is a key step in writing a good response. It helps you stay focused, organize your thoughts, and ensure that your response is complete and well-thought-out. So take the time to analyze the question and you will be well on your way to writing a successful and impactful response.

Step 3: Brainstorm Ideas and Key Points

Once you have a clear understanding of the prompt and have read or watched the article, video, or text that you need to respond to, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas and key points for your response.

Begin by jotting down any thoughts or feelings that come to mind as you reflect on the material. This can include your initial reactions, questions that arise, or any personal connections you make. Don’t worry about organizing these ideas just yet – the goal is to get everything down on paper.

Next, take a closer look at the prompt and identify the main points or key ideas that the author or creator is trying to convey. These may be explicitly stated or implied, so make sure to read between the lines. Consider the thesis statement or main argument, as well as any supporting evidence or examples that are provided.

As you analyze the text, try to put yourself in the author’s shoes. What conditions or experiences might have shaped their perspective? What message are they trying to communicate to the reader? Keep in mind that not everyone may have the same background or worldviews, so it’s important to consider different perspectives.

After gathering and analyzing these ideas, it’s time to decide on the focus of your response. What aspects of the material do you want to explore further? Are there any specific points or examples that you want to respond to? This will help you narrow down your ideas and create a more cohesive and focused response.

Once you have a clear focus, consider what evidence or examples you can use to support your points. Look for quotes, statistics, or specific examples from the material that can help strengthen your arguments. Remember to always cite your sources and provide proper attribution.

A helpful technique is to create a visual representation of your ideas. This could be in the form of bullet points, a mind map, or even a table. Use whatever method works best for you to organize your thoughts and establish the logical flow of your response.

When brainstorming, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes the most interesting and creative ideas come from unexpected connections or angles. Don’t forget to consider opposing viewpoints and anticipate counterarguments – this will make your response more thorough and well-rounded.

In summary, the brainstorming process is crucial for generating ideas and identifying key points in your response. By reflecting on the material, considering the author’s perspective, and organizing your thoughts, you’ll be better equipped to write a thoughtful and well-structured response.

Step 4: Craft a Clear Thesis Statement

A good thesis statement should be concise and specific. It should clearly state your position or claim on the topic you are writing about. This statement will be the main idea that you will support throughout your essay or paper.

When constructing your thesis statement, consider these simple steps:

Step 1: Analyze the prompt or topic

Read the prompt or topic carefully and make sure you understand it fully. Take some time to think about the key arguments or ideas that you want to address in your paper.

Step 2: Choose a position

Consider the arguments and evidence you have gathered and choose a position that you want to argue for. Remember, your thesis statement should reflect your main point of view.

Step 3: Summarize your main points

Consider your main points or arguments and think about how you can summarize them in one or two sentences. This summary will become your thesis statement.

Step 4: Craft a clear and focused thesis statement

Write your thesis statement, making sure it is clear, concise, and focused on your main argument. Avoid using vague language or general statements. Instead, aim for a specific and direct thesis statement that clearly states your position.

Remember, your thesis statement is not a summary or a personal feeling. It should be a strong and assertive statement that highlights the main point you will discuss in your essay or paper.

Here are some additional tips to consider when crafting your thesis statement:

  • Make sure your thesis statement is arguable. It should not be a statement of fact that everyone agrees with.
  • Consider including counterarguments in your thesis statement, as this shows a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • Avoid using vague qualifiers such as “somewhat,” “kind of,” or “sometimes.” Be clear and confident in your statement.
  • Think about the audience and the purpose of your essay or paper. Your thesis statement should address their needs and expectations.
  • Take your time to refine your thesis statement. It is okay to go through multiple drafts before you settle on the perfect one.

Crafting a clear thesis statement may seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be a simple and straightforward process. Just remember to follow these steps and tips, and you’ll be on your way to writing a strong and effective thesis statement.

Step 5: Develop a Structured Outline

When creating your outline, first consider the main needs of your response. For instance, are you writing an academic paper where you’ll need to include a thesis statement and supporting arguments? Or are you writing a personal reflection where you can freely express your thoughts and feelings?

Next, break down your response into smaller sections or paragraphs. For example, you can choose to begin with a quick summary of the essay or article you are responding to, followed by an analysis of the author’s main arguments and evidence. Then, you can discuss your own thoughts and opinions on the topic.

Within each section or paragraph, think about what points you want to include. It may be helpful to jot down specific ideas or examples that support your main arguments. Don’t forget to include any important conditions or limitations that may affect your response.

Remember to keep your outline organized and logical. A well-structured outline makes it easier for both you and the reader to follow your thoughts and arguments. It also helps you avoid repeating information or going off-topic.

Here is an example of a structured outline:

  • Summary: Provide a concise summary of the main points in the essay or article.
  • Analysis: Analyze the author’s arguments, evidence, and any flaws or strengths in their reasoning.
  • Personal Response: Share your own thoughts and opinions on the topic, supported by examples or personal experiences.

By following these steps and developing a structured outline, you’ll be better prepared to write a cohesive and well-organized response. It will also help you ensure that you address all the necessary points and support your arguments effectively. So, take the time to develop a good outline before you begin writing and you’ll find that the writing process becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

What is a response paper?

A response paper is a form of written communication that allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, and opinions on a particular piece of literature or any other topic.

How do I start writing a response paper?

To start writing a response paper, you should first read the piece of literature or article that you want to respond to. Then, you can brainstorm your thoughts and make notes on what stood out to you. After that, you can organize your thoughts, create an outline, and begin writing your response.

What should I include in a response paper?

In a response paper, you should include a brief summary of the piece of literature or article you are responding to, your personal thoughts and opinions, and examples or evidence to support your claims. You can also provide a critique or analysis of the work, discussing its strengths and weaknesses.

Can I use personal pronouns in a response paper?

Yes, you can use personal pronouns such as “I” and “me” in a response paper. Since it is a personal reflection, it is expected that you will be expressing your own thoughts and opinions. However, make sure to back up your statements with evidence or examples to support your claims.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

How to Write a Response Paper

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Most of the time when you are tasked with an essay about a book or article you've read for a class, you will be expected to write in a professional and impersonal voice. But the regular rules change a bit when you write a response paper.

A response (or reaction) paper differs from the formal review primarily in that it is written in the first person . Unlike in more formal writing, the use of phrases like "I thought" and "I believe" is encouraged in a response paper. 

You'll still have a thesis and will need to back up your opinion with evidence from the work, but this type of paper spotlights your individual reaction as a reader or viewer.

Read and Respond

Grace Fleming

For a response paper, you still need to write a formal assessment of the work you're observing (this could be anything created, such as a film, a work of art, a piece of music, a speech, a marketing campaign, or a written work), but you will also add your own personal reaction and impressions to the report.

The steps for completing a reaction or response paper are:

  • Observe or read the piece for an initial understanding.
  • Mark interesting pages with a sticky flag or take notes on the piece to capture your first impressions.
  • Reread the marked pieces and your notes and stop to reflect often.
  • Record your thoughts.
  • Develop a thesis.
  • Write an outline.
  • Construct your essay.

It may be helpful to imagine yourself watching a movie review as you're preparing your outline. You will use the same framework for your response paper: a summary of the work with several of your own thoughts and assessments mixed in.

The First Paragraph

After you have established an outline for your paper, you need to craft the first draft of the essay using all the basic elements found in any strong paper, including a strong introductory sentence .

In the case of a reaction essay, the first sentence should contain both the title of the work to which you are responding and the name of the author.

The last sentence of your introductory paragraph should contain a thesis statement . That statement will make your overall opinion very clear.

Stating Your Opinion

There's no need to feel shy about expressing your own opinion in a position paper, even though it may seem strange to write "I feel" or "I believe" in an essay. 

In the sample here, the writer analyzes and compares the plays but also manages to express personal reactions. There's a balance struck between discussing and critiquing the work (and its successful or unsuccessful execution) and expressing a reaction to it.

Sample Statements

When writing a response essay, you can include statements like the following:

  • I felt that
  • In my opinion
  • The reader can conclude that
  • The author seems to
  • I did not like
  • This aspect didn't work for me because
  • The images seemed to
  • The author was [was not] successful in making me feel
  • I was especially moved by
  • I didn't understand the connection between
  • It was clear that the artist was trying to
  • The soundtrack seemed too
  • My favorite part was...because

Tip : A common mistake in personal essays it to resort to insulting comments with no clear explanation or analysis. It's OK to critique the work you are responding to, but you still need to back up your feelings, thoughts, opinions, and reactions with concrete evidence and examples from the work. What prompted the reaction in you, how, and why? What didn't reach you and why?

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How to Write a Response Paper: Outline, Steps & Examples

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Response essays are a frequent assignment in many academic courses. Professors often ask students to share their thoughts and feelings about a variety of materials, such as books, articles, films, songs, or poems. To write an effective response paper, you should follow a specific structure to ensure that your ideas are well-organized and presented in a logical manner.

In this blog post, we will explore how to write a good outline and how it is used to develop a quality reaction essay. You will also come across a response paper example to help you better understand steps involved in writing a response essay.  Continue reading to explore writing tips from professional paper writers that you can use to improve your skills.

What Is a Response Paper?

It is vital to understand the meaning of a response essay before you start writing. Often, learners confuse this type of academic work with reviews of books, articles, events, or movies, which is not correct, although they seem similar.  A response paper gives you a platform to express your point of view, feelings, and understanding of a given subject or idea through writing. Unlike other review works, you are also required to give your idea, vision, and values contained in literal materials. In other words, while a response paper is written in a subjective way, a review paper is written in a more objective manner.  A good reaction paper links the idea in discussion with your personal opinion or experience. Response essays are written to express your deep reflections on materials, what you have understood, and how the author's work has impacted you.

Response Paper Definition

Purpose of a Response Essay

Understanding reasons for writing a reaction paper will help you prepare better work. The purpose of a response essay will be:

  • To summarize author's primary ideas and opinions: you need to give a summary of materials and messages the author wants you to understand.
  • Providing a reflection on the subject: as a writer, you also need to express how you relate to authors' ideas and positions.
  • To express how the subject affects your personal life: when writing a response paper, you are also required to provide your personal outcome and lesson learned from interacting with the material.

Response Essay Outline

You should adhere to a specific response paper outline when working on an essay. Following a recommended format ensures that you have a smooth flow of ideas. A good response paper template will make it easier for a reader to separate your point of view from author's opinion. The essay is often divided into these sections: introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs.  Below is an example of a response essay outline template:

  • Briefly introduce the topic of the response paper
  • State your thesis statement or main argument
  • Provide a brief summary of the source material you are responding to
  • Include key details or arguments from the source
  • Analyze the source material and identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Evaluate the author's arguments and evidence
  • Provide your own perspective on the source material
  • Respond to the source material and critique its arguments
  • Offer your own ideas and counterarguments
  • Support your response with evidence and examples
  • Summarize your main points and restate your thesis
  • Provide final thoughts on the source material and its implications
  • Offer suggestions for further research or inquiry

Example of an outline for a response paper on the movie

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Response Paper Introduction

The success of response papers is partly dependent on how well you write the introductory paragraph. As with any academic paper, the introduction paragraph welcomes targeted readers and states the primary idea.  Below is a guideline on how to start a response essay:

  • Provide a compelling hook to capture the attention of your target audience.
  • Provide background information about the material, including the name and author of the work.
  • Provide a brief summary of main points to bring readers who are unfamiliar with the work up to task and enable them to follow up on your subsequent analysis.
  • Write a thesis statement at the end of your introductory paragraph to inform readers about the purpose and argument you are trying to relay.

Response Essay Thesis Statement

A thesis statement summarizes a paper's content within a sentence or two. A response essay thesis statement is not any different! The final sentence of the introductory paragraph of a reaction paper should give readers an idea of the message that will be discussed in your paper.  Do you know how to write a thesis statement for a response essay? If you follow the steps below, you should be able to write one:

  • Review the material you are responding to, and pinpoint main points expressed by authors.
  • Determine points of view or opinions you are going to discuss in the essay.
  • Develop your thesis statement. It should express a summary of what will be covered in your reaction. The sentence should also consider logical flow of ideas in your writing.
  • Thesis statement should be easy to spot. You should preferably place it at the end of your introductory paragraph.

Response Paper Body Paragraph

In most instances, the body section has between 1 and 3 paragraphs or more. You should first provide a summary of the article, book, or any other literature work you are responding to.  To write a response essay body paragraph that will capture the attention of readers, you must begin by providing key ideas presented in the story from the authors' point of view. In the subsequent paragraph, you should tell your audience whether you agree or disagree with these ideas as presented in the text. In the final section, you should provide an in-depth explanation of your stand and discuss various impacts of the material.

Response Paper Conclusion

In this section of a response paper, you should provide a summary of your ideas. You may provide key takeaways from your thoughts and pinpoint meaningful parts of the response. Like any other academic work, you wind up your response essay writing by giving a summary of what was discussed throughout the paper.  You should avoid introducing new evidence, ideas, or repeat contents that are included in body paragraphs in the conclusion section. After stating your final points, lessons learned, and how the work inspires you, you can wrap it up with your thesis statement.

How to Write a Response Paper?

In this section, we will provide you with tips on how to write a good response paper. To prepare a powerful reaction essay, you need to consider a two-step approach. First, you must read and analyze original sources properly. Subsequently, you also need to organize and plan the essay writing part effectively to be able to produce good reaction work. Various steps are outlined and discussed below to help you better understand how to write a response essay.

How to Write a Response Paper in 7 Steps?

1. Pick a Topic for Your Response Essay

Picking a topic for response essay topics can be affected either by the scope of your assignment as provided by your college professor or by your preference. Irrespective of your reason, the guideline below should help you brainstorm topic ideas for your reaction:

  • Start from your paper's end goal: consider what outcomes you wish to attain from writing your reaction.
  • Prepare a list of all potential ideas that can help you attain your preferred result.
  • Sort out topics that interest you from your list.
  • Critique your final list and settle on a topic that will be comfortable to work on.

Below are some examples of good topics for response essay to get you started:

  • Analyzing ideas in an article about effects of body shaming on mental health .
  • Reaction paper on new theories in today's business environment.
  • Movies I can watch again and again.
  • A response essay on a documentary.
  • Did the 9/11 terror attacks contribute to issues of religious intolerance?

2. Plan Your Thoughts and Reactions

To better plan your thoughts and reactions, you need to read the original material thoroughly to understand messages contained therein. You must understand author's line of thinking, beliefs, and values to be able to react to their content. Next, note down ideas and aspects that are important and draw any strong reactions.  Think through these ideas and record potential sequences they will take in your response paper. You should also support your opinions and reactions with quotes and texts from credible sources. This will help you write a response essay for the college level that will stand out.

3. Write a Detailed Response Paper Outline

Preparing a detailed response paper outline will exponentially improve the outcome of your writing. An essay outline will act as a benchmark that will guide you when working on each section of the paper. Sorting your ideas into sections will not only help you attain a better flow of communication in your responsive essay but also simplify your writing process.  You are encouraged to adopt the standard response essay outline provided in the sample above. By splitting your paper into introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs, you will be able to effectively introduce your readers to ideas that will be discussed and separate your thoughts from authors' messages.

4. Write a Material Summary

For your audience to understand your reaction to certain materials, you should at first provide a brief summary of authors' points of view. This short overview should include author's name and work title.  When writing a response essay, you should dedicate a section to give an informative summary that clearly details primary points and vital supporting arguments. You must thoroughly understand the literature to be able to complete this section.  For important ideas, you can add direct quotes from the original sources in question. Writers may sometimes make a mistake of summarizing general ideas by providing detailed information about every single aspect of the material. Instead of addressing all ideas in detail, focus on key aspects.  Although you rely on your personal opinion and experience to write a response paper, you must remain objective and factual in this section. Your subjective opinion will take center stage in the personal reaction part of the essay.

Example of a Response Summary

Below is a sample summary response essays example to help you better understand how to write one. A Summary of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The classic film The Adventure of Robin Hood (1938), as directed by Michael Curtis and William Keighley, stars an infamous outlaw, Robin Hood, who "robbed from the rich and gave to the poor''. The charismatic and charming Saxon lord, Robin Hood (Flynn), becomes an outlaw and seeks justice for poor people by fighting Sir Guy of Gisborne (Rathbone), Sheriff of Nottingham (Copper), and Prince John (Rains), who were oppressing people. After assembling an outlaw group, Robin defies the excessive taxes imposed on poor people by stealing from wealthy individuals and redistributing wealth to the destitute in society. Robin Hood is eventually lured into an archery tournament and gets arrested, but survives an execution. He later helps King Richard to regain his lost throne and banish Prince John.

5. Share Your Reaction

After summarizing the original material, the second part of a response paper involves writing your opinion about author’s point of view. After a thorough review of the material, you should be able to express your perspective on the subject.  In this section, you are expected to detail how the material made you feel and how it relates to your personal life, experience, and values. Within the short response essay, you may also be required to state whether you agree or disagree with author's line of thinking. How does the material relate to current issues, or in what way does it impact your understanding of a given subject? Does it change your opinion on the subject in any way? Your reaction should answer these questions.  In addition, you may also be required to outline potential advantages and shortcomings of the material in your reaction. Finally, you should also indicate whether or not you would endorse the literal work to others.

Reaction in Response Body Paragraph Example

Below is a reaction in a response essay body paragraph sample to help you improve your skills in writing the response body paragraph: Reaction Paragraph Example

My main takeaway from watching The Adventure of Robin Hood (1938) is that society should prioritize good and justice over laws if the set rules oppress people. Prince John, Sir Guy, and Sheriff Cooper were cruel and petty and used existing laws to oppress and exploit poor people. In response, Robin Hood employed unorthodox means and tried to help oppressed people in society. I agree with his way of thinking. Laws are made to protect people in society and ensure justice is served. Therefore, when legislation fails to serve its purpose, it becomes redundant. Even in current society, we have seen democratic governments funding coups when presidents start oppressing their people. Such coups are supported despite the fact that presidency is protected by law. Although Robin Hood's actions might encourage unlawfulness if taken out of context, I would still recommend this film because its main message is advocating for justice in the community.

6. Conclude Your Response Essay

Do you know how to write a response paper conclusion? It should be the icing on the cake. Irrespective of how good previous sections were, your reaction essay will not be considered to be exceptional if you fail to provide a sum up of your reaction, ideas, and arguments in the right manner.  When writing a response essay conclusion , you should strive to summarize the outcome of your thoughts. After stating your final point, tell readers what you have learned and how that material inspired or impacted you. You can also explain how your perspective and the author's point of view intertwine with each other.  Never introduce new ideas in the conclusion paragraph. Presenting new points will not only disrupt the flow of ideas in the paper but also confuse your readers because you may be unable to explain them comprehensively.  You are also expected to link up your discussions with the thesis statement. In other words, concluding comments and observations need to incorporate the reaffirmation of the thesis statement.

Example of Response Paper Conclusion

You can use the responsive essay conclusion sample below as a benchmark to guide you in writing your concluding remarks: Conclusion Example

There are a lot of similarities between the film's message and my opinion, values, and beliefs. Based on my personal principles, I believe the actions of the main character, Robin Hood, are justifiable and acceptable. Several people in modern society would also agree with my perspective. The movie has provided me with multiple lessons and inspirations. The main lesson acquired is that laws are not ultimate and that we should analyze how they affect people rather than adhere to them blindly. Unless legislation protects people and serves justices, it should be considered irrelevant. Also, morality outweighs legislation. From the movie, I gathered that morality should be the foundation for all laws, and at any time, morality and greater good should be prioritized above laws. The main inspiration relates to being brave in going against some legislation since the end justifies the means sometimes. My point of view and that of the movie creators intertwine. We both advocate for human decency and justice. The argument discussed supports the idea that good and justice is greater than law.

Proofread Your Response Paper

It is important to proofread your response paper before submitting it for examination. Has your essay met all instructional requirements? Have you corrected every grammatical error in your paper? These are common questions you should be asking yourself.  Proofreading your work will ensure that you have eliminated mistakes made when working on your academic work. Besides, you also get the opportunity to improve your logical flow of ideas in your paper by proofreading.  If you review your work thoroughly before submitting it for marking, you are more likely to score more marks! Use our Paper Rater , it is a tool that can help you pinpoint errors, which makes going through your work even simpler.

Response Essay Examples

If you have never written this type of academic paper before, responsive essay examples should help you grasp the primary concepts better. These response paper samples not only help you to familiarize yourself with paper's features but also help you to get an idea of how you should tackle such an assignment. Review at least one written response essay example from the compilation below to give you the confidence to tackle a reaction paper. Response essay example: Book

Illustration

Response paper example: Poem

Response paper sample: Movie

Example of a response paper: Article

Sample response essay: Issue

Response Paper Format

It is important to follow a recommended response essay format in order to adhere to academic writing standards needed for your assignment. Formats depend on your institution or the discipline.  A reaction paper can be written in many different academic writing styles, including APA, MLA, and Chicago, with each demanding a slightly different format.  The outlook of the paper and referencing varies from one writing style to another. Despite the format for a response paper, you must include introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs.

Response Essay Writing Tips

Below are some of the best tips you can use to improve your response papers writing skills:

  • Review your assignment instructions and clarify any inquiries before you start a response paper.
  • Once you have selected topics for response essay, reviewed your original materials, and came up with your thesis statement, use topic sentences to facilitate logical flow in your paper.
  • Always ensure that you format your work as per the standard structure to ensure that you adhere to set academic requirements. Depending on the academic writing style you will be using, ensure that you have done your in-text citation as per the paper format.
  • If you have never worked on this kind of academic paper, you should review examples and samples to help you familiarize yourself with this type of work. You should, however, never plagiarize your work.
  • You can use a first-person perspective to better stress your opinion or feelings about a subject. This tip is particularly crucial for reaction part of your work.
  • Finally, before submitting your work, proofread your work.

Bottom Line on Response Paper Writing

As discussed in this blog post, preparing a response paper follows a two-step approach. To successfully work on these sections, you need to plan properly to ensure a smooth transition from the reading and analyzing the original material to writing your reaction. In addition, you can review previous works to improve your writing skills.  So, what is a response essay that will immediately capture the attention of your instructor? Well, it should have a captivating introduction, evidence backed reaction, and a powerful conclusion. If you follow various tips outlined above and sum up your work with thorough proofreading, there is no chance that you can fail this type of assignment.

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Order a response essay from our academic writing platform! Send us a ‘ write my college paper ’ message and our experienced writers will provide you with a top-notch essay according to your instructions. 

FAQ About Response Paper

1. how long is a short response essay.

The length of a short response essay varies depending on topic and your familiarity with the subject. Depending on how long original sources are and how many responsive points you have, your reaction paper can range from a single paragraph of 150-400 words to multiple paragraphs of 250-500 words.

2. How to start a response body paragraph?

Use an argumentative topic sentence to start your responsive paper paragraph. Failing to begin a paragraph with an elaborate topic sentence will confuse your readers. Topic sentences give readers an idea of what is being discussed in the section. Write a responsive body paragraph for every new idea you add.

3. Is reaction paper similar to a response paper?

Yes. Reaction papers and response essays are used interchangeably. Responsive essays analyze author's point of view and compare them with your personal perspective. This type of academic writing gives you freedom to share your feelings and opinion about an idea. People also discuss how ideas, concepts, and literature material influence them in a response paper.

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How to Write a Reader Response

Last Updated: March 19, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Diane Stubbs . Diane Stubbs is a Secondary English Teacher with over 22 years of experience teaching all high school grade levels and AP courses. She specializes in secondary education, classroom management, and educational technology. Diane earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware and a Master of Education from Wesley College. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 438,260 times.

A reader response assignment asks you to explain and defend your personal reaction to an assigned text. Reader response papers can be difficult because they force you, the reader, to take responsibility for giving meaning to the text. Often these assignments feel open-ended and vague, but don't worry, a good reader response paper will follow a standard essay format that you can easily master. This guide will walk you through the creation of a well-crafted reader response paper that's sure to wow your instructor and earn you an awesome grade.

Writing the Reader Response

Step 1 Write the introduction.

  • It is often helpful to use the first body paragraph to include more information about the text, the plotline, major themes, etc., and then use the rest of the paragraphs to provide an analysis of how you felt about the text.

Step 3 Remember to explain how, why, and what.

  • Remember that a reader response is meant to be personal, so it's OK to incorporate personal anecdotes and opinions into your analysis.
  • Example: "Forcing Hester Prynne to wear the scarlet "A" reminded me of a time when I was cyber-bullied in eighth grade, and my "friends" spread rumors about me online where the whole school could see."

Step 4 Incorporate specific examples into your analysis.

  • Example: "At the end of The Old Man and the Sea, Manolin promises to once again fish with Santiago, so the old man no longer has to be alone. This was Santiago's greatest wish, but it was a different kind of success than he initially set out to achieve."

Step 5 Keep quotations short and sweet.

  • Example: "'My big fish must be somewhere,' said Santiago. This is exactly how I felt after I received my third rejection letter, but like Santiago, I kept trying, and eventually I was accepted."
  • Make sure and cite your examples per class directions. You will usually be required to note the page numbers of any quotations or specific examples in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Step 6 Write the conclusion.

  • A great way to think of your conclusion is that it's one last chance to explain to your reader how you see all of your points fitting together.

Step 7 Proofread, proofread, proofread!!

  • Sometimes it's hard to see our own mistakes, so it can really help to exchange papers with a friend, and proofread each other's work.

Drafting the Reader Response

Step 1 Identify an angle you can take when talking about the text.

  • "Even though I found The Scarlett Letter hard to follow at times, Hester Prynne's story is still relatable, and made me think a lot about the effects of publicly shaming people online."
  • "Some people believe the Old Man and the Sea is a book about failure, but it is really a story of perseverance that teaches us that success may not always come in the form we expect, and even disasters can lead to positive outcomes."

Step 2 Outline the essay.

  • Introduction: 1 paragraph.
  • Analysis/Body Paragraphs: 3-4 paragraphs. How you organize these paragraphs will depend on the parameters of the assignment.
  • Conclusion: 1 paragraph.

Step 3 Choose example passages to use in your analysis.

Reading the Text

Step 1 Go over the assignment directions before you begin.

  • Do you like or dislike the text?
  • Can you identify the author's purpose?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the author?
  • Does the text relate to you and your life? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Does the text agree with, or go against your personal world view?
  • What, if anything, did you learn from the text?

Step 2 Read the text.

  • Taking a bit of extra time during this phase will save you a lot of time in the writing process. [9] X Research source

Step 3 Contemplate what you have read.

  • I think that...
  • I feel that...
  • I see that...
  • I have learned that...

Sample Reader Response

how to start text response essay

Community Q&A

Community Answer

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  • ↑ https://penandthepad.com/rules-writing-reading-response-essay-3968.html
  • ↑ https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-jefferson-english102/chapter/reader-response-criticism-american-literature-i/
  • ↑ https://writingstudio.gsu.edu/files/2021/02/Reading-Response.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/steps_for_revising.html
  • ↑ https://faculty.washington.edu/momara/Reader%20Response.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/essay-outline/
  • ↑ http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/handouts/the-writing-process-1/invention/Writing-a-Response-or-Reaction-Paper
  • ↑ http://education-portal.com/articles/Step-by-Step_Guide_to_Writing_a_Great_Reading_Response_Paper.html
  • ↑ https://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/handouts/the-writing-process-1/invention/Writing-a-Response-or-Reaction-Paper

About This Article

Diane Stubbs

To write a reader response, develop a clear thesis statement and choose example passages from the text that support your thesis. Next, write an introduction paragraph that specifies the name of the text, the author, the subject matter, and your thesis. Then, include 3-4 paragraphs that discuss and analyze the text. Finish up with a conclusion paragraph that summarizes your arguments and brings the reader back to your thesis or main point! For tips on analyzing the text before writing your assignment, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Critical Response Essay With Examples and Tips

16 January 2024

last updated

A critical response essay is an important type of academic essay, which instructors employ to gauge the students’ ability to read critically and express their opinions. Firstly, this guide begins with a detailed definition of a critical essay and an extensive walkthrough of source analysis. Next, the manual on how to write a critical response essay breaks down the writing process into the pre-writing, writing, and post-writing stages and discusses each stage in extensive detail. Finally, the manual provides practical examples of an outline and a critical response essay, which implement the writing strategies and guidelines of critical response writing. After the examples, there is a brief overview of documentation styles. Hence, students need to learn how to write a perfect critical response essay to follow its criteria.

Definition of a Critical Response Essay

A critical response essay presents a reader’s reaction to the content of an article or any other piece of writing and the author’s strategy for achieving his or her intended purpose. Basically, a critical response to a piece of text demands an analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of a reading. Moreover, these operations allow readers to develop a position concerning the extent to which an author of a text creates a desired effect on the audience that an author establishes implicitly or explicitly at the beginning of a text. Mostly, students assume that a critical response revolves around the identification of flaws, but this aspect only represents one dimension of a critical response. In turn, a critical response essay should identify both the strengths and weaknesses of a text and present them without exaggeration of their significance in a text.

Source Analysis

How to write a critical response essay

1. Questions That Guide Source Analysis

Writers engage in textual analysis through critical reading. Hence, students undertake critical reading to answer three primary questions:

  • What does the author say or show unequivocally?
  • What does the author not say or show outright but implies intentionally or unintentionally in the text?
  • What do I think about responses to the previous two questions?

Readers should strive to comprehensively answer these questions with the context and scope of a critical response essay. Basically, the need for objectivity is necessary to ensure that the student’s analysis does not contain any biases through unwarranted or incorrect comparisons. Nonetheless, the author’s pre-existing knowledge concerning the topic of a critical response essay is crucial in facilitating the process of critical reading. In turn, the generation of answers to three guiding questions occurs concurrently throughout the close reading of an assigned text or other essay topics .

2. Techniques of Critical Reading

Previewing, reading, and summarizing are the main methods of critical reading. Basically, previewing a text allows readers to develop some familiarity with the content of a critical response essay, which they gain through exposure to content cues, publication facts, important statements, and authors’ backgrounds. In this case, readers may take notes of questions that emerge in their minds and possible biases related to prior knowledge. Then, reading has two distinct stages: first reading and rereading and annotating. Also, students read an assigned text at an appropriate speed for the first time with minimal notetaking. After that, learners reread a text to identify core and supporting ideas, key terms, and connections or implied links between ideas while making detailed notes. Lastly, writers summarize their readings into the main points by using their own words to extract the meaning and deconstruct critical response essays into meaningful parts.

3. Creating a Critical Response

Up to this point, source analysis is a blanket term that represents the entire process of developing a critical response. Mainly, the creation of a critical response essay involves analysis, interpretation, and synthesis, which occur as distinct activities. In this case, students analyze their readings by breaking down texts into elements with distilled meanings and obvious links to a thesis statement . During analysis, writers may develop minor guiding questions under first and second guiding questions, which are discipline-specific. Then, learners focus on interpretations of elements to determine their significance to an assigned text as a whole, possible meanings, and assumptions under which they may exist. Finally, authors of critical response essays create connections through the lens of relevant pre-existing knowledge, which represents a version of the element’s interconnection that they perceive to be an accurate depiction of a text.

Writing Steps of a Critical Response Essay

Step 1: pre-writing, a. analysis of writing situation.

Purpose. Before a student begins writing a critical response essay, he or she must identify the main reason for communication to the audience by using a formal essay format. Basically, the primary purposes of writing a critical response essay are explanation and persuasion. In this case, it is not uncommon for two purposes to overlap while writing a critical response essay. However, one of the purposes is usually dominant, which implies that it plays a dominant role in the wording, evidence selection, and perspective on a topic. In turn, students should establish their purposes in the early stages of the writing process because the purpose has a significant effect on the essay writing approach.

Audience. Students should establish a good understanding of the audience’s expectations, characteristics, attitudes, and knowledge in anticipation of the writing process. Basically, learning the audience’s expectations enables authors to meet the organizational demands, ‘burden of proof,’ and styling requirements. In college writing, it is the norm for all essays to attain academic writing standards. Then, the interaction between characteristics and attitudes forces authors to identify a suitable voice, which is appreciative of the beliefs and values of the audience. Lastly, writers must consider the level of knowledge of the audience while writing a critical response essay because it has a direct impact on the context, clarity, and readability of a paper. Consequently, a critical response essay for classmates is quite different from a paper that an author presents to a multi-disciplinary audience.

Define a topic. Topic selection is a critical aspect of the prewriting stage. Ideally, assignment instructions play a crucial role in topic selection, especially in higher education institutions. For example, when writing a critical response essay, instructors may choose to provide students with a specific article or general instructions to guide learners in the selection of relevant reading sources. Also, students may not have opportunities for independent topic selection in former circumstances. However, by considering the latter assignment conditions, learners may need to identify a narrow topic to use in article selection. Moreover, students should take adequate time to do preliminary research, which gives them a ‘feel’ of the topic, for example, 19th-century literature. Next, writers narrow down the scope of the topic based on their knowledge and interests, for example, short stories by black female writers from the 19 th century.

B. Research and Documentation

Find sources. Once a student has a topic, he or she can start the process of identifying an appropriate article. Basically, choosing a good source for writing a critical response essay occurs is much easier when aided with search tools on the web or university repository. In this case, learners select keywords or other unique qualities of an article and develop a search filter. Moreover, authors review abstracts or forewords of credible sources to determine their suitability based on their content. Besides content, other factors constrain the article selection process: the word count for a critical response essay and a turnaround time. In turn, if an assignment has a fixed length of 500 words and a turnaround time of one week, it is not practical to select a 200-page source despite content suitability.

Content selection. The process of selecting appropriate content from academic sources relies heavily on the purpose of a critical response essay. Basically, students must select evidence that they will include in a paper to support their claims in each paragraph. However, writers tend to let a source speak through the use of extensive quotations or summaries, which dilutes a synthesis aspect of a critical response essay. Instead, learners should take a significant portion of time to identify evidence from reliable sources , which are relevant to the purpose of an essay. Also, a student who is writing a critical analysis essay to disagree with one or more arguments will select different pieces of evidence as compared to a person who is writing to analyze the overall effectiveness of the work.

Annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is vital to the development of a critical response essay because it enables authors to document useful information that they encounter during research. During research and documentation stages for a critical response essay, annotated bibliographies contain the main sources for a critical analysis essay and other sources that contribute to the knowledge base of an author, even though these sources will not appear in reference lists. Mostly, a critical response essay has only one source. However, an annotated bibliography contains summaries of other sources, which may inform the author’s critical response through the development of a deep understanding of a topic. In turn, an annotated bibliography is quite useful when an individual is writing a critical response to an article on an unfamiliar topic.

Step 2: Writing a Critical Response Essay

A. organization..

Thesis . A thesis statement sentence is a crucial component of a critical response essay because it presents the student’s purpose, argument, and the conclusion that he or she draws from the textual evidence. Also, the thesis statement is the response to the thesis question, which an author creates from assignment instructions. After completing the research stage, students can develop a tentative thesis statement to act as a starting point for the writing stage. Usually, tentative thesis statements undergo numerous revisions during the writing stage, which is a consequence of the refinement of the main idea during the drafting.

Weigh the evidence. Based on the tentative thesis, an author evaluates the relative importance of collected pieces of textual evidence to the central idea. Basically, students should distinguish between general and specific ideas to ascertain that there exists a logical sequence of presentation, which the audience can readily grasp. Firstly, for writing a critical response essay, learners should identify general ideas and establish specific connections that exist between each general idea and specific details, which support a central claim. Secondly, writers should consider some implications of ideas as they conduct a sorting process and remove evidence that does not fit. Moreover, students fill ‘holes’ that are present due to the lack of adequate supporting evidence to conclude this stage.

Create an outline. An essay outline is a final product of weighing the significance of the evidence in the context of the working thesis statement. In particular, a formal outline is a preferred form of essay structure for a critical response essay because it allows for detailed documentation of ideas while maintaining a clear map of connections. During the formation of an outline, students use a systematic scheme of indentation and labeling all the parts of an outline structure. In turn, this arrangement ensures that elements that play the same role are readily discernible at a glance, for example, primary essay divisions, secondary divisions, principle supporting points, and specific details.

Drafting. The drafting step involves the conversion of the one-sentence ideas in an outline format into complete paragraphs and, eventually, a critical response essay. In this case, there is no fixed approach to writing the first draft. Moreover, students should follow a technique that they find effective in overcoming the challenge of starting to write a critical response essay. Nonetheless, it is good practice to start writing paragraphs that authors believe are more straightforward to include regardless of specific positions that they hold on an outline. In turn, learners should strive to write freely and be open to new ideas despite the use of an outline. During drafting, the conveyance of meaning is much more important than the correctness of the draft.

Step 3: Post-Writing

Individual revision. An individual revision process focuses on the rethinking and rewriting of a critical response essay to improve the meaning and structure of a paper. Essentially, students try to review their papers from a perspective of readers to ensure that the level of detail, relationship and arrangement of paragraphs, and the contribution of the minor ideas to the thesis statement attain the desired effect. In this case, the use of a checklist improves the effectiveness of individual revision. Moreover, a checklist contains 12 main evaluation categories: assignment, purpose, audience and voice, genre, thesis, organization, development, unity, coherence, title, introduction, and conclusion.

Collaborative revision. Collaborative revision is a revision strategy that covers subconscious oversight that occurs during individual revision. During an individual revision of a critical response essay, authors rely on self-criticism, which is rarely 100% effective because writers hold a bias that their works are of high quality. Therefore, subjecting an individual’s work to peer review allows students to collect critique from an actual reader who may notice problems that an author may easily overlook. In turn, learners may provide peer reviewers with a checklist to simplify the revision process.

Editing . The editing step requires authors to examine the style, clarity, and correctness of a critical response essay. In particular, students review their papers to ascertain their conformance with the guidelines of formal essay writing and the English language. Moreover, sentence fragments, subject-verb agreement, dangling modifiers, incorrect use of punctuation, vague pronoun references, and parallelism are common grammar issues that learners eliminate during editing. Then, writers confirm that their critical response essays adhere to referencing style guidelines for citation and formatting, such as the inclusion of a title page, appropriate in-text citation, and proper styling of bibliographic information in the reference list. In turn, students must proofread a critical response essay repeatedly until they find all errors because such mistakes may divert the audience’s attention from the content of a paper.

Sample Outline Template for a Critical Response Essay

I. Introduction

A. Summary of an article. B. Thesis statement.

A. First body paragraph

  • The idea for the first paragraph.
  • Evidence for the first point from an article.
  • Interpretation of the evidence.

B. Second body paragraph

  • The idea for the second paragraph.
  • Evidence for the second point from an article.

C. Third body paragraph

  • The idea for the third paragraph.
  • Evidence for the third point from an article.

III. Conclusion

A. Summary of three points that form a body section. B. Closing remarks.

Uniqueness of a Critical Response Essay Outline

The presence of a summary in the introduction and an interpretation for each piece of evidence are defining features of a critical response essay. Typically, the introduction, being one of 5 parts of an essay , does not contain a succinct summary of a source that an author uses in body paragraphs. In this case, the incorporation of a summary in the introduction paragraph provides the audience with specific information concerning the target article of a critical response. Specifically, a critical response essay differs from other response papers because it emphasizes the provision of reasonable judgments of a text rather than the testing and defense of one’s judgments. In turn, authors of a critical response essay do not provide evaluation for their judgments, which implies that critical responses may be different but correct if a specific interpretation is reasonable to the audience.

Expanding an Outline Format Into a Critical Response Essay

1. introduction.

The introductory paragraph in a critical response essay consists of two primary sections: a summary of an article and a thesis statement. Firstly, a summary of an article consists of the text’s central argument and the purpose of the presentation of the argument. Basically, students should strive to distill the main idea and purpose of the text into a few sentences because the length of the introduction is approximately 10% of the essay’s word count. Then, a summary provides the audience with adequate background information concerning an article, which forms a foundation for announcing the student’s primary idea. In this case, writers may include an additional sentence between a summary and a thesis statement to establish a smooth flow in the opening paragraph. However, learners should not quote thesis and purpose statements because it results in a fragmented introduction, which is unappealing to readers and ineffective.

  • All body paragraphs have in a critical response essay four main elements: the writer’s idea, meaningful evidence from a reading text, interpretation of the evidence, and a concluding statement.

A. Writer’s Idea

The writer’s idea for a paragraph appears in the first sentence of a paragraph, which is a topic sentence. For example, if students know how to write a topic sentence , they present readers with a complete and distinct idea that proves or supports a thesis statement. In this case, authors should carefully word their topic sentences to ensure that there is no unnecessary generalization or spillovers of ideas from other paragraphs. Notably, all the topic sentences in the body of a critical response essay share a logical relationship that allows the audience to easily follow the development of the central idea of a paper.

B. Evidence

Students should provide evidence that supports the idea that they propose in the topic sentence. Basically, the evidence for all body paragraphs is the product of critical reading of an article, which allows writers to identify meaningful portions of a text. During the presentation of evidence, learners should ascertain that the contextual meaning of paraphrases or quotations is not lost because such a strategy will harm interpretations that follow after it. In turn, critical response essays must not contain lengthy or numerous quotations unless the meaning or intended effect of a quotation is not replicable upon paraphrasing.

C. Interpretation.

Interpretation segments of paragraphs allow authors to explain the significance of the evidence to the topic sentence. In a critical response essay, the interpretation is the equivalent of an author revealing the possible assumptions behind a text paraphrase and commenting on whether or not he or she finds them reasonable. Moreover, students make inferences concerning their meaning in the context of the entire narrative and its relation to the paragraph’s idea. In turn, learners should refrain from reading too much into a piece of evidence because it may result in false or unreasonable inferences.

D. Concluding Sentence

The concluding statement is the final sentence of any paragraph. In this case, the primary role of the concluding sentence is to emphasize the link between the topic sentence, evidence, interpretation, and the essay’s central idea. Also, the concluding statement should not contain an in-text citation because it does not introduce new evidence to support the topic sentence. Therefore, authors use concluding sentences to maintain the unity between body paragraphs and a critical response essay in its entirety.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion comprises of three core elements: a restatement of a thesis statement, a summary of the main points that authors present in body paragraphs, and closing remarks. In particular, the first statement of the conclusion draws the attention of the audience to the central idea, which an author proposes in a thesis statement. Then, students review the main points of a critical response essay to demonstrate that written arguments in body paragraphs adequately support a thesis statement. Moreover, writers should summarize the main points of a paper in the same order that they appear in the main part to guarantee that logical pattern in the body is readily discernible in summary. Finally, learners make their closing remarks, which creates a sense of wholesomeness in a critical response essay or ties a paper to a larger relevant discourse.

Example of Writing a Critical Response Essay

Topic: American Capitalism: The New Face of Slavery

I. Sample Introduction of a Critical Response Essay

Capitalism is a dominant characteristic of the American economy. In this case, Matthew Desmond’s article “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation” discusses the role of slavery in shaping contemporary business practices. Specifically, the author attempts to convince the audience that the brutality of American capitalism originates from slavery. In turn, Desmond lays a strong but simple foundation for his argument, which ensures that the audience can conceptualize the link between plantation slavery and contemporary American capitalistic practices.

II. Example of a Body in a Critical Response Essay

A. example of the first body paragraph: american capitalism.

Early in the article, Desmond informs readers of the high variability in the manifestation of capitalism in societies, which creates the impression that American capitalism is a choice. For example, Desmond (2019) argues that the brutality of American capitalism is simply one of the possible outcomes of a society built on capitalistic principles because other societies implement the same principles in a manner that is liberating, protective, and democratic. Moreover, Desmond begins his argument by eliminating a popular presumption that exploitation and oppression are unavoidable outcomes of capitalism. In turn, this strategic move to establish this fact is in the introductory section of the article because it invites the audience to rethink the meaning of capitalism. Furthermore, its plants doubt regarding the ‘true’ meaning of capitalism outside the context of American society.

B. Example of the Second Body Paragraph: American Capitalism: Slavery and American’s Economic Growth

After establishing that the perception of capitalism through the lens of American society has some bias, Desmond proceeds to provide detailed evidence to explain the attempt to camouflage the obvious link between slavery and America’s economic growth. For instance, Desmond (2019) notes the role of Alfred Chandler’s book, The Visible Hand, and Caitlin Rosenthal’s book, Accounting for Slavery, in breaking the link between management practices in plantations and modern corporations by suggesting that the current business practices are a consequence of the 19th-century railroad industry. In this case, Desmond uses this evidence to make a logical appeal to the audience, which makes his argument more convincing because he explains the reason behind the exclusion of slavery in the discourse on modern industry. As a result, Desmond dismisses one of the main counterarguments against his central argument, which increases his persuasive power.

C. Example of the Third Body Paragraph: Input vs. Output Dynamic

Desmond emphasizes the link between slavery and American capitalism to readers by using the simple input vs. output dynamic throughout the article. For example, Desmond (2019) compares the Plantation Record and Account Book to the heavy digital surveillance techniques in modern workplaces because they collect data, which the employers use to maximize productivity while minimizing inputs. In particular, the comparison reveals that employers did not stop the practice of reducing laborers into units of production with fixed productivity thresholds. Moreover, the constant repetition of the theme of low input and high output dominates the body paragraphs, which makes it nearly impossible for readers to lose sight of the link between slavery and business practices under American capitalism. In turn, the simplification of the underlying logic in Desmond’s argument ensures its clarity to the audience.

III. Sample Conclusion of a Critical Response Essay

Desmond carefully plans the presentation of his argument to the audience, which allows readers to follow the ideas easily. In particular, the author starts with a call for readers to set aside any presumptions concerning capitalism and its origin. Then, Desmond provides the audience with an alternative narrative with support from seminal texts in slavery and economics. On the whole, Desmond manages to convince the audience that the American capitalistic society is merely a replica rather than an aberration of slavery.

Citing Sources in a Critical Response Essay

A critical response essay contains specific thoughts of the article’s author and direct words of the text’s author. In this case, students must conduct proper documentation to ensure that readers of critical response essays can distinguish between these two types of ‘voices.’ Moreover, documentation prevents incidents of plagiarism. Usually, instructors mention a referencing technique that students should use in writing a critical response essay. However, if assignment instructions do not identify a specific documentation style, writers should use a referencing technique that is acceptable for scholarly writing in their disciplines.

In-text citation:

  • Parenthetical: (Desmond, 2019).
  • Narrative: Desmond (2019).
  • Desmond, M. (2019, August 12). In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation . New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html
  • Parenthetical: (Desmond par. 1).
  • Narrative: Desmond argues . . . (par. 1).

Works Cited:

  • Desmond, Matthew. “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” New York Times , 14 Aug. 2019, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

3. Harvard Referencing

  • Parenthetical: (Desmond 2019).

Reference List:

  • Desmond, M 2019, In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation . Available from: <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html>. [27 August 2020].

4. Chicago/Turabian

In-text citation (footnote):

  • 1. Matthew Desmond, “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation,” New York Times, August 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

Bibliography:

  • Desmond, Matthew. “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” New York Times. August 14, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html.

Final Provisions on a Critical Response Essay

  • Critical reading is a precursor for writing an effective critical response essay.
  • Students must conduct adequate research on a topic to develop a proper understanding of a theme, even if only one article appears on the reference list.
  • Notetaking or annotation is a good practice that aids students in extracting meaning from an article.
  • Writers should plan for all activities in the writing process to ascertain that they have adequate time to move through all the stages.
  • An outline is an organizational tool, which learners must use to establish the sequence of ideas in a critical response essay.
  • The purpose of a critical response essay has a significant impact on the selection of evidence and the arrangement of body paragraphs.
  • Students should prioritize revision and editing, which represent opportunities to refine the content of an essay and remove mechanical issues.
  • Collaborative and individual revision are equally important because they play different roles in the writing of a critical response essay.
  • Evidence selection is dependent on the purpose and thesis statement of a critical response essay.

To Learn More, Read Relevant Articles

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The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

May 7, 2019

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Updated 19/01/2021

1. What Is Text Response? 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria) 3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks 4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam 5. How To Write a Text Response

1. What Is Text Response?

Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however, plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response will be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. Recall all the novels and films you've studied since Year 7 (there'll be quite a few!). You should be very familiar with the process of watching a film or reading a novel, participating in class discussions about themes and characters, and finally, submitting an essay based on the text.

As you graduate into higher year levels, you spend each year revising and improving on TEEL, learning to better incorporate quotes and formulating even longer essays than the year before (remember when you thought you couldn't possibly write an essay more than 500 words?).

The good news is, all of that learning is now funnelled into VCE’s Text Response, one of the three parts of the VCE English study design. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’ in the study design, is the first Area of study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Text Response SAC in Term 1. Let's get into it!

2. What Are You Expected To Cover? ( Text Response Criteria)

What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Text Response essays.

Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Text Response essay.

a) Critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;

Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can automatically distinguish between a protagonist from an antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea?

Here you need to start looking at how the author constructs their texts and why they have made that choice. For example, the author describes a protagonist using words with positive connotations (kind, brave, charming), whereas the antagonist is described with words using negative connotations (vain, egocentric, selfish).

For example, 'in Harry Potter , by describing the protagonist Harry as "brave", the author JK Rowling exhibits the idea of how possessing bravery when making tough choices or facing challenges is a strong and positive trait.'

b) Analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts;

Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.

For example, 'through the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee expresses the belief that the American legal system in the 1930s was not always fair or just.'

For more information on context and authorial intent in VCE English, read Tim's blog, Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English, or Olivia's on what authorial intent is and why it's important .

c) Discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;

Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible , a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text, or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous, is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.

For example, 'in The Thing Around Your Neck , feminist readers condone Adichie's stories which all revolve around women either as protagonist or as narrators, giving voice to the disempowered gender in Nigerian society.'

‍ d) Use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;

While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss , you want to have other types of evidence in your Text Response essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.

For example, 'The personification of Achilles as "wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods", illustrates his descent from human to animal….' or 'Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war…'.

To learn more about metalanguage, read our ' What Is Metalanguage? ' post.

e) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.

For further advice on the above criteria points, read Emily's (English study score 46): Year 12: How To Turn Your Text Response Essays From Average to A+ .

3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks

Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 1 - dependant on school
  • Unit 3 English – 30 marks
  • Unit 3 EAL – 40 marks

Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)

In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Text Response, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Text Response essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.

how to start text response essay

4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam

Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Text Response preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):

a) Reread your book (or rewatch the film)

After all the learning and discussion you’ve had with your teacher and peers, you should have now developed a solid foundation of knowledge. Rereading a book enables you to refresh your memory on subplots, popular passages and most importantly, helps you fill in any missing gaps in knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to get familiar with the parts of the texts you're less confident with, or to examine a particular theme that you know you're weaker in (HINT: A good place to start is to make sure you know the difference between themes, motifs and symbols !)

b) Do a close analysis

This is like an advanced version of rereading a book. A 'close analysis' - a term stolen from VCE Literature (thanks Lit!) - is basically where you select a passage (a short chapter or a few pages), and analyse it in detail.

As you move through the passage, you can pick out interesting word choices made by the author and try to interpret why they have made this choice. Doing a close analysis will immensely strengthen your metalanguage analysis skills, and also give you the opportunity to stand out from other students because you can offer unique and original analysis and evidence in your essay. I know this can be a bit confusing, so this video below shows a full close analysis of a Macbeth passage in action:

c) Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources

Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:

YouTube Videos

We create general Text Response advice videos like this:

We also create text-specific videos:

And if you just need general study advice, we've got you covered too:

Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Study Guides

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:

After Darkness by Christine Piper

Cosi by Louis Nowra

‍ ‍ Extinction by Hannie Rayson

‍ Flames by Robbie Arnott

False Claims of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella

‍ Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

‍ Like a House on Fire by Kate Kennedy

‍ Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

‍ Old/New World Selected Poems by Peter Skrzynecki

‍ ‍ On The Waterfront by Elia Kazan

‍ Ransom by David Malouf

‍ Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock

‍ Runaway by Alice Munro

‍ Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder

‍ The Crucible by Arthur Miller

‍ The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman ‍

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie (Setting)

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie (Breakdown of Themes & Quotes)

‍ ‍ The Golden Age by Joan London

‍ The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

‍ The Secret River by Kate Grenville

‍ To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

‍ William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney

‍ ‍ Women of Troy by Euripides (Don Taylor's version)

‍ Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Tip: You can download and save many of these study guides for your own study use! How good is that?

how to start text response essay

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook.

Most people seem to the think the most difficult part of Text Response is the writing component - and they're not completely wrong. However, what I've found is that not even students place emphasis on the brainstorming, preparation and planning of Text Response.

Think about it - if you don't come to the table with the best ideas, then how can you expect your essay to achieve A+? Even if you write an exceptional essay, if it doesn't answer the prompt, your teacher won't be sticking a smiley face on your work. We need to avoid these common teacher criticisms, and I have no doubt you've experienced at least once the dreaded, 'you're not answering the prompt', 'you could've used a better example' or 'more in-depth analysis needed'.

Enter my golden strategy - the THINK and EXECUTE strategy . This is a strategy I developed over the past 10 years of tutoring, and I've seen my students improve their marks every time. The THINK and EXECUTE strategy breaks up your Text Response into two parts - first the THINK, then the EXECUTE. Only with the unique THINK approach, will you then be able to EXECUTE your essay to its optimum potential, leading yourself to achieve those higher marks.

To learn more about the THINK and EXECUTE strategy, download my ebook sample on the shop page or at the bottom of this blog, or check out the video below:

‍ d) Get your hands on essay topics

Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.

We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out. Also go scroll back up to our list of study guides above, as most of those also have essay prompts included:

‍ ‍ All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topics ‍ Like a House on Fire Essay Topics ‍ ‍ The Handmaid's Tale Essay Topics ‍ ‍

e) Brainstorm and write plans

Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Text Response essay.

Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.

I've curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.

f) Write essays

Yes, sad, but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing . Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Text Response next.

Take a look at some of the essays our amazing LSG team have written:

After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown

All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Extinction A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Station Eleven Essay Topic Breakdown ‍ ‍

Women of Troy Essay Topic Breakdown ‍

If you need any more tips on how to learn your text in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your text and is a must read for VCE English students!

And, if you're studying a text you hate (ugh!) be sure to check out Lavinia's guide which teaches you how to do well even when you don't like your text !

5. How To Write a Text Response

Before you start writing, make sure you're familiar with The Five Types of Text Response Prompts . Understanding the different types will help you move beyond a 'basic' one-size-fits-all structure.

Introduction

In an introduction, you're expected to have the following:

  • Context (or background)
  • Author's name
  • Title of text
  • Main arguments

Here's an example from Vindhya (English study score 46), in her post Dissecting an A+ Essay Using 'The Golden Age' by Joan London :

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life. There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and then move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.

Body Paragraph

Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:

  • T opic sentence
  • L inking sentence

If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different - that's okay too. At the end of the day the foundations are the same.

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, 'as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace'. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; 'his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain'. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; 'we Jews have to be on the lookout'. Elsa sees 'a look in his eyes that she recognised', thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

Conclusions should be short and sweet.

Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.

For further detail from Sarah (English study score 45), read her advice on 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion .

That's it for the Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response . Good luck!

*Originally posted in 2011, this blog post has been revised for the latest English study design.

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

how to start text response essay

Struggling to answer the essay topic?

Has your teacher ever told you:

"You're not answering the prompt"

"You're going off topic"

Then you're not alone! If you struggle to understand and stay on topic, learn how to answer the prompt every time with our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

how to start text response essay

Passage 1: Act 1 Scene 3

   [Aside] Two truths are told,

   As happy prologues to the swelling act

   Of the imperial theme.--I thank you, gentlemen.

[Aside] This supernatural soliciting

   Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill,

   Why hath it given me earnest of success,

   Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

   If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

   Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

   And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

   Against the use of nature? Present fears

   Are less than horrible imaginings:

   My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,  

   Shakes so my single state of man that function

   Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is

   But what is not.

Passage One from Act 1 Scene 3 takes place just after Macbeth has just been announced as Thane of Cawdor proving part of the Witches’ prophecy true “All hail Macbeth…Thane of Cawdor…/that shalt be king hereafter.” This part of the play is the first insight we have on Macbeth’s inner thoughts.  

Macbeth’s firm and thoughtful tone in the opening alliteration “two truths are told ” stresses how serious he takes the Witches’ predictions. Shakespeare presents this passage as a soliloquy in order to convey Macbeth’s true inner thoughts and motives. As this is Macbeth’s first soliloquy, it emphasises the strong possibility of Macbeth heading down a dark journey as he cannot forget the Witches’ predictions “(it) cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth?”

Shakespeare uses the metaphor of theatre for fate . The meta-theatrical reference, ‘as happy prologues to the swelling act’ makes the audience consider the action that will unfold in the following scenes through foreshadowing.

Macbeth feels that committing regicide will be a “supernatural soliciting”. The word “supernatural” demonstrates that Macbeth acknowledges that such an act is “against the use of nature.” It suggests that if Macbeth kills Duncan, he will forever be trapped in the supernatural world for his dishonourable action. The alliteration of “supernatural soliciting” sounds incredibly seductive, and therefore highlights Macbeth’s lust and thirst for the crown.

There is a physiological response to his unnerving thoughts as the ‘horrid image doth unfix my hair’ and ‘my seated heart knock at my ribs’ , emphasising the horror of Macbeth has with himself  at his thoughts.

The personification “my seated heart knock at my ribs” once again depicts the increasing fear that Macbeth experiences as his heart is not “seated” with its connotations of calmness and steadiness but “knock(ing)” which is associated with alarming fear.

As Macbeth struggles with his conscience and fears “my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,/ Shakes so my single state of man,”  he is uncertain whether or not he should take the prophecy into his own hands and murder Duncan or, let time decide his fate “time and the hour runs through the roughest day”. The consonance ’s’, Shakes so my single state of man”.. ‍

The alliteration “smothered in surmise” demonstrates how Macbeth’s vivid imagination causes him to struggle with fear and hesitate undergoing the action that is foreseen by him as a “horrid image.” These mental images are of significance throughout the play as it is evident that Macbeth’ conscience results in him “seeing” a dagger and also Banquo’s ghost.

The antithesis “and nothing is,/ But what is not” is deliberately broken up into two lines to demonstrate the ambiguity of Macbeth’s thoughts and the confusion which evidently contributes to his overall fear. Macbeth’s actions become overpowered by his imagination until ‘nothing is but what is not’ or imagination carries more weight than action. The partial alliteration of ‘smother’d in surmise’ and the antithesis of ‘nothing is but what is not’ makes this notion seem again, particularly seductive to the audience. The word ‘smother’d’ , with it’s connotations of oppression, further amplifies the notion and even suggests that Macbeth’s imagination takes the place of his will.

2. Historical Context

3. Main Characters

4. Minor Characters

5. Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

6. Creative Essay Topic Brainstorm

7. Essay Topics

The Golden Age is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our VCE Text Response Study Guide.

Even though this hasn’t been one of the more popular choices on the VCE text list, Joan London’s The Golden Age is a personal favourite of mine for a number of reasons. This is a novel about the experiences of children recovering from polio inside a convalescent home in Perth. With a sympathetic and warm approach, London tells the tragic yet brave stories of these children, as well as the stories of their parents and carers.

The novel essentially revolves around Frank Gold, a Hungarian Jew and a war refugee, and London blends his mature voice with the innocence of a coming-of-age narrative, all set against the backdrop of World War II.

As you’re reading the book, watch out for her literary or poetic language, and keep track of the story’s overall mood. These will be important considerations for text study, particularly if you are to write a creative response on this text for your SAC. With this in mind, I’ve included writing exercises throughout this blog post for you to practise writing creatively on this text.

If you are writing analytically on this text, either for your SAC or for your exam, you may still complete the exercises—each one should still be insightful for your writing in some way. Also, feel free to check the video below; it breaks down an analytical prompt for this text.

  • Historical Context

This novel is set in Perth during the early 1940s, which gives rise to a couple of interesting historical elements all intersecting in the book.

Crucially, the events of the novel take place for the most part while World War II is raging in Europe. This is important for understanding the backstory of the Gold family: they are Hungarian Jews who have escaped their war-torn home of Budapest to seek safety in Australia. In particular, we know that at some stage, Meyer had been taken away to a labour camp, and that Frank had had to hide himself in an attic.

Their Hungarian heritage, however, is something that distances them from other Australians, and they never really get a good chance to settle in, always feeling like they just weren’t on the same wavelength as the locals. In many ways, the story of the Golds is underpinned by tragedy—not only are they war refugees, but young Frank then contracts poliomyelitis (known to us just as polio), which forces the family to reassess all the plans they had for him to settle into an ordinary, Australian life.

However, Frank was far from the only victim of polio at the time—the entire nation was rocked by a wave of polio , with major outbreaks during the 1930s-40s. This was quite a nerve-wracking, and causing great fear for our country and its active, outdoors-y culture. The prospects of death, paralysis and permanent disability were understandably terrifying. About 70,000 people were affected, and almost half of them eventually died as a result. Almost every Australian at the time knew or knew of someone who had polio.

Task: You are Ida, composing a letter to Julia Marai after Frank’s diagnosis. Convey succinctly (in 250 words or less) what you think and how you feel. ‍

Key themes & implications.

I like to think that a lot of the themes in this book exist in diametric or opposing pairs. For instance, London gives Frank a voice that is wise beyond his years, yet uses it to tell a tender story of first love. She also plays on the paradox that while some characters have become isolated due to the unfortunate events that have befallen them, these very events end up becoming the thing that unite them.

Essentially, London plays with a lot of these thematic tensions, showing us that life isn’t really ever black and white, but there are whole lot of grey areas in every day life.

Central to the novel are ideas of innocence or childhood . These ideas are really explored in the friendship between Frank and Elsa, who are both on the cusp of adolescence. While they are set up as young lovers in the eyes of readers, we know that they are far too young to truly have romantic feelings for each other. In actual fact, their interactions are permeated by a sense of innocence.

However, these interactions are also punctuated by a sense of maturity , a desire for more. This is evident to the extent where nurses are getting hesitant about leaving them alone with each other (even though their parents still trust them entirely). In actual fact, these parents serve as an important point of contrast. Some manage to recapture the magic of youth even as adults—consider Ida reigniting her love for the piano, or Meyer jumping on opportunities to start anew. In this sense, innocence and maturity are a pair of themes that are interestingly not always found where one might expect.

Another key thematic element of the novel is tragedy or adversity , which are relevant to a far wider gamut of characters. Considering the story’s geographical and historical setting, it seems evident that these ideas will play a major role in the story. A particularly poignant example lies in Sullivan, who contracts polio right on the cusp of adulthood, and readers can’t help but feel a sense of loss for what might have been.

However, on the other end of this spectrum is the strength required to cope with their suffering. While Sullivan had his indefatigable sense of humour, other characters have developed different mechanisms to stay strong in the face of adversity. In some cases, you might say that they’ve transcended or risen above their tragedies, and become stronger for it.

Finally, London also tackles the idea of isolation , which can be seen as a consequence of tragedy—characters become isolated because they lose their ability to relate to others, and others feel unable to relate to them. Symbolically, the Golden Age hospital is surrounded by four roads and therefore cut off from the world, almost as if quarantined. However, the solidarity and unity of patients inside becomes a great source of strength—I’ll leave it to you to think about what London was trying to say with this!

Task: Selecting one of the above themes, write a poem from the POV of an imaginary spectator in the novel, outlining how you perceive/experience these themes in other characters. Use all five senses(how you see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch/feel it)

Major characters.

I haven’t written too extensively about characters for a range of reasons: on one hand, it’s important for you to form your own interpretations about what they’re like and why they do the things they do, but on the other hand, I wanted to leave you with some key points to consider and/or some essential points about their characters to incorporate into your writing. This will allow you to hopefully feel like you’re capturing them accurately when writing your creatives, but without feeling restricted by an extensive set of traits that you have to invoke.

  • the central character, he is cerebral, intelligent and mature (which we can tell from his narrative voice, or how he ‘sounds’)
  • he is, however, still very young, wide-eyed, inquisitive in spite of the tragedies which have befallen him (consider how he sees his relationship with Elsa)
  • also significant is the motif of his poetry; not only does it highlight his maturity, but it also acts as a way for him to voice or articulate his feelings and experiences in the hospital—you could try incorporating some poetry in your writing (either original poems or quoted from the novel)

Elsa Briggs

  • another central character who becomes quite attached to Frank (they are the two eldest children in the Golden Age)
  • she is warm, caring and selfless, demonstrating an emotional maturity beyond her years (because of having to bear the metaphorical albatross of polio)
  • a lot of what we know about Elsa comes from Frank’s perspective (though we do get some insight from her own, and some from her mother’s)—how does this shape the way we see her? Consider London’s use of imagery, portraying her as an angelic figure.

Ida & Meyer

  • Frank’s parents, Hungarian Jews, and war refugees who come to Australia to cleanse them of their pasts and to have a fresh start; some of this is purely by circumstance, but there are parts of their past that they willingly and actively eschew e.g. Ida’s piano
  • note that Hungary is a landlocked country in the midst of European hustle and bustle with easy access to other nations/cultures/peoples, but Australia is an island on the other side of the world—consider how this affects their sense of isolation
  • on the other hand, they do form new connections with people here and in their own individual ways; Ida by reclaiming her pianist talents and Meyer by taking up a new job

Task: You are Elsa, Ida, or Meyer and you’ve just discovered Frank’s poem book. What are your thoughts and feelings towards his writing? Consider the context of your chosen character’s own experiences

Minor characters.

I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, but any piece of text-based writing (creative or analytical) can be strengthened by diversifying the range of characters that you write about. Even though you’ve already differentiated yourself from most VCE students by even doing this text at all (very few people choose it, so props to you!), some inclusion of more minor characters might help to distinguish yourself further. I’ve picked some that I think are interesting to talk about, but feel free to experiment with others as well!

  • a young man who contracts a severe strand of polio right on the cusp of adulthood, thereby exemplifying the theme of tragedy—however, his sense of humour remains active in spite of his immobility, so perhaps he not only exemplifies this theme but subverts it as well
  • London poses the complex question of whether or not he’s actually unhappy or defeated as a result of polio; there’s no clear answer, since there’s many ways to interpret his humour (is it a sign of strength or is it a front for inner turmoils expressed through poetry?)
  • in addition to his humour and poetry, his relationship with his family could also be an interesting point of discussion to address some of these questions
  • a young girl in the hospital who is quite close to Elsa (almost in a sisterly way)—how have they developed this relationship, and how does this relate to the theme of unity/companionship/human connection?
  • notably, she wanted to rehabilitate herself after polio took away her ability to feed the brumbies in her desert town—think about how this might represent strength as well

Julia Marai & Hedwiga

  • Ida’s former piano teacher and her flatmate/partner who live at the top of an apartment block in Budapest; they shelter Frank in their attic under no obligation whatsoever, but purely out of the kindness and selflessness of their hearts
  • again, there’s this subversion of what it means to be isolated: on one hand, their apartment is so cut off from the rest of the world below, and they lead a largely self-sufficient life together, but on the other hand, the fact that they’re together means that they’re not entirely isolated consider the power of human connection in this context as well

Task: Pick a minor character from this list and a character from the above list of major characters, and write about them meeting each other for the first time. Pick two that do not already interact closely within the novel e.g. Elsa meeting Sullivan

I hope this gives you some ideas or starting points about writing creatively on this text!

Download the PDF version of The Golden Age study guide   here .

Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

Picture this: you’re sitting down at your desk, fumbling your fingers, inspecting the new stationary that you convinced yourself you needed for year 12, resisting the urge to check your phone. Your text response SAC is in two weeks. You’re freaking out because you want, no, need an A+. You decide to write a practice essay for your English teacher. Practice makes perfect, right? You stay up for hours, pouring your heart and soul into this essay. The result? B+. Where did I go wrong?

That’s where I come in! Writing an A+ essay can be really tough without examples and specific advice. Before reading on, make sure you've read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response so you are up to scratch.

I will be explaining some basic dos and don’ts of writing an essay on The Golden Age , providing a model essay as an example.

The following prompt will be referenced throughout the post;

‘The Golden Age’ shows that everyone needs love and recognition. Discuss.

Planning: the silent killer of A+ essays

I’m sure your teachers have emphasised the importance of planning. In case they haven’t, allow me to reiterate that great planning is compulsory for a great essay . However, flimsy arguments aren’t going to get you an A+. The examiners are looking for complex arguments , providing a variety of perspectives of the themes at hand. From the above prompt, the key word is, ‘discuss’. This means that you should be discussing the prompt, not blindly agreeing with it . Make sure you don’t write anything that wouldn’t sit right with London. ‍

Don’t plan out basic arguments that are one-dimensional. This may give you a pass in English, but won’t distinguish you as a top-scoring student.

For example:

  • Paragraph 1: The children at TGA need love and recognition.
  • Paragraph 2: Ida and Meyer need love and recognition
  • Paragraph 3: Sister Penny needs love and recognition.

The above paragraphs merely agree with the statement, but don’t delve into the many aspects of the novel that could contribute to a sophisticated essay.

Do create complex arguments, or paragraphs with a twist! If you can justify your argument and it makes sense, include it in your essay. There are many ways that you could answer this question, but my plan looks like this:

  • Paragraph 1: Frank Gold yearns for mature, adult love, not recognition from onlookers or outsiders
  • Paragraph 2: Ida Gold does not seek recognition from Australia, but love and validation from herself
  • Paragraph 3: Albert requires love from a specific kind of relationship – family, and Sullivan may view love from his father as pity which he rebukes

See the difference?

The introduction: how to start your essay off with a BANG!

Personally, I always struggled with starting an introduction. The examiners will be reading and marking thousands of essays, so if possible, starting your introduction with something other than Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’… is a great way to make you stand out from the crowd. Having a strong start is essential to pave the way for a clear and concise essay. You could start with a quote/scene from the text! This is not essential, but it’s a great way to mix things up. This is my start:

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life.  There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Remember, there are many other ways you could start your essay.

The body paragraphs: To TEEL or not to TEEL?

I’m sure you’ve heard of TEEL countless times since year 7. Topic sentence, evidence, explanation, link. The truth is that these elements are all very important in a body paragraph. However, following a rigid structure will render your essay bland and repetitive. It is also extremely important to note that you should be using evidence from multiple points in the text , and you should be making sure that your paragraphs are directly answering the question . Write what feels natural to you, and most importantly, don’t abuse a thesaurus . If you can’t read your essay without rummaging for a dictionary every second sentence, you should rewrite it.  If vocabulary isn’t your strong point (it definitely isn’t mine!), focus on clean sentence structure and solid arguments. There’s nothing worse than you using a fancy word incorrectly.

Don’t overuse your thesaurus in an attempt to sound sophisticated, and don’t use the same structure for every sentence. For example:

Prematurely in the paperback London makes an allusion to Norm White, the denizen horticulturalist of The Golden Age Convalescent Home…

That was an exaggerated example generated by searching for synonyms. As you can see, it sounds silly, and some of the words don’t even make sense. I mean, “denizen horticulturalist”…really?

Do mix up your paragraph structure! If vocabulary is your weak point, focus on clean language.

Here’s mine:

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, “as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace”. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; “his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain”. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; “we Jews have to be on the lookout”. Elsa sees “a look in his eyes that she recognised”, thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

To learn more about using the right vocabulary, read 'Why using big words in VCE essays can make you look dumber'.

The conclusion: closing the deal

I firmly believe in short and sharp conclusions. Your body paragraphs should be thoroughly explaining your paragraphs, so don’t include any new information here. A few sentences is enough. Once again, write what feels natural, and what flows well.

Don’t drag out your conclusion. Short and concise is the key to finishing well.

Do write a sharp finish! Sentence starters such as, “Ultimately…” or “Thus, London…” are great.

‍ To learn more about A+ essays, you should also have a read of 10 easy English points you're missing out on .

I'll finish off by giving you an exercise: brainstorm and write up a plan for the essay topic shown in the video below. I'd recommend you do this before watching Lisa's brainstorm and plan. That way, you can see which of your ideas overlapped, but also potentially see which ideas you may have missed out on. Good luck!

The Golden Age Essay Topic Brainstorm

[Video Transcript]

The takeaway message for this video will be to utilise minor characters here and there to deepen your argument. London has really developed all her characters to feel three-dimensional and real, so it’s important not to just write about Frank and Elsa when there are so many others worth touching on.

Let's head straight into background information:

Joan London’sThe Golden Age is a novel about children recovering from polio in a convalescent home in Perth. She tells the stories of these various children, their families, and their caretakers, focusing on FrankGold and Elsa Briggs, the young protagonists who are just starting to develop romantic feelings for each other. Though they, and many of the other children, have faced much hardship and misfortune, London tells a story of hope and human connection in times of misery.

On that note, today’s essay topic is:

The Golden Age  is primarily a tragic tale of isolation. Discuss.

Let’s break this prompt down and define some keywords. The keywords we’ll be looking at first are isolation and tragic. We’ll be defining them quite briefly, but be sure to think about these in terms of how they relate to the novel. In particular, see if any scenes, passages or characters jump to mind.

Isolation is a state of being alone or away from others and can be associated with a sense of powerlessness or insignificance. Tragic can simply just mean sad, depressing and loaded with sorrow or ‘pathos’, but there are also literary implications to this word: you might’ve done a tragic Shakespeare play and learned this before, but in general, a tragic story centres on a hero who encounters misfortune, and treats their demise in a serious or solemn way. Note that a good essay will discuss both these terms, and will address not only isolation but also the question of whether or not it is treated tragically.

The other important word is ‘primarily’. This word in the prompt suggests that The Golden Age is  for the most part  about these ideas - for you, that means you should ask yourself how central you think they are, and make a call on whether they are the  most  central.

Well, it’s definitely true that elements of isolation and separation do exist in The Golden Age, but these themes are not primarily tragic ideas in the novel -London explores the way in which hope can shine through in times of hardship. In fact, the novel overall has a message of kinship and hope, and this would be the primary thematic focus, as well as the main treatment of otherwise tragic ideas. So how might this look in paragraphs?

Paragraph 1: Let’s concede that the novel does evoke sadness through its frequently sombre tone and treatment of isolation

We see this through characters such as Ida and Meyer, who have been cut off from the world in their escape from their war-torn home, and forced to transition from their landlocked Hungary to an island on the other side of the globe. Their struggle to adjust is evoked through symbols - for instance, black cockatoos, which represent a “homely, comforting” omen to locals, sound “melancholy [and] harsh” to Ida. In particular, London’s solemn characterisation of Ida as constantly “frowning”, and as having a “bitter little mouth that usually gripped a cigarette ”works to emphasise her ennui or her dissatisfaction with being cut off from the world. Their homesickness is evoked through this constant longing for home, though sometimes much more literally: Meyer feels that “never again on this earth…would, he feel at home as he once had.”

Similarly, the story of Sullivan Backhouse, confined in an “iron lung” and physically isolated from outside contact, is also primarily tragic. London develops this character and gives him a backstory - he has “just turned eighteen” and had been the “prefect [and] captain of the rowing team.” This gives readers an idea of the life he might have had if not for the tragedy of his condition. Even in spite of his “good-humoured nature”, his poetry belies the pessimism within - his book, morbidly entitled “on my last day on earth”, closes with the line “in the end, we are all orphans.” We can thus see how lonely he must have felt when he tragically passed away.

In this paragraph, we’ve considered three different characters, whereas a lot of people writing on this text might just do a character per paragraph, so this is a good way to really show the examiners that you’ve considered the full extent of what the book offers. Let’s continue this as we move onto…

Paragraph 2: We disagree, however, since the novel includes various other moods and thematic material - in particular, London explores notions of resolve and hope in times of hardship 

Now, the first character that comes to mind would have to be Elsa - London uses particularly powerful imagery, such as her “translucent”, “golden wave” of hair or even her “profile, outlined in light”, to portray her as angelic or elysian. For the children, Elsa evidently represents hope - even in her state of isolation, her “graceful and dignified” demeanour and her quiet acceptance that polio “was part of her” is courageous and worthy of admiration.

Moving onto a minor character who was perhaps inspired by Elsa - the young Ann Lee, who was quite close to Elsa, also has a story which is more inspiring than tragic. When polio first crippled her, she found herself unable to give water to the brumbies in her desert town. As a result, she perseveres, “step after painstaking step” so as to be able to return home and “give a drink to thirsty creatures.” Her compassion and determination to work against her isolation become the focus of her tale.

Paragraph 3: In fact, the  novel ’s focus is on hope rather than tragedy

A range of other characters demonstrate the power of love and human connection in the face of adversity, and London seems to be focusing on these ideas instead. Plus, it’s not just the children who are brave in the face of tragedy, but ordinary people prove themselves to have the potential for strength and courage. Take Julia Marai and Hedwiga, who hide Frank in their attic during the Nazi invasion of Hungary. Even though their apartment is “on the top” of the block, and isolated in its height, suspended from the world, they become “provider[s]” for Frank. London writes that in difficult times, “kindness and unselfishness were as unexpected, as exhilarating, as genius,” and it’s easy to see how these qualities form a counterpoint to the tragedies that permeate the novel, allowing hope to shine through. 

And that’s the end of the essay! Being able to explore minor characters like we did here is a really good way to show examiners that you have a deeper understanding of a text, that you’ve considered it beyond just the main characters on the surface. The Golden Age is a really great one for this because London has done so much with her cast.

Essay topics

1. “Being close made them stronger.” In The Golden Age , adversities are tempered by camaraderie. Do you agree?

2. Despite the grim context, The Golden Age highlights and celebrates the potential of life. Discuss.

3. Memories of past successes and failures have significant lingering effects on characters in The Golden Age . Is this an accurate assessment?

4. “[I would be] a fox, following a Palomino.” How do animals such as these contribute symbolically to The Golden Age ?

5. It is largely loneliness which defines the struggles of the children in The Golden Age . Discuss.

6. In what ways is The Golden Age a novel of displacement?

7. Fear of the unknown is something which permeates The Golden Age . Is this true?

8. What is the role of family in Joan London’s The Golden Age ?

9. Isolation in The Golden Age exists in many oppressive forms. Discuss.

10. Throughout The Golden Age , London draws attention to beauty rather than to suffering. Discuss.

11. In spite of their youth, it is the children of The Golden Age who understand best what it means to be an individual in the world. Do you agree?

12. How do characters from The Golden Age learn, grow and mature as the novel takes its course?

13. Due to the range of different onset stories, each of the children and their families in The Golden Age face a different struggle with their identity. Discuss.

14. “Home. She hadn’t called Hungary that for years.” In spite of all their struggle, the Golds never truly feel any sense of belonging in Australia. To what extent do you agree?

15. Explore the factors which drive Joan London’s characters to persevere.

The Ultimate guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

How can we write about a film in a way that shows our knowledge of its complexity in the way it conveys ideas through visuals and sound?  

While this blog post focuses on the construction of Invictus , the concepts around analysing film and writing about it apply to all other Year 11 and 12 multimodal texts. If you are studying Ransom with Invictus for the Comparative component of VCE English, you may also find out Ransom and Invictus study guide helpful.

What contrasts Invictus from Ransom , is, of course, that we can see Clint Eastwood’s depictions of post-Apartheid South Africa through his visualisations of, for instance, characters emotions and behaviours, by the formation of cinematic techniques. We can see the divided community in which the narrative is set; involving the rift between Afrikaners and black South Africans.  The added challenge of writing about a multimodal text such as Invictus , is that its composition through these film techniques should be integrated as textual evidence in a cohesive and effective way.  

Some key study design points:

  • ‍ “The features of written, spoken and multimodal texts used by authors to convey ideas, issues and themes.”
  • “The ways in which different texts provide different perspectives on ideas, issues and themes and how comparing them can offer an enriched understanding of the ideas, issues and themes.”
  • “Use textual evidence appropriately to support comparative analysis.”

A good way to approach analysis of textual evidence is through looking at quotes.  However, to further show our understanding of the text is perhaps to discuss the context of these quotes; examining what the director is showing us along with this dialogue.  What are the expressions portrayed by the characters? What does the framing reveal to us about the characters, symbols or the setting? What is Eastwood wanting us to understand about the narrative through the combination of these techniques? By asking these questions we can try to grasp what the intentions of the director are.

Some key film techniques to think about may be camera framings/angles, acting, lighting, editing, mise en scène, symbols, etc. (see terminology at the end of this blog).

Analysing a frame

A useful idea might be to go through the film multiple times, pause at certain moments and note what you can both see and hear. Turn on the subtitles to help decipher the dialogue – note these quotes down.  It may also be worthwhile to read through the actual script to Invictus ; from this we can learn of the intentions of Eastwood from a different perspective – in what he wanted to show his audience in each scene.

For example: ‍

INT. SPRINGBOK DRESSING ROOM - DAY                        

         The sound of cleats approaching on concrete. Exhausted

         footsteps. The DRESSING ROOM ATTENDANT PUTS CASES OF BEER

         (cans) on a side table, rips them open, backs away --

                       

         -- as the Springboks enter silently, faces miserable,

         shoulders slumped. They've lost another game.

What is the setting? What can we see happening in this setting? Who is there? What are the behaviours and expressions of the characters? What does the type of camerawork tell us? What does the lighting and colour tell us? These might be some questions to consider.

MANDELA ENTERS LOFTUS VERSFELD STADIUM AS NEW PRESIDENT

how to start text response essay

In this scene, Eastwood utilises wide, high angle framing to represent the enormity of the stadium; filled with Afrikaners who, predominantly, detest the new President.  Still, even as the framing is constantly filled with these Springboks sports fans, the director shows us the smiling, confident Mandela, who warmly waves to his new ‘partners in democracy’ without fear or distaste.  We can see this as the camera draws in on Mandela’s facial expressions.  Moreover, the courage of Mandela is exhibited as he exits the stadium and a sports fan hurls a drink at him.  Even despite that he ‘sees everything’, Mandela continues to wave and smile at the crowd.  

MANDELA ENTERS ELLIS PARK STADIUM FOR WORLD CUP FINAL

how to start text response essay

On the other hand, this scene, whilst it continues to demonstrate the steadfast, affable nature of Mandela, shows the unification of South Africa.  Through Mandela’s support of the Springboks by wearing the green and gold, we can understand that the Springboks have subsided from once being a ‘prominent symbol of the apartheid era’.  By contrast to his first appearance, Mandela is now upheld as a leader to all; there is no jeering or booing, but lively backing of both the Boks and The President.  Mandela has fundamentally transformed the team who once brought ‘shame upon our nation’ into something to be proud of and excited for.

The camera pans around the stadium depicting cheering and applauding fans, who are even carrying the new South African flag.  Even more interestingly, the black South Africans who widely scorned the Springboks, are now watching the rugby final in support of their team; their country.

‍JASON AND HIS TEAM MEET THE NEW BODYGUARDS

how to start text response essay

Eastwood utilises tight, close-up framing in this scene as to allude to the confrontation between black and white South Africans.  By this, the director draws us in to the agitated, bemused expressions on Jason and Linga, who immediately clash with the new SAS bodyguards they must partner with.  Jason stresses the personal bond between his team and the President – ‘[Madiba] that’s what we call him’.  This immediately shows the distaste that the black South Africans have towards their ‘enemies’, the Afrikaners.

Madiba implores that ‘reconciliation starts here’ and ‘forgiveness starts here’; Mandela assembles this new team of bodyguards because they are his representatives and ambassadors.  He wants the ‘rainbow nation’ to start here.

Writing an analysis

Once we understand what’s happening in some important scenes, we can think about how this understanding can be implemented into pieces of writing.

Consider the quotes: ‘Pienaar’s team’, ‘shame upon our nation’, ‘somebody gets the axe’ and ‘tails between their legs’.  This is what TV host, Boland Botha, and the rugby president, say after the Boks perform poorly in their rugby match.  Accompanying this scene are close-ups of Francois Pienaar, who is made to be the blame for the momentous loss.  

We could approach an analysis of this by embedding quotes amongst a discussion of the cinematic techniques; explaining what we learn about the character of Pienaar through these.  By including both quotes and some context in the cinematic construction, it displays a clear knowledge and understanding.

For instance, we could write:

“Eastwood demonstrates Pienaar as a prominent leader in the Springbok team.  He is made out to be responsible for ‘[his] team’s’ dismal performance.  Tight, close-up framing shows the audience a defeated Pienaar, a captain and leader who has brought ‘shame upon’ the South African nation, and as the rugby president suggests, deserves to ‘get the axe’.  The harsh, low-key lighting of the frame draws in on the raked and bruised Pienaar, who is isolated as the key to the Boks having ‘their tails between their legs’ throughout the game.”

how to start text response essay

Have a go at analysing the film and finding a way to balance embedded quotes with examples of the director’s techniques.

All in all, while it is not crucial to talk about specific production techniques as such, it can help give you an edge in demonstrating that you know the ins and outs of the text.  It helps show your comprehension of the context, themes and ideas presented, which is key to exemplifying a capacity to perceive authorial intent.  

Some useful terminology

Camera shots/techniques:

  • Shots: extreme long shot/long shot, medium shot, close-up shot/extreme close-up
  • Establishing shots: first shot of a new scene, shows the audience where the scene is taking place.
  • Depth of field: distance between closest and furthest objects giving a focused image. 

Camera angles:

  • Bird’s-eye view, low angle, eye-level, high angle
  • Skewed angle: camera set on an angle (horizon line is not parallel with the bottom of the frame)

Camera movements:  

  • Zooming, panning/tilting, tracking, hand-held

Mise en Scene: the arrangement of a frame; the artistic look of a shot in its elements of lighting, colour, camera techniques, sets, costumes, etc.

Lighting: high-key (bright, low shadow and contrast) or low-key (underlit, strong contrast between light and dark)

Point-of-view: the perspective from which the text is portrayed; the audience are driven to identify with characters portrayed.

Opening/resolution: how a narrative is introduced in setting up characters, settings, etc., how these develop and resolve at the end of a text.

Motif: a distinguishable feature which portrays a theme and idea about a character, setting, etc. ‍

For more information on film techniques, watch this video:

For a detailed list of film techniques, learn more here .

Metalanguage is language that describes language. The simplest way to explain this is to focus on part 3 of the English exam – Language Analysis. In Language Analysis, we look at the author’s writing and label particular phrases with persuasive techniques such as: symbolism, imagery or personification. Through our description of the way an author writes (via the words ‘symbolism’, ‘imagery’ or ‘personification’), we have effectively used language that describes language. For a detailed discussion, see  What is metalanguage?

  • Protagonist
  • False protagonist
  • Secondary character
  • Supporting character
  • Major character
  • Minor character
  • Philosophical
  • Non-fiction
  • Short stories

Language form

  • ProseIambic pentameter
  • Blank verse

Narrative mode

  • First person view
  • Second person view
  • Third person view
  • Third person objective
  • Third person
  • Third person omnipresent
  • Third person limited
  • Alternating narrative view
  • Stream-of-consciousness
  • Linear narrative
  • Nonlinear narrative

Narrative tense

  • Anti-climax
  • Trope-cliché
  • Turning point
  • Geographical

Other literary techniques

  • Active voice
  • Alliteration
  • Ambivalence
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterisation
  • Cliffhanger
  • Colloquialism
  • Complex sentence
  • Compound sentence
  • Connotation
  • English (American)
  • English (Australian)
  • Flash forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Juxtaposition
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Passive voice
  • Periphrasis
  • Personification
  • Positioning
  • Simple sentence

When it comes to studying a text for the text response section of Year 12 English, what may seem like an obvious point is often overlooked: it is essential to  know your text . This doesn’t just mean having read it a few times either – in order to write well on it, a high level of familiarity with the text’s structure, context, themes, and characters is paramount. To read a detailed guide on Text Response, head over to our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Authors  structure  their texts in a certain way for a reason, so it’s important to pick up on how they’ve used this to impart a message or emphasise a point. Additionally, being highly familiar with the plot or order of events will give you a better grasp of narrative and character development.

It’s also a good idea to research the  life of the author , as this can sometimes explain why certain elements or events were included in the text. Researching the  social and historical setting  of your text will further help you to understand characters’ behaviour, and generally gives you a clearer ‘image’ of the text in your mind.

The  overarching themes  of a text usually only become apparent once you know the text as a whole. Moreover, once you are very familiar with a text, you will find that you can link up events or ideas that seemed unrelated at first, and use them to support your views on the text.

For each  character , it is important to understand how they developed, what their key characteristics are and the nature of their relationships with other characters in the text. This is especially crucial since many essay questions are based solely on characters.

With all this said, what methods can you use to get to know your text?

Reading the text itself:  while this may seem obvious, it’s important to do it right! Read it for the first time as you would a normal book, then increase the level of detail and intricacy you look for on each consecutive re-read.  Making notes ,  annotating  and  highlighting  as you go is also highly important. If you find reading challenging, try breaking the text down into small sections to read at a time.

Discussion:  talk about the text! Nothing develops opinions better than arguing your point with teachers, friends, or parents – whoever is around. Not only does this introduce you to other ways of looking at the text, it helps you to cement your ideas, which will in turn greatly improve your essay writing.

External resources : it’s a good idea to read widely about your text, through other people’s essays, study guides, articles, and reviews. Your teacher may provide you with some of these, but don’t be afraid to search for your own material!

Not gonna lie, this novel is a bit of a tricky one to introduce. World War II, arguably one of the darkest events of human history, has been the basis of so much writing across so many genres; authors, academics, novelists have all devoted themselves to understanding the tragedies, and make sense of how we managed to do this to one another. Many reflect on the experiences of children and families whose lives were torn apart by the war.

In some ways, Doerr is another author who has attempted this. His novel alludes to the merciless anonymity of death in war, juxtaposes individualism with collective national mindlessness, and seeks out innocence amidst the brutality of war.

What makes this novel difficult to introduce is the way in which Doerr has done this; through the eyes of two children on opposite sides of the war, he explores how both of them struggle with identity, morality and hope, each in their own way. Their storylines converge in the bombing of Saint-Malo, demonstrating that war can be indiscriminate in its victims—that is, it does not care if its victims are children or adults, innocent or guilty, French or German. However, their interaction also speaks to the humanity that lies in all of us, no matter how deeply buried.

A very quick history lesson

Fast Five Facts about World War II:

  • Lasting 1939-1945, the war was fought between the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) and the Allies (basically everyone else, but mainly England, France, and later the US). Whilst it was Germany who started the war, the intervention of the US at the end of five long years of fighting ultimately helped the Allies win.
  • Various forms of technology were first used, or found new uses, during the war. Aircraft carriers and various planes (fighters, bombers etc.) became more important than ever, while Hitler’s use of tanks allowed him to take over much of Europe very quickly.
  • Other forms of new technology included one of the world’s first electronic computers that was used to codebreak (stop reading now and watch The Imitation Game if you haven’t already! Totally counts as studying, right?), as well as radio and radar, used to communicate and also to detect enemies in the field.
  • World War II is also referred to as the Holocaust, the name given to Hitler’s attempted genocide of the Jewish people. 6 million Jews died in the war, and as many as 15 million others died in total.
  • Germany’s initial conquest of Europe was swift and brutal. Within a month, Poland had already surrendered and within a year, so had France. However, there were also resistance groups all over these countries which sought to undermine the Nazi regime in a number of ways, both big and small.

My best attempt to give a general plot overview of this very long book

Disclaimer: this is a very, very broad overview of the novel and it is absolutely not a substitute for actually reading it (please actually read it).

Chronologically, we start in 1934, five years before the war. Marie-Laure is a French girl who lives with her father Daniel Leblanc, working at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. As she starts to go blind, Daniel teaches her Braille, and makes her wooden models of their neighbourhood to help her navigate. Six years later, the Nazis invade France, and they flee the capital to find Daniel’s uncle Etienne, who lives in the seaside town of Saint-Malo; Daniel was also tasked with safeguarding a precious gem, the Sea of Flames, from the Nazis.

In Saint-Malo, Daniel also builds Marie-Laure a model of the town, hiding the gem inside. Meanwhile, she befriends Etienne, who suffers from agoraphobia as a result of the trauma from the First World War. He is charming and very knowledgeable about science, having made a series of scientific radio broadcasts with his brother Henri (who died in WWI). She also befriends his cook, Madame Manec, who participates in the resistance movement right up until she falls ill and dies.

Her father is also arrested (and would ultimately die in prison), and the loss of their loved ones prompts both Etienne and Marie-Laure to begin fighting back. Marie-Laure is also given a key to a grotto by the seaside which is full of molluscs, her favourite kind of animal.

On the other side of the war, Werner is, in 1934, an 8 year-old German boy growing up in an orphanage with his sister Jutta in the small mining town of Zollverein. They discover a radio, which allows them to listen to a broadcast from miles away (it was Henri and Etienne’s), and Werner learns French to try and understand it. One day, he repairs the radio of a Nazi official, who recruits him to the Hitler Youth on account of his ingenuity (and his very blonde hair and very blue eyes, considered to be desirable traits by the regime). Jutta grows increasingly distant from Werner during this time, as she questions the morality of the Nazis.

Werner is trained to be a soldier along with a cohort of other boys, and additionally learns to use radio to locate enemy soldiers. He befriends Frederick, an innocent kid who was only there because his parents were rich—Frederick would eventually fall victim to the brutality of the instructors, and Werner tries to quit out of solidarity. Unfortunately, he is sent into the army to apply his training to actual warfare. He fights with Frank Volkheimer, a slightly ambiguous character who a tough and cruel soldier, but also displays a capacity to be kind and gentle (including a fondness for classical music). The war eventually takes them to Saint-Malo.

Also around 1943 or so, a Nazi sergeant, Reinhold von Rumpel, begins to track down the Sea of Flames. He would have been successful ultimately had it not been for Werner, who stops him in order to save Marie Laure.

As America begins to turn the war around, Werner is arrested and dies after stepping on a German landmine; Marie-Laure and Etienne move back to Paris. Marie-Laure eventually becomes a scientist specialising in the study of molluscs and has an extensive family of her own by 2014. Phew.

What kind of questions does Doerr raise through this plot? To some degree, the single central question of the novel is one of humanity, and this manifests in a few different ways.

Firstly, to what extent are we in control of our own choices? Do we truly have free will to behave morally ? The Nazi regime throws a spanner in the works here, as it makes incredibly inhumane demands on its people. Perhaps they fear punishment and have no choice—Werner, for instance, does go along with everything. At the same time, his own sister manages to demonstrate critical thinking and moral reasoning well beyond her years, and it makes you wonder if there was potential for Werner to be better in this regard. There’s also the question of whether or not he redeemed himself in the end.

That being said, Werner is far from the only character who struggles with this—consider the perfumer, Claude Levitte, who becomes a Nazi informer, or even ordinary French citizens who simply accept the German takeover. Do they actually have free will to resist, or is it even moral for them to do so?

Hannah Arendt famously coined the phrase “the banality of evil,” referring to how broader movements of inhumanity (such as the Holocaust) can be compartmentalised until individual actions feel perfectly banal, commonplace and ordinary. This is what allowed people to do evil things without actually feeling or even being inherently evil—they were just taking orders, after all. Consider the role of free will in this context.

This brings us to the broader ‘theme’ of war in general: in particular, what kinds of acts are  suddenly justifiable in war? Etienne and Madame Manec, for instance, even disagree on the morality of resistance, which can frequently involve murder. Etienne’s pacifist stance is a result of the scale of deaths in the previous world war. At the same time, the climactic event of the novel is an allied bombing of Saint-Malo, a French town, just because it had become a German outpost. Risking lives both French and German, this also highlights the ‘necessity’ of some inhumane actions in times of war.

On a more optimistic note, a human quality that Doerr explores is our natural curiosity towards science . This is abundant in the childhoods of both protagonists, as Werner demonstrates dexterity with the radio at a very young age, and Marie-Laure a keen interest in marine biology. In particular, her blindness pushes her into avenues of science which she can experience without literal sight, such as the tactile sensations of mollusc shells. The title may hint at this—for all the light she cannot see, she seeks enlightenment through knowledge, which in turn gives her hope, optimism and purpose.

At the same time, the human desire to better understand the world can also be used inhumanely—Werner used radio to learn through Etienne and Henri’s broadcasts, but he would later in life also use it to help his compatriots murder enemy soldiers. This alludes to the banality of evil again; by focusing on his very technical role and his unique understanding of the science behind radios, he is able to blind himself to the bigger picture of the evils he is abetting. Science is something that is so innately human, yet can also be used inhumanely as well.

For these reasons, I’d suggest humanity is at the heart of the novel. There is a certain cruel randomness to death in war, but just because so many did perish doesn’t mean that there aren’t human stories worth searching for in the destruction. This is the lens that Doerr brings to the WWII narrative.

Some symbols

To some degree, a lot of these symbols relate to humanity, which I’ve argued is the crux of the novel. I’ll keep this brief so as to not be too repetitive.

One major symbol is the radio , with its potential for good as well as for evil. On one hand, it is undoubtedly used for evil purposes, but it also acts as a source of hope, purpose, conviction and connection in the worst of times. It is what ultimately drives Werner to save Marie-Laure.

Along the same vein, whelks are also a major symbol, particularly for Marie-Laure. While an object of her fascination, they also represent strength for her, as they remain fixed onto rocks and withstand the beaks of birds who try to attack them. In fact, she takes “the Whelk” as a code-name for herself while aiding the resistance movement. It’s also noteworthy that, given the atrocities of war, maybe animals are the only innocent beings left. As Saint-Malo is destroyed and the Sea of Flames discarded, it is the seaside ecosystem that manages to live on, undisturbed. In this sense, the diamond can be seen as a manifestation of human greed, harmless once removed from human society.

Finally, it’s also worth considering the wooden models that Daniel builds for Marie-Laure. They represent his immense love for her, and more broadly the importance of family, but the models also attempt to shrink entire cities into a predictable, easily navigable system. As we’ve seen, this is what causes people to lose sight of the forest for the trees—to hone in on details and lose track of the bigger picture around them. The models are an oversimplification of life, and an illusion of certainty, in a time when life was complicated and not at all certain for anyone.

Identity, morality and hope—these things pretty much shape what it means to be human. Throughout All the Light We Cannot See though, characters sometimes struggle with all three of them at the same time.

And yet they always manage to find something within themselves, some source of strength, some sense of right and wrong, some humanity in trying times. Doerr explores this capacity amply in this novel, and in this sense his novel is not just another story about WWII—it’s a story about the things that connect us, always.

Essay prompt breakdown

Transcription

Through the prompt that we’ll be looking at today, the main message I wanted to highlight was to always try and look for layers of meaning. This could mean really being across all of the symbols, motifs and poetic elements of a text, and it’s especially important for a novel as literary as this one.

You might not have been particularly happy to find out you’re going to have to study All The Light We Cannot See— it is probably the longest text on the entire text list—but it’s also a really beautiful, well-written book that deservedly took out the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015.

In this novel, Anthony Doerr tells the World War 2 story through a unique lens, or rather a unique combination of lenses, as he sets a 16-year-old French girl and a 17-year-old German boy on an unlikely path of convergence. Through the dangers and difficulties that they face, Doerr’s novel is one of growth and self-assuredness in a time when this seemed virtually impossible.

The essay topic we’ll be looking at today is:

All The Light We Cannot See is a literal title for the novel, in that it exposes the darkness, evil and cruelty of which humans are demonstrably capable. Is this an accurate interpretation?

As usual, let’s define some keywords.

I want to leave ‘darkness’ for a little later, but let’s start with ‘evil and cruelty.’ By themselves, they generally just mean immorality or inhumanity, but also keep in mind how they come across in characters’ actions, since those will be the focus of our analysis. The word ‘demonstrably’ highlights this, since it means that any ‘evil’ you discuss needs to be demonstrated or proven.

With ‘darkness’, that’s a bit more of a tricky term because it can mean any number of things. Here, it might be taken to mean bad intentions, corruption or anything like that, because it fits with ‘evil and cruelty’. However, this is where the ‘interpretation’ aspect of the prompt comes in—an interpretation being a way of explaining meaning, how do you explain the meaning of ‘darkness’ in relation to the title? Darkness in this sense could be any number of things.

Now, how should we plan for this topic? Let’s first consider if there’s any room to challenge, since the prompt seems to only focus on the more negative, pessimistic side of the book. I’d argue that with darkness, there is also some light in the form of kindness, charity and hope.  

This all sounds pretty profound, but I’m just trying to link it back to the book’s title! I mean, that’s what the topic is asking about, right?

Let’s break this down into paragraphs.

For our first paragraph, a good starting point might be analysing the literal forms of darkness in the novel, and seeing what other interpretations we can get from those. A character that comes to mind is Marie-Laure, the French girl who cannot see any ‘light’ due to her blindness. The title could be seen as an allusion to her character and by extension, the hopelessness that blindness might cause in the midst of a war. We could compare Marie-Laure’s situation with that of Werner, who faces the industrialization of his childhood town, watching it become more and more enveloped in ‘darkness’ and as such, hopelessness.

For our next paragraph, we might drill down to deeper levels of interpreting darkness, because it’s often used as a metaphor for inhumanity. It isn’t difficult to find inhumanity in the novel. There’s plenty of it peppered throughout Werner’s storyline, particularly at Schulpforta, where the Hitler Youth were ‘trained’, (to put it lightly). He and his peers are routinely drilled to “drive the weakness from the corps” in humiliating exercises led by cruel instructors. They are also sometimes driven to cruelty towards one another, and Frederick, Werner’s bunkmate, is relentlessly bullied for his perceived weakness.

So by now, it’s clear that the novel demonstrates the human capacity for experiencing ‘darkness’ as well as inflicting it upon others. But, across these two layers of meaning, could there perhaps be some room to challenge these interpretations? This is something we should look at for our final paragraph.

Here, I would probably argue that just as Doerr explores various forms of darkness, there is also enough ‘light’ which allows some characters to overcome or escape from the darkness. These manifestations of light also require you to think about the different symbolic layers of the novel. On one level for example, looking at light literally, there’s the message on Werner’s radio that teaches us that, even though the brain is sealed in darkness, “the world it constructs…is full of light.” A deeper level of meaning to this may refer to the sense of scientific wonder and discovery which sometimes brings light to Werner, and also Frederick, his bunkmate at Schulpforta, when their lives there are at their most dark.

Consider how, just as darkness has levels of interpretation and symbolism in this book, so does light and hope and joy, rather than just evil and cruelty.

And that’s it! Always delving deeper for meaning helps you to really make use of the symbols, imagery and motifs in a text, and I hope this novel in particular illustrates that idea.

Updated 24/12/2020

  • Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas
  • Comparative Essay Prompt Example
  • Sample Essay Topics

The Crucible is a four-act play that portrays the atmosphere of the witch trials in Salem. As an allegory of McCarthyism, the play primarily focuses on criticising the ways in which innocent people are prosecuted without any founded evidence, reflecting the unjust nature of the corrupted authoritarian system that governs Salem. It starts off with the girls dancing in the woods and Betty’s unconsciousness, which causes the people of Salem to look for unnatural causes. People start scapegoating others to escape prosecution and falsely accuse others to gain power and land, facilitating mass hysteria which ultimately leads to the downfall of the Salem theocracy. The protagonist John Proctor is one of those that decides to defy the courts and sacrifices his life towards the end of the play, ending the play on a quiet note in contrast with its frenzied conflict throughout the acts.

The Dressmaker shows the audience the treatment towards Tilly Dunnage upon her return to fictional town Dungatar years after she was wrongly accused of being a murderess. Rosalie Ham critiques the impacts of rumours on Tilly and Molly, also establishing her condemnation of the societal stigma of this isolated town. Tilly starts making haute couture outfits to transform the lives of the women in the town and help them present themselves as more desirable and elevate their ranks. However, the townspeople still see Tilly negatively, except for some individuals who are able to look past the opinions of others and get to know Tilly themselves. Ham’s gothic novel garners the audience’s sympathy towards the outcasts of the town and antagonises those who find pleasure in creating drama and spreading rumours about others.  

2. Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas

Through discussing themes, motifs, and key ideas , we’ll gain a clearer understanding of some super important ideas to bring out in your essays. Remember, that when it comes to themes, there’s a whole host of ways you can express your ideas - but this is what I’d suggest as the most impressive method to blow away the VCAA examiners. Throughout this section, we'll be adhering to the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out How To Write A Killer Comparative . I use this strategy throughout this discussion of themes and in the next section, Comparative Essay Prompt Example.

Similarities and Differences (CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT Ideas)

Social class .

Both The Crucible and The Dressmaker talk extensively about class. By class, what I mean is the economic and social divisions which determine where people sit in society. For instance, we could say that the British Royals are ‘upper class’, whilst people living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to get by are ‘lower class’.

Ultimately, both The Crucible and The Dressmaker are set in classist societies where there is no opportunity for social advancement. Whilst Thomas Putnam steals the land of poor Salemites accused of witchcraft, the McSwineys are left to live in absolute poverty and never leave the ‘tip’ where they have lived for generations. Dungatar and Salem view this social division as a ‘given’ and reject the idea that there is anything wrong with certain people living a life of suffering so others can have lives of wealth and pleasure. As such, for both Salem and Dungatar, the very idea that anyone could move between the classes and make a better life for themselves is inherently dangerous. What we can see here is that class shapes the way communities deal with crisis. Anything that overturns class is dangerous because it challenges the social order – meaning that individuals such as Reverend Parris in The Crucible , or Councillor Pettyman in The Dressmaker may lose all their power and authority.

For The Crucible , that’s precisely why the witchcraft crisis is so threatening, as the Salemites are prepared to replace Reverend Parris and deny his authority. Although Abigail and the group of girls thus single-handedly overturn Salem’s class structures and replace it with their own tyranny, Parris’ original intention was to use their power to reinforce his authority. In The Dressmaker , Tilly is threatening because she doesn’t neatly fit in to Dungatar’s class structure. Having travelled the outside world, she represents a worldly mindset and breadth of experiences which the townspeople know they cannot match.

For this theme, there’s a DIVERGENCE of ideas too, and this is clear because the way that class is expressed and enforced in both texts is vastly different. For The Crucible , it’s all about religion – Reverend Parris’ assertion that all Christians must be loyal to him ensures the class structure remains intact. More than that, to challenge him would be to challenge God, which also guides Danforth in executing those who don’t follow his will. In the case of The Dressmaker , there’s no central authority who imposes class on Dungatar. Rather, the people do it themselves; putting people back in their place through rumour and suspicion. However, by creating extravagant, expensive dresses for the townspeople, Tilly inadvertently provides people with another way to express class.  

Isolated Communities

CONVERGENT:

The setting forms an essential thematic element of The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Both communities are thoroughly isolated and, in colloquial terms, live in the ‘middle of no-where’.

However, what is starkly different between the texts is how this isolation shapes the respective communities’ self-image. For Salem, its citizens adopt a mindset of religious and cultural superiority – believing that their faith, dedication to hard work and unity under God make them the most blessed people in the world. Individuals as diverse as Rebecca Nurse and Thomas Putnam perceive Salem to be a genuinely incredible place. They see Salem as the first battleground between God and the Devil in the Americas, and as such, construct a grand narrative in which they are God’s soldiers protecting his kingdom. Even the name ‘Salem’ references ‘Jerusalem’, revealing that the Salemites see themselves as the second coming of Christ, and the fulfilment of the Bible’s promises.

Not much of the same can be said for The Dressmaker . Dungatar lacks the same religious context, and the very name of ‘Dungatar’ references ‘dung’, or beetle poop. The next part of the name is 'tar', a sticky substance, creating the impression that Dungatar's people are stuck in their disgusting ways. The townspeople of Dungatar are acutely aware of their own inadequacy, and that is why they fight so hard to remain isolated from the outside world. Tilly is therefore a threat because she challenges their isolation and forces the men and women of Dungatar to reconsider why their community has shunned progress for so long. In short, she makes a once-isolated people realise that fear, paranoia, division and superstition are no way to run a town, and brings them to acknowledge the terribly harmful impacts of their own hatred.

On top of that, because Salem is literally the only Christian, European settlement for miles, it is simply impossible for them to even think about alternatives to their way of life. They are completely isolated and thus, all of their problems come from ‘within’ and are a result of their own division. For Dungatar, it’s a mix of societal issues on the inside being made worse by the arrival of people from the outside. The township is isolated, but unlike Salem, it at least has contact with the outside world. All Tilly does, therefore, is show the people of Dungatar an alternative to their way of life. But, for a community used to the way they have lived for decades, it ultimately contributes to its destruction.

By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here !

3. Comparative Essay Prompt Example

The following essay topic breakdown was written by Lindsey Dang. If you'd like to see a completed A+ essay based off this same essay topic, then check out LSG's A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible & The Dressmaker , written by 50 study scorer and LSG tutor, Jordan Bassilious!

[Modified Video Transcription]

Compare the ways in which outcasts are treated in The Crucible and The Dressmaker.

Step 1: Analyse

Before writing our topic sentences, we need to look at our key words first. The keywords in this prompt are outcasts and treated .

So, who are considered outcasts in the two texts? Outcasts can be those of traditionally lower classes, they can be characters with physical flaws, those that are different to others or those who do not abide by the standards of their respective societies.

  • In The Crucible : Tituba, Abigail, John Proctor or even Martha Giles can be considered as outcasts.
  • In The Dressmaker : We can consider Tilly, Molly, The McSwineys, etc.

We also need to look our second key word ‘treated’. How would we describe the treatment towards these characters? Are they treated nicely or are they mistreated and discriminated against? Do ALL members of that community have that same treatment towards those outcasts or are there exceptions? Remember this point because we might be able to use this to challenge the prompt.

We’re going to skip Step 2: Brainstorm today, but if you’re familiar with LSG teachings, including the THINK and EXECUTE strategy discussed in my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook, then you’ll be good for this part.

Step 3: Create a Plan

Both texts portray outcasts as victims of relentless accusations or rumours, seeking to engage the pathos of the audience towards those who are marginalised.
  • In The Crucible , Tituba the ‘Negro slave’ is the first person to be accused by witchcraft in Salem. Her ‘consequent low standing’ is also shown through her use of language ‘You beg me to conjure! She beg me make charm’ which is fraught with grammatical errors, compared to Judge Danforth who uses legal jargon and the Putnams who are much more well-spoken.
  • Similarly, the McSwineys are also those of lower class and are seen as the outcasts of Dungatar. Their names show us their position in the social hierarchy because they are associated with swines which are pigs. This is confirmed by Sergeant Farrat who said ‘Teddy McSwiney was, by the natural order of the town, an outcast who lived by the tip’. Even when Teddy McSwiney died, the townspeople still did not reflect on the impacts that their prejudice and bigotry had on him, eventually forcing the McSwineys to leave the town because they could not find a sense of belonging living there.
  • Tilly is also poorly treated due to the fact that she is fatherless, being bullied by the kids at school especially Stewart Pettyman and also used by William as a leverage to marry Gertrude, threatening Elsbeth that ‘it’s either her [Gertrude] or Tilly Dunnage’
  • Also discuss Giles Corey’s death and the significance of his punishment as the stones that are laid on his chest can be argued to symbolise the weight of authority
Miller and Ham also denounce the ways in which outcasts are maltreated due to their position in the social hierarchy through his antagonisation of other townspeople.
  • There’s also a quote on this by Molly ‘But you don’t matter – it’s open slather on outcasts'. Herein, she warns the audience of how quickly outcasts can become victims of rumours and accusations as the term ‘slather’ carries negative connotations.
  • Similarly, the theocracy that governs Salem dictates the rights of their people and children. He specifically states 'children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak', which explains the girls’ extreme fear of being whipped. Salem is very violent to children, slaves and helpers and it can be seen that this is the result of the social hierarchy and the Puritan ideology.
  • For The Dressmaker , also discuss the ways in which they name others in this quote ‘daughter of Mad Molly is back – the murderess!’ Likewise discuss how Goody Osbourne the ‘drunkard half-witted’ and Sarah Good an old beggar woman are the first ones to be named. You can talk about Martha who is accused of being a witch just because she has been ‘reading strange books’, and Sarah Good due to the mere act of ‘mumbling’. The normality of these actions underlines the absurdity of the accusations made against these individuals, furthering Miller’s chastisement of the fictitious nature of the trials and also the ways in which outcasts are the first to be scapegoated.
However, there are still characters that are driven by their sense of morality or remorse instead of mistreating the outcasts of their community.
  • Both Sergeant Farrat and Proctor are motivated by their remorse to make amends. Proctor’s evasion of ‘tearing the paper’ and finding ‘his goodness’ is motivated by his desire to atone for his sin (having committed adultery with Abigail), and Sergeant regretted sending Tilly away. He, in his eulogy, says ‘if you had included [Tilly], Teddy would have always been with us’, expressing his regret for the ways outcasts are treated in Dungatar. Similarly, Teddy McSwiney also has a pure relationship with Tilly and treats her differently instead of judging her based on the rumours about her being a ‘murderess’.
  • While those who can sympathise with outcasts in The Dressmaker are either outcasts themselves or are remorseful (or both), there are those in The Crucible that are purely and solely motivated by their moral uprightness. Rebecca Nurse is neither an outcast (as she is highly respected for her wisdom) nor remorseful (as she has remained kind and pure from the beginning of the play). She is always the voice of reason in the play and tries to stop authoritative figures from convicting and prosecuting outcasts. A quote you can use would be ‘I think you best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguin’ again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year'.

4. Sample Essay Topics

1. 'I say—I say—God is dead.' —John Proctor, The Crucible . Explore how communities respond to crisis.

2. People must conform to societal expectations in The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Do you agree?

3. Discuss how The Crucible and The Dressmaker use textual features to convey the author’s perspective.

4. Gender repression is rife in both The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Discuss.

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. If you're interested in reading a 50 study scorer's completed essays based off these 4 essay topics, along with annotations so you can understand his thinking process, then I would highly recommend checking out LSG's A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible & The Dressmaker.

This blog has written contributions from Lindsey Dang.

Download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use

Understanding Context in The Crucible and The Dressmaker

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

Have a go at analysing it yourself first, then see how I've interpreted the article below! For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .

Information

Author:  Professor Chris Lee

Type of article:  Speech

Publisher:  None

Date of publication:  25 – 27th October, 2010

Contention:  We, as humans must consider our impact on biodiversity and take action to change our lifestyles before we damage the world beyond repair.

Number of article(s):  1

Number of image(s):  2

Source:  VCAA website

Note: Persuasive techniques can be interpreted in many ways. The examples given below are not the single correct answer. Only a selected number of persuasive techniques have been identified in this guide.

Taking Stock Analysis

Persuasive technique:  Reputable Source

Example:  ‘United Nations stated: “It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity in our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity”.’

Analysis:   The use of a reputable source indicates that 1) the author has done his research and is therefore credible, 2) his opinion is supported by an expert group, thus strengthening his reasoning and opinion in regards to biodiversity.

Persuasive technique:  Rhetorical questions

Example:  ‘Has this been a year of celebration of life on earth? Has this, in fact, been a year of action?’

Analysis:  The use of rhetorical questions aims to portray to listeners that the answer is obvious, that humans have not done enough to help biodiversity. As a result, listeners are manipulated into agreeing with the author since if they were to refute the answer; it will appear as though they are nonsensical.

Persuasive technique:  Personal approach

Example:  ‘It is with great pleasure – though not without a tinge of sadness’

Analysis:  By introducing himself with ‘it is with great pleasure’, listeners are invited to reciprocate the feeling of welcome for Lee and hence be open to his opinion. His subsequent, ‘though not without a tinge of sadness’ suggests to listeners that he is disappointed with the current state of biodiversity, which may persuade listeners to feel as though they should help fix the situation.

Persuasive technique:  Statistics

Example:  ‘35% of mangroves, 40% of forests and 50% of wetlands.’

Analysis:  The incorporation of the apparently reliable and credible statistics testifies for Lee’s opinion and thus may persuade listeners to believe that it is indeed, ‘too late for [species]’.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to sense of guilt

Example:  ‘Due to our own thoughtless human actions, species are being lost at a rate that is estimated to be up to 100 times the natural rate of extinction.’

Analysis:  Since the destruction of biodiversity is ‘due to our own thoughtless human actions’, Lee aims to incite a sense of guilt as listeners appear to be selfish, which may urge them to agree that they need to cease being inconsiderate and do more to improve biodiversity.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to humanity

Example:  ‘Reversing this negative trend is not only possible, but essential to human wellbeing.’

Analysis:  The appeal to humanity, ‘essential to human wellbeing’ encourages listeners to support Lee since it is our instinctive for humans to nurture ourselves and others.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to sense of pride

Example:  ‘We are, in truth, the most educated generation of any to date. We have no excuse for inaction.’

Analysis:  Through the appeal to a sense of pride, Lee aims to coax listeners into believing that they have ‘no excuse for inaction’ since only those who are ‘intelligent’ would understand and agree with his stance.

Persuasive technique:  Attack on the listener

Example:  ‘YOUR country – actually done since 2002 to contribute to the achievement of our goals?’

Analysis:  The attack aims to leave listeners in a state of vulnerability since it is clear that many have failed to ‘achieve…[the] goals’. Once in this state, listeners may be more inclined to accept Lee’s stance.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal for sympathy

Example:  ‘Biodiversity loss undermines the food security, nutrition and health of the rural poor and even increases their vulnerability. ‘

Analysis:   Though the reference to ‘the rural poor,’ Lee aims to appeal to listeners’ sympathy and may invite support since it is instinctive to wish for the best for humanity, rather than to see the poor experience a lack of ‘food security, nutrition and health.’

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to pride

Example:  ‘As leaders in the area of biodiversity’

Analysis:   The appeal to pride through positioning listeners as ‘leaders’ invites support since it is innate for humans to wish to be thought of as a person who is respected and powerful.

Persuasive technique:  Inclusive Language

Example:  ‘we know what damage our lifestyle is doing to our world’

Analysis:  The use of inclusive language aims to involve listeners with the issue, thus encouraging support since listeners may feel responsible for the future outcome of biodiversity.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to sense of urgency

Example:  ‘The time for talk is over: now, truly, is the time for serious action.

Analysis:  By appealing to a sense of urgency, Lee aims to urge listeners to take responsibility since it appears as though the damage to biodiversity will be too late if we fail to take ‘serious action…now.’

Persuasive technique:  A sense of responsibility

Example:  2010 with outlines of nature

Analysis:  The incorporation of a background of ‘2010’ with outlines of animals, plants and humans aims to demonstrate to listeners that earth is shared by all species, with none dominating another in an attempt to gain listeners’ sense of responsibility since they are part of the biodiversity issue, yet can also be the solution to the problem.

Persuasive technique:  Pun

Example:  ‘Taking Stock’

Analysis:  The first meaning used for the pun suggests to listeners that they need to ‘take stock’ or in other words, scrutinise the dire situation of biodiversity in call for much needed attention to the issue. Through referring to the second meaning of ‘stock’ as animals, Lee intends to appeal to a sense of guilt since he projects the idea that humans are cruelly annihilating the environment by ‘taking’ whatever ‘stock’ for their own self-centered purposes.

Persuasive technique:  Appeal to responsibility

Example:  ‘earth is in our hands’

Analysis:  By placing the ‘earth…in our hands,’ Lee aims to urge a sense of responsibility on behalf of the listeners which in turn, may cause them to agree with the notion to take ‘serious action’ in the name of biodiversity.

Persuasive technique:  Use of reputable source

Example:  ‘Biodiversity is the greatest treasure we have . . . Its diminishment is to be prevented at all costs. Thomas Eisner’

Analysis:  The reference to ecologist, Thomas Eisner attempts to persuade listeners to support Lee since experts in the field of biodiversity recommend that the earth needs to be cherished.

The Crucible and Year of Wonders are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

1. Introductions

The events of The Crucible begin with a group of young girls from Salem being discovered dancing and playing at witchcraft with Tituba, the slave of the town’s religious leader Reverend Parris. When his daughter Betty falls ill as a result, they and others seek to deflect blame away from themselves and simultaneously exact revenge against those they feel have wronged them. To do this, they are led by Parris’ niece Abigail Williams to begin a spree of accusations of witchcraft which result in the hangings of many of the other townspeople, including John Proctor, with whom Abigail once had an affair. For a full detailed guide on The Crucible as a solo text, head over to our The Crucible Study Guide .

Plague strikes a small, isolated Derbyshire village called Eyam in 1666 when it is brought there by a tailor carrying a bolt of infected cloth from London. The village’s population is decimated as a result, and in the resulting Year of Wonders shows her burgeoning strength as a healer and ultimately her escape at the conclusion of the novel to a new life.

how to start text response essay

3. Character analysis

The crucible.

how to start text response essay

Year of Wonders

how to start text response essay

4. Sample paragraphs

Prompt: How do The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore the role of Christianity in their respective communities?

If you are looking for sample essay topics to use for your study, check out our The Crucible and Year of Wonders Prompts .

In both The Crucible and Year of Wonders , the Christian faith is a central tenet of the lives of all characters, as both texts tell the story of strongly religious communities. It also acts as a strong driver of the conflict which occurs in both cases, but in quite distinct ways, and propels the action and development of many characters.

Body paragraph

While it is not the root of the troubles that develop throughout the courses of the texts, religion and the need to adhere to a belief system are central to their propagation and ultimate resolution. In Year of Wonders , the cause of the plague is as simple as the arrival of a disease carrier in Eyam, but is framed as a ‘trial’ sent by God for the villagers to face. Likewise the scourge of accusations of witchcraft that befalls Salem is simply a result of people straying outside the bounds of good behaviour dictated by their community, but is instead seen as an outbreak of witchcraft and consorting with Satan. As such religion becomes the lens through which both crises are viewed, and is used to try to explain and resolve them. Before the advent of more modern scientific practices, one of the only ways that inexplicable events such as outbreaks of infectious disease or mass hysteria could be understood and tamed was to paint them as either benign or malignant spiritual acts. This allowed people to lay the blame not at their own doors, but at that of something beyond them; for the people of Eyam, something which in truth was a chance epidemiologic event could be seen as ‘an opportunity that He offers to very few upon this Earth’. Because in both Eyam and Salem faith was already a familiar, stalwart part of everyday life, framing their respective disasters as acts of God or the Devil took away some of their fear, as they chose to see a terrible thing as part of something they had known since infancy.

Religion is far more than part of the everyday life and prayer of the common people of Year of Wonders and The Crucible ; it is the foundation of their moral code and their way of explaining events which are frightening and make no sense. It also acts as a driving force within individuals as well as communities, deciding one way or another their actions and ultimately their characters.

Both texts are rich narratives on their own, but they are also strongly grounded in historical events that you may not have studied in great depth and which significantly influence the plot and characters’ actions – this is especially relevant when discussing the religion portrayed in the texts. You may miss many of the authors’ intended messages if you’re not aware of the full context of the books. Here are some ideas in this area that you might want to research:

how to start text response essay

The Crucible also has a very interesting place in modern history as Arthur Miller’s comment on the rampant McCarthyism of 1950s America. Do some research on Miller’s life and views (the introduction or foreword of your novel might have some useful hints).

Also note that The Crucible is a play whereas Year of Wonders is a novel; how does each format uphold or reveal the author’s thoughts and ideas? How does the format of the text affect its other features (narrative, characters, voice etc.)?

Whether you’re analysing at one article or two, there are plenty of things you can write about. In this, we’ll look at the structure of articles, the placement of different arguments and rebuttals, and other things you can use to nail your essay!

There are four main parts of an article:

What: The arguments that support the contention

When: Their placement in the article

How: The language techniques used to support them

Why: The overall effect on the reader

Try to address all these elements of the article in your essay, as it’ll ensure you’re not leaving anything out.

WHAT: Arguments

The arguments an author uses can usually fall into one of three categories - ethos, pathos, or logos.

Ethos arguments are about credibility, for example, using quotes from credible sources or writing about a personal anecdote.

Pathos arguments target the emotion of the reader. Anything that might make them feel happy, angry, sad, distressed and more can be classified as this kind - for example, an argument about patriotism when discussing the date of Australia Day.

Logos arguments aim to address the intellectual aspects of the issue, and will often have statistics or logic backing them up.

It’s important to mention the different arguments used in the article and it can be useful to take note of the category you think they fit into best. It’s also helpful to mention the interplay between these elements.

WHEN: Structure

Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them.

If an author places their rebuttal at the beginning of the article, it can set up the audience to more readily accept their following opinions, and separates them from contrasting views from the get go. You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam , where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.

The placement of a rebuttal towards the end of the article can have the effect of the author confirming that their opinion is correct by demonstrating why opposing opinions are not, and can give a sense of finality to the article. It’s sometimes used when the author’s contention is a little controversial, as it’s less aggressive than a rebuttal placed at the beginning.

In some articles, the author won’t include a straightforward rebuttal at all. This can imply that their opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and must be supported - as it’s the only opinion that exists. Check out the 2018 VCAA exam for an example of this kind of article. ‍

Contention:

An author’s contention is the main claim they’re trying to prove throughout their article.

Placing their contention at the beginning is the most direct method, and has the effect of positioning the reader to the author’s beliefs from the outset.

A contention placed at the end of an article can have the effect of seeming like a valid, logical conclusion to a well-thought through discussion. To see this in effect, you can look at the 2014 VCAA exam , where the article leads up to the author’s final contention that the governments needs to ‘invest in the next generation of technology’.

The contention can also be repeated throughout the article. The author may have chosen to present it in this way in order to continue reiterating their main point in the audience’s minds, aligning them to their views. An article that uses this technique is on the 2016 VCAA exam , as the author repeats multiple times that a ‘giant attraction’ must be built to encourage visitors and put the town ‘on the tourist map’.

The different ways an author orders their arguments is also something worth analysing.

A ‘weaker’ point might be one that the author doesn’t spend much time discussing, or that isn’t backed up with a lot of evidence. In comparison, a ‘stronger’ argument will generally have supporting statistics or quotes, and may be discussed in detail by the author.

If an author starts with their strongest point and ends with their weakest, they may be attempting to sway the reader’s opinions to align with their own from the beginning so that the audience is more likely to accept their weaker points later on. Take a look at the 2017 VCAA exam to see this kind of technique, as the author’s arguments - that ‘superfluous packaging’ will cause irreversible environmental damage, that the changes they want to implement are easy, and that students should prepare their own snacks rather than have takeaway - get less developed as the article continues.

On the other hand, ending with their strongest point can give the piece a sense of completion, and leave the reader with the overall impression that the article was strong and persuasive.

Want to learn more about these different article components and see how different A+ essays incorporate these elements? If so, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook for all of this and more!

HOW: Language

This refers to the different persuasive language techniques used in the article and their effect on the reader.

The main thing to remember is that the study design has changed from Language Analysis to Analysing Argument . This means you’ll need to focus on the language in relation to the argument - such as how it supports the author’s contention - rather than on the language itself.

If you’re after some more resources, you can look at some Quick Tips or this video:

WHY: Effect

There are many different ways you can describe what the author is trying to do through their article, but they all come down to one thing - persuasion, that is, the writer of the article is trying to get their audience to agree with them. Linking different arguments, their placement and the language that supports them to the overall authorial intent of the article is a great way to enhance your essay.

For some more information on this area, check out this blog post !

Like a House on Fire is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

  • Essay Planning
  • Essay Topics

1. Historical Context

Kennedy’s anthology of fifteen short stories, Like a House on Fir e, explores the impacts of familial and social issues on an individual’s sense of identity and humanity, illustrating the vast spectrum of human condition. Having lived a majority of her life in Victoria, Australia, Kennedy’s collection follows the stories of various protagonists whose voices are characteristic of Australian culture and society. As the text is set in the backdrop of rapid Australian modernisation, the novel also depicts the paradoxical nature of technology, as various characters are depicted to be torn between confronting or embracing this fundamental change. Despite approaching the stories of characters conflicted by modern and social challenges with both humour and cynicism, Kennedy’s lack of judgement is notable; it is with this empathetic stance that she is able to the universal nature of human emotions to her readership. 

Kennedy explores the theme of identity mainly through physical injury, as various characters with physical trauma find themselves to be agonisingly limited within the confines of their condition. In Like a House on Fire , the narrator’s sense of identity becomes intertwined with his subsequently decreased masculinity, as his back injury leaves him unable to physically take care of his family, and his wife begins to undertake stereotypically masculine roles within the household. In tandem with this, Roley’s wife in Little Plastic Shipwreck is rendered humourless and witless due to her brain injury, distorting her once enthusiastic self into one shadowed by her illness; further emphasising the link between physical and mental identity. 

Order and Disorder

The inherent tension between order and chaos is continually examined throughout the anthology, particularly in Like a House on Fire, in which perfectionistic order and scatter minded disorder are embodied in the unnamed narrator and his wife respectively. As the two individuals are unable to establish a compromise between their contrasting personalities, Kennedy suggests that this lack of cooperation is the core reason for the deterioration of their marriage, and their subsequent misery. The notion of disorder is also symbolised by the domestic setting itself, as Kennedy depicts various characters who feel pervasive ennui and dissatisfaction within the ‘chaotic mess’ of their household environments.

Each protagonist in the collection is portrayed as possessing some object of longing, whether it be material or emotional. Kennedy utilises scattered verses of prose within her writing to communicate these human desires, building upon their significance poetically. In Static , Anthony attempts to negotiate his own wishes with those of his wife and family, leading him to wonder whether anything present in his life has been created by his own will or merely his eagerness to please others. His desire for various types of happiness, embodied in material concepts such as money or children, suggest that the human condition is built upon the foundation of dissatisfaction; that innate longing is what ultimately defines us as human.

The theme of love is present in each story of the collection, often used as an instrument through which the characters can heal and grow from their physical or spiritual pain. While suggesting that true love endures all hardship in Like a House on Fire , Kennedy also illustrates the various sacrifices one must make in order to protect the ones you love. Such is depicted in Five-Dollar Family , as a new mother makes the difficult decision of leaving her ‘loser’ boyfriend to give her child a chance at the best life possible, despite the unfortunate situation he has been born into. 

Communication

The vital importance of communication within families is emphasised in the anthology, as the lack of effective communication perceivably exacerbates dysfunctional relationships. The crushing regret of a son is explored in Ashes , as he laments his lack of communication with his father who he can no longer speak to. However, Kennedy empathetically depicts the difficulty of communicating potentially painful messages to loved ones in Waiting , as the protagonist anxiously agonises over the prospect of telling her husband that she may have another miscarriage following an excruciating string of lost children. 

In tandem with longing, Kennedy asserts that empathy is vital to the survival and happiness of a human being. This notion is aptly depicted in Little Plastic Shipwreck , in which the death of Samson the popular show dolphin results in Roley’s revelation of his manager’s complete lack of empathy, and subsequently the abundance of his own. Similarly, the salient importance of empathy is emphasised in Flexion , as the cold-heated and harsh victim of a brutal tractor incident repairs his marriage by allowing himself to feel more empathy for those who have supported his recovery and been understanding of his bitterness. 

The anthology centres around the concept of family, as both dramatic events unfold directly due to altercations and misunderstanding within the household. By depicting both the dramatic and mundane events that contribute to creating dysfunctional families, Kennedy asserts that kindness and understanding is vital to the maintenance of a healthy and loving family. The power of family is also depicted in Like a House on Fire , as the protagonist’s dissatisfaction with life is instantly washed away by the actions of his children, who remind him that despite his life-threatening injury, his family is his constant source of love and support. 

If you'd like to see how themes like these can be identified and analysed in one of Kennedy's short stories, you might like to check out our Close Analysis Of 'Cake' From Like A House On Fire blog post!

3. Essay Planning

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Question 1: ‘Gender plays no role in the tragic identities of the characters in Like a House on Fire.’ To what extent do you agree?

Suggested contention: despite the ubiquitous nature of hardship, the short stories of like a house on fire explore the effect of gender roles on individuals’ sense of self-worth., body paragraph 1: .

  • Pain is depicted to have no partiality to either gender in Like a House on Fire. 
  • Much of the trauma explored throughout the anthology is a result of lack of emotional connection or familial misunderstanding arising through individual actions, rather than due to stereotypes associated with gender. 
  • Kennedy suggests that there is no gender more at fault for these issues, but rather that it is mindset that determines one’s identity and fate, especially in relationships. For example, just as the protagonist’s wife in Flexion makes the mistake of cruelly wielding her physical dominance over her husband, the passive boyfriend in Five-Dollar Family is cruel in his apathy toward his girlfriend and their newborn baby.     

Body paragraph 2: 

  • Despite this, Kennedy explores the social views that plague men as a result of their gender, compelling to limit their identity to meet these fatal expectations. 
  • The concept of masculinity is explored throughout the collection, often presented as an inferiority complex for many male protagonists due to their physical disabilities. The societal idea that men should be physically strong in order to be able to provide for his family is heavily condemned in Like a House on Fire , as Kennedy depicts the destructive consequences of such on one’s sense of self-worth. 
  • For example, the narrator of Like a House on Fire perceives his own physical weakness as unmanly, and subsequently himself as an unfit and useless father. As he is unable to pick up the  family’s Christmas tree, the tree seller looks towards him with disdainful judgment, perceiving the protagonist’s wife lifting the tree to be ‘destroying the social fabric’. 
  • In addition to this, the narrator’s extreme attempt to physically help the family results in the destruction of the precious family nativity scene, symbolising the idea that social constructs of masculinity inevitably ends in destruction, as the narrator’s inability to recognise his physical limitations only exacerbates the problem. 

Body paragraph 3: 

  • In tandem with this, the collection of short stories also examines the social limitations placed upon women solely due to their gender. 
  • The difficulty for women to balance their roles of mother and career woman is explored in Cake , in which the protagonist Liz fails to separate one from the other, leading her to feel dissatisfaction in both. Kennedy ostensibly denounces the social expectations of women to be domestic helpers, as Liz faces judgement at work for bearing a child, whereas her husband is exempt from any judgement despite it also being his son. 
  • The complicated and personal concept of pregnancy is further depicted in Waiting , as the protagonist agonises over the fact that she may lose another child due to a miscarriage. As the fear of disappointing others takes over her own pain and anguish, readers of the collection are invited to consider the harrowing expectations placed on women to be successful mothers. 

Question 2: ‘Like a House on Fire shows that family relationships are never perfect.’ Do you agree?

Suggested contention: through the constant depiction of dysfunctional families in like a house on fire, kennedy asserts the importance of communication and empathy in repairing broken relationships, and suggests that perfect families are unrealistic. .

  • Every story in the collection depicts a family undergoing some kind of hardship, whether it be financial, emotional or spiritual. Through her depiction of broken families, Kennedy suggests that emotional stress and tension within families is sometimes inevitable, even in a loving and supportive environment. 
  • The title of the collection, Like a House on Fire , is emblematic of the dual nature of families, as while the phrase symbolises the chaos and disorder of one’s family dynamic, it also symbolises the love and extreme passion that often coexists alongside it. 
  • For example, while the protagonist in Like a House on Fire reminisces upon the ‘fiery’ sexual and emotional happiness of their marriage, he also deplores their current period of domestic stress, describing it as a ‘house on fire’. 
  • Kennedy depicts the need for family members to engage in open and honest communication with one another to overcome the effects of trauma. 
  • For example, in Ashes , Chris is only able to find closure by finally understanding the mindset off his parents through effective communication. His newly found ability to express his true emotions to his mother allows him to finally perceive the grief that was masked by her supposedly ‘cruel’ actions, and subsequently finally achieve a stable relationship with her. 
  • Kennedy also advocates for the exercise of empathy between family members in order to find harmony within dysfunction. 
  • This is apparent in Flexion , in which the seemingly emotionless protagonist and his wife undergo their respective journeys of expressing empathy for the other. As their marriage significantly improves due to their increased understanding of each other, Kennedy promotes the importance of vulnerability and openness within families. 

Beyond the Basics: 

How does Kennedy’s short story format add to the reader’s understanding of the themes uncovered in the novel? 

  • The range of diverse, Australian voices depicted in the anthology work to portray the vast spectrum of the human condition. 
  • The concise narrative present in each of the fifteen stories work to provide the readership with an extremely personal point of view that emphasises the emotions and mindset of the protagonist, furthering the sense of authorial empathy and compassion. 
  • It is through this almost voyeuristic advantage we subsequently possess as readers, that we are able to fully understand the depth of each character’s humanity and sense of identity, as well as the various struggles that follow the course of an individual’s life.
  • Kennedy’s ordering of the short stories also contributes to the reader’s depth of understanding. There is no apparent chronological order present in the collection, but rather a varied order of stories, depicting its diverse range of voices. For example, while the key themes and tones of the anthology remain consistent throughout, other factors such as age, gender and life experience of the protagonist vary in order to provide contrasting character viewpoints. 
  • As such, this variation in narrative voice allows Kennedy to present her stories as universal human experiences, emphasising the ubiquitous nature of the themes present in Like a House on Fire . 
  • Finally, the varied structure within each individual story lends an optimistic tone that underscores the entirety of Kennedy’s work. While some stories such as Flexion begin with the inciting event, others emphasise the chain of events that occur in leading up to the key event, as depicted in Ashes . As the undertones of hope and faith are present throughout the collection, the varied plot structure of each story allows Kennedy to assert that no matter the circumstance of hardship, one can always find a glimpse of optimism within its depths. 

If you'd like to see another essay topic breakdown, you might like to check out our Like a House on Fire Essay Topic Breakdown blog post!

4. Essay Topics

The following essay topics are extracted from our Like a House on Fire Study Guide :

  • In Like a House on Fire, Kennedy illustrates that perfect families do not exist, and that family dysfunction is inevitable. To what extent do you agree?
  • The characters in Like a House on Fire are largely defined by social expectations of their gender. Discuss.
  • In Like a House on Fire, how does Kennedy show that in even times of hardship, human strength will prevail?
  • ‘The range of narrative points of views used in Like a House on Fire illustrate the characters’ deeply personal responses to life’s challenges.’ Discuss.
  • ‘…As the lifetime habit of keeping his responses to himself closed his mouth in a firm and well-worn line.’ How does Kennedy present communication as a key issue in the relationships in Like a House on Fire?

If you'd like to see A+ essays on these essay topics, complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so you can emulate this same success, then you'll definitely want to check out our Like a House on Fire Study Guide ! In it, we also cover advanced discussions on topics like authorial views and values, symbols and motifs and context completely broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here .

5. Resources

Like a House on Fire Essay Topic Breakdown

How To Get An A+ On Your Like A House On Fire Essay

Close Analysis Of 'Cake' From Like A House On Fire

The Importance of the Introduction

The Great Gatsby is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Call it the greatest American novel or ultimate story of unrequited romance— The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly a stunning snapshot of one of the most American decades that America has ever seen. The 1920s saw significant economic growth after WWI, and what’s more American than material excess, wealth, and prosperity? The stock market was going off, businesses were booming, and people were having a great time.

Well, not everybody—and on the flipside, what’s more American than socio-economic inequality or the ever-quixotic American Dream?

In this blog, we’ll go through the novel in this context, examine some of its key themes, and also have a think about the critiques it raises about American society. We’ll also go through an essay prompt that ties some of these things together.

Life in the Roaring Twenties

mage result for great gatsby movie"

This snapshot from the 2013 film adaptation actually tells us a lot about the 1920s. On the one hand, social and cultural norms were shifting—men no longer sported beards, and women were dressing more androgynously and provocatively. On the other hand, the modern, American economy was emerging—people began buying costly consumer goods (like cars, appliances, telephones etc.) using credit rather than cash. This meant that average American families were able to get these things for the first time, while more prosperous families were able to live in extreme excess.

In Fitzgerald’s novel, the Buchanans are one such family. Tom and his wife Daisy have belonged to the 1% for generations, and the 1920s saw them cement their wealth and status. At the same time, the booming economy meant that others (like the narrator Nick) were relocating to cities in pursuit of wealth, and (like Gatsby) making significant financial inroads themselves. 

The Great Gatsby traces how the differences between these characters can be destructive even if they’re all wealthy. Add a drop of Gatsby’s unrequited love for Daisy, and you have a story that ultimately examines how far people go for romance, and what money simply can’t buy. 

The answer to that isn’t so obvious though. Yes, money can’t buy love, but it also can’t buy a lot of other things associated with the lifestyle and the values of established wealth. We’ll get into some of this now.

Wealth and class

Fitzgerald explores tensions between three socio-economic classes—the establishment, the ‘nouveau riche’ and the working class.

Tom and Daisy belong to the ‘old money’ establishment, where wealth is generational and inherited . This means they were born into already wealthy families, which affects their upbringing and ultimately defines them, from the way they speak (Tom’s “paternal contempt” and Daisy’s voice, “full of money”) to their major life decisions (including marriage, symbolised through the “string of pearls” he buys for her—which, fun fact, is estimated to be worth millions of dollars today). It also affects their values, as we’ll see in the following section.  For now, consider this image of their home (and those ponies on the left, which they also own), described as follows:

mage result for tom and daisy buchanan house

“The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for [400 metres], jumping over sun-dials and brick walls and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.”

Nick Carraway also comes from a similar (though not as extravagant) background—his family had been rich by Midwestern standards for “three generations” before he came to New York.

Conversely, Gatsby belongs to the ‘ nouveau riche ’, or new money. Unlike the Buchanans, Gatsby was born into a poor family, only coming to wealth in the 1920s boom. Specifically, he inherited money from Dan Cody after running away from home at 17.

Although they are all rich, there are significant cultural differences between old and new money. Old money have their own culture of feigned politeness which Gatsby doesn’t quite get. When Tom and the Sloanes invite Nick and Gatsby to supper in chapter six, Gatsby naively accepts, to which Tom would respond behind his back, “Doesn’t he know [Mrs. Sloane] doesn’t want him?” Even though Gatsby is financially their equal, his newfound wealth can’t buy his way into their (nasty, horrible) lifestyle.

Finally, this is contrasted with the working class, particularly George and Myrtle Wilson who we meet in chapter two. They live in a grey “valley of ashes”, the detritus of a prosperous society whose wealth is limited to the 1%. Fitzgerald even calls it a “solemn dumping ground”, suggesting that life is precarious and difficult here. Consider what separates George—“blond, spiritless… and faintly handsome”—from Tom (hint: $$).

Myrtle is described differently, however—she is a “faintly stout” woman with “perceptible vitality”. This may be less of a description of her and more of a commentary on Tom’s sexuality, and what attracts him to her such that he cheats on Daisy with her. Still, Myrtle’s relative poverty is evident in her expressions of desire throughout their meeting—“I want to get one of those dogs,” she says, and Tom just hands her the money.

Ultimately, looking at the novel through the lens of class, we see a society where upward social mobility and making a living for yourself is possible, just not for everybody. Even when you get rich, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll suddenly, seamlessly integrate into the lives of old money. 

Morality and values

Added to this story of social stratification is a moral dimension, where Fitzgerald can be a little more critical. 

Firstly, old money is portrayed as shallow . Daisy’s marriage to Tom and the Sloanes’ insincerity are elements of this, but another good example is Gatsby’s party guests. Many aren’t actually invited—they invite themselves, and “they came and went without having met Gatsby at all.” Their vacuous relationship to Gatsby is exposed when he dies, and they completely abandon him. Klipspringer, “the boarder”, basically lived in Gatsby’s house, and even then he still wouldn’t come to the funeral, only calling up to get a “pair of shoes” back. 

The rich are also depicted as cruel and inconsiderate, insulated from repercussions by their wealth. Nick’s description of Tom’s “cruel body” is repeatedly realised, as he breaks Myrtle’s nose in chapter two and condescends Gatsby with “magnanimous scorn” in chapter seven. After Myrtle dies, Nick spots the Buchanans “conspiring” and describes them as “smash[ing] up things and creatures and then retreat[ing] back into their money or their vast carelessness”—he sees them as fundamentally selfish.

Gatsby is portrayed more sympathetically though, which may come from his humble upbringing and his desire to be liked. This is probably the key question of the novel—is he a hero, or a villain? The moral of the story, or a warning? Consumed by love, or corrupted by wealth?

I’m going to leave most of those for the next section, but I’ll finish here with one last snippet: Lucille, a guest at his parties, tears her dress and Gatsby immediately sends her a “new evening gown”. Weird flex, but at least he’s being selfless…

That said, a major part of Gatsby’s character is his dishonesty, which complicates his moral identity. 

For starters, he fabricates a new identity and deals in shady business just to reignite his five-year-old romance with Daisy. We see this through the emergence of Meyer Wolfsheim, with whom he has unclear business “gonnegtions”, and the resultant wealth he now enjoys. 

In chapter three, Owl Eyes describes Gatsby as a “regular Belasco”, comparing him to a film director who was well-known for the realism of his sets. This is a really lucid analysis of Gatsby, who is in many ways just like a film director constructing a whole fantasy world.

It’s also unclear if he loves Daisy for who she is, or just the idea of Daisy and the wealth she represents. Indeed, he doesn’t seem to treat her as a person, but more like something that he can pursue (like wealth). This is a good read, so I won’t really get into it here—just consider how much things have changed since Gatsby first met Daisy (like her marriage and her children), and how Gatsby ignores the way her life has changed in favour of his still, stationary memory of who she used to be.

Love, desire and hope

All of this makes it tricky to distil what the novel’s message actually is. 

Is it that Gatsby is a good person, especially cast against the corrupt old money?  

This analysis isn’t wrong, and it actually works well with a lot of textual evidence. Where Nick resents the Buchanans, he feels sympathy for Gatsby. He explicitly says, “they’re a rotten crowd…you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Maybe love was an honourable goal compared to money, which ostensibly makes you “cruel” and “careless”. 

I wouldn’t say he was cruel, but this reading is complicated by how he can be careless, choosing not to care about Daisy’s agency, and letting his desires overtake these considerations. 

Is it that Gatsby and his desire for Daisy were corrupted by wealth despite his good intentions? 

There’s also evidence to suggest wealth corrupts—Nick describes it as “foul dust” that “preyed” on Gatsby, eroding his good character and leaving behind someone who resembles the vacuous elite. Although love might’ve been an honourable goal, it got diluted by money. 

Gatsby’s paradigm for understanding the world becomes driven by materialism, and he objectifies Daisy. He starts trying to buy something that he originally didn’t need to buy—Daisy’s love. She certainly didn’t fall in love with this man who owned a mansion and a closet full of “beautiful shirts.” Thus, Gatsby is a sympathetic product of a system that was always stacked against him (a poor boy from North Dakota). Capitalism, right?

Is it that capitalist America provides nothing for people to pursue except for wealth, and therefore little reason for people to feel hope?

Past the basics: structural economic tension and the doomed American Dream

Now we want to start thinking beyond the characters (e.g. if Gatsby is a good person or not) and also factor in their social, historical, political and economic context (e.g. if he was doomed to begin with by a society driven by money). This subheading does sound a bit much, but we’ll break it down here. 

A key part of this novel is the American Dream, the idea that America is a land of freedom and equal opportunity, that anyone can ‘make it’ if they truly try. Value is placed on upward social mobility (moving up from a working-class background) and economic prosperity (making $$), which defined much of the Roaring 20s…

…for some. 

For many others, there was significant tension between these lofty values and their lived reality of life on the ground. As much as society around them was prospering, they just couldn’t get a piece of the pie, and this is what makes it structural—as hard as George Wilson might work, he just can’t get himself out of the Valley of Ashes and into wealth. Indeed, you can’t achieve the Dream without cheating (as Gatsby did). 

So, there’s this tension, this irreconcilable gap between economic goals and actual means. Through this lens, the tragedy of The Great Gatsby multiplies. It’s no longer just about someone who can’t buy love with money—it’s about how nobody’s dreams are really attainable. Not everyone can get money, and money can only get you so far. Everyone is stuck, and the American Dream is basically just a myth. 

Thus, the novel could be interpreted as a takedown of capitalist America, which convinced people like Gatsby that the answer to everything was money, and he bolted after the “green light” allure of cold, hard cash only to find out that it wasn’t enough, that it wasn’t the answer in the end.  (.

Consider what kind of message that sends to people like the Wilsons—if money can’t actually buy happiness, what good is it really to chase it? And remember that Gatsby had to cheat to get rich in the first place. 

Is [the novel’s message] that capitalist America provides nothing for people to pursue except for wealth, and therefore little reason for people to feel hope?

You tell me.

Prompt: what does Fitzgerald suggest about social stratification in the 1920s?

Let’s try applying this to a prompt. I’ll italicise the key points that have been brought up throughout this post. 

Firstly, social stratification clearly divided society along economic lines . This could be paragraph one, exploring how class separated the Buchanans and Wilsons of the world, and how their lifestyles were so completely different even though they all lived in the prosperity of the Roaring 20s . George Wilson was “worn-out” from work, but he still couldn’t generate upward social mobility for his family, stuck in the Valley of Ashes. Conversely, Tom Buchanan is born into a rich family with his beach-facing mansion and polo ponies . Colour is an important symbol here—the Valley is grey, while East Egg is filled with colour (a green light here, a “blue coupe” there…).

The next paragraph might look at the cultural dimension , exploring how you just can’t buy a way of life. This might involve analysing Gatsby’s wealth as deluding him into thinking he can “repeat the past” by buying into the life(style) of old money . This is where Fitzgerald disillusions us about the American Dream —he presents a reality where it isn’t possible for anyone to ‘make it’, where the Buchanans still treat you with scorn even if you’re just as wealthy. Gatsby’s dishonesty is ultimately a shallow one—try as he might, he just cannot fit in and win Daisy back.

Finally, we should consider the moral dimension —even though the wealthier socioeconomic classes enjoyed more lavish, luxurious lifestyles, Fitzgerald also argued that they were the most morally bankrupt. Money corrupted the wealthy to the point where they simply did not care about the lives of the poor, as seen in the Buchanans’ response to Myrtle’s death. Even Gatsby had to compromise his integrity and deal in shady business in order to get rich—he isn’t perfect either. Social stratification may look ostentatious and shiny on the outside, but the rich are actually portrayed as shallow and corrupt. 

A good essay on this novel will typically combine some of these dimensions and build a multilayered analysis. Stratification, love, wealth, morality—all of these big ideas can be broken down in terms of social, economic, cultural circumstances, so make sure to consider all angles when you write. 

Have a go at these prompts!

1. Nick is biased in his assessment of Gatsby—both of them are no better than the corrupt, wealthy Buchanans. Do you agree?

2. In The Great Gatsby , money is a stronger motivating factor than love. Do you agree?

3. Daisy Buchanan is more innocent than guilty—explore this statement with reference to at least 2 other characters. 

4. What does Fitzgerald say about happiness in The Great Gatsby ?

5. Is money the true antagonist of The Great Gatsby ?

6. The women of The Great Gatsby are all victims of a patriarchal society. To what extent do you agree? (Hint: are they all equally victimised?)

Challenge: According to Fitzgerald, what really lays underneath the façade of the Roaring 20s? Make reference to at least 2 symbols in The Great Gatsby . (Hint: façade = “an outward appearance that conceals a less pleasant reality” – think about things like colours, clothes, buildings etc.)

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VCE ENGLISH: Write a Text Response Introduction

One of the most important pieces of knowledge to any Year 12 English student is how to write a text response essay. Commonly seen as the easiest essay, the method of structuring a text response is often overly simplified, or simply not understood by students! The introduction to an essay is the very first thing your examiner/teacher will read, and is therefore very important to helping you immediately stand out and differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Firstly, your introduction is important because it is a key aspect to fulfilling the criterion of appropriate structure. Be clear and concise: it is always better to be clear than to use lots of big words which are not appropriate for the situation.

An introduction can be divided into three steps:

  • Firstly, briefly set up context . This might include the type of text (e.g. play, novel, short stories, poem collection etc.), very basic historical context (time period, subject matter), and any very important information which is the basis to the essay. Definitely do not spend more than one sentence doing so, as the most important part of the essay is to show your own opinion/knowledge of the given text, not just summarising what it is about.
  • Explicitly outline your contention . Your contention must be clearly addressing all aspects of the topic you are given, and it also needs to demonstrate that you can think independently (if you are aiming for top grades), even uniquely. Your angle on the topic is the single most important aspect to the essay.
  • Finally, briefly signpost the upcoming arguments in your essay. These are the points, or mini-contentions, forming the basis of each body paragraph. You should aim for at least 3 body paragraphs, up to 5 if you are ambitious. These mini-contentions must each relate both to the overall contention, and thus to the topic, which will add a feeling of cohesion and continuity to the essay

Overall, there is no need to write more than three or four or so sentences! If you write these sentences well, however, you will immediately create a positive impression of the essay, crucial to gaining the reader's attention.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: Effective Study Techniques , The ATAR and The Importance of Practice .

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

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How to Write an Effective Essay

Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

Related Articles

How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)   

essay introduction

The introduction of an essay plays a critical role in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. It sets the stage for the rest of the essay, establishes the tone and style, and motivates the reader to continue reading. 

Table of Contents

What is an essay introduction , what to include in an essay introduction, how to create an essay structure , step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction , how to write an introduction paragraph , how to write a hook for your essay , how to include background information , how to write a thesis statement .

  • Argumentative Essay Introduction Example: 
  • Expository Essay Introduction Example 

Literary Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Check and revise – checklist for essay introduction , key takeaways , frequently asked questions .

An introduction is the opening section of an essay, paper, or other written work. It introduces the topic and provides background information, context, and an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the work. 1 The key is to be concise and to the point, providing enough information to engage the reader without delving into excessive detail. 

The essay introduction is crucial as it sets the tone for the entire piece and provides the reader with a roadmap of what to expect. Here are key elements to include in your essay introduction: 

  • Hook : Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question to engage the reader. This could be a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a compelling anecdote. 
  • Background information : Provide context and background information to help the reader understand the topic. This can include historical information, definitions of key terms, or an overview of the current state of affairs related to your topic. 
  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your essay. 

Before we get into how to write an essay introduction, we need to know how it is structured. The structure of an essay is crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting them clearly and logically. It is divided as follows: 2  

  • Introduction:  The introduction should grab the reader’s attention with a hook, provide context, and include a thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.  
  • Body:  The body should consist of focused paragraphs that support your thesis statement using evidence and analysis. Each paragraph should concentrate on a single central idea or argument and provide evidence, examples, or analysis to back it up.  
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion should summarize the main points and restate the thesis differently. End with a final statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid new information or arguments. 

how to start text response essay

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: 

  • Start with a Hook : Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic. The hook should pique the reader’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. 
  • Provide Background Information : This helps the reader understand the relevance and importance of the topic. 
  • State Your Thesis Statement : The last sentence is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and directly address the topic of your essay. 
  • Preview the Main Points : This gives the reader an idea of what to expect and how you will support your thesis. 
  • Keep it Concise and Clear : Avoid going into too much detail or including information not directly relevant to your topic. 
  • Revise : Revise your introduction after you’ve written the rest of your essay to ensure it aligns with your final argument. 

Here’s an example of an essay introduction paragraph about the importance of education: 

Education is often viewed as a fundamental human right and a key social and economic development driver. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is the key to unlocking a wide range of opportunities and benefits for individuals, societies, and nations. In today’s constantly evolving world, education has become even more critical. It has expanded beyond traditional classroom learning to include digital and remote learning, making education more accessible and convenient. This essay will delve into the importance of education in empowering individuals to achieve their dreams, improving societies by promoting social justice and equality, and driving economic growth by developing a skilled workforce and promoting innovation. 

This introduction paragraph example includes a hook (the quote by Nelson Mandela), provides some background information on education, and states the thesis statement (the importance of education). 

This is one of the key steps in how to write an essay introduction. Crafting a compelling hook is vital because it sets the tone for your entire essay and determines whether your readers will stay interested. A good hook draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.  

  • Avoid Dry Fact : Instead of simply stating a bland fact, try to make it engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about the benefits of exercise, you could start with a startling statistic like, “Did you know that regular exercise can increase your lifespan by up to seven years?” 
  • Avoid Using a Dictionary Definition : While definitions can be informative, they’re not always the most captivating way to start an essay. Instead, try to use a quote, anecdote, or provocative question to pique the reader’s interest. For instance, if you’re writing about freedom, you could begin with a quote from a famous freedom fighter or philosopher. 
  • Do Not Just State a Fact That the Reader Already Knows : This ties back to the first point—your hook should surprise or intrigue the reader. For Here’s an introduction paragraph example, if you’re writing about climate change, you could start with a thought-provoking statement like, “Despite overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe in the reality of climate change.” 

Including background information in the introduction section of your essay is important to provide context and establish the relevance of your topic. When writing the background information, you can follow these steps: 

  • Start with a General Statement:  Begin with a general statement about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific focus. For example, when discussing the impact of social media, you can begin by making a broad statement about social media and its widespread use in today’s society, as follows: “Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of users worldwide.” 
  • Define Key Terms : Define any key terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers but are essential for understanding your argument. 
  • Provide Relevant Statistics:  Use statistics or facts to highlight the significance of the issue you’re discussing. For instance, “According to a report by Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025.” 
  • Discuss the Evolution:  Mention previous research or studies that have been conducted on the topic, especially those that are relevant to your argument. Mention key milestones or developments that have shaped its current impact. You can also outline some of the major effects of social media. For example, you can briefly describe how social media has evolved, including positives such as increased connectivity and issues like cyberbullying and privacy concerns. 
  • Transition to Your Thesis:  Use the background information to lead into your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your essay. For example, “Given its pervasive influence, it is crucial to examine the impact of social media on mental health.” 

how to start text response essay

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, or other type of academic writing. It appears near the end of the introduction. Here’s how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Identify the topic:  Start by identifying the topic of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the importance of exercise for overall health, your topic is “exercise.” 
  • State your position:  Next, state your position or claim about the topic. This is the main argument or point you want to make. For example, if you believe that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining good health, your position could be: “Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health.” 
  • Support your position:  Provide a brief overview of the reasons or evidence that support your position. These will be the main points of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about the importance of exercise, you could mention the physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and the role of exercise in disease prevention. 
  • Make it specific:  Ensure your thesis statement clearly states what you will discuss in your essay. For example, instead of saying, “Exercise is good for you,” you could say, “Regular exercise, including cardiovascular and strength training, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.” 

Examples of essay introduction 

Here are examples of essay introductions for different types of essays: 

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example:  

Topic: Should the voting age be lowered to 16? 

“The question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 has sparked nationwide debate. While some argue that 16-year-olds lack the requisite maturity and knowledge to make informed decisions, others argue that doing so would imbue young people with agency and give them a voice in shaping their future.” 

Expository Essay Introduction Example  

Topic: The benefits of regular exercise 

“In today’s fast-paced world, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. From improving physical health to boosting mental well-being, the benefits of exercise are numerous and far-reaching. This essay will examine the various advantages of regular exercise and provide tips on incorporating it into your daily routine.” 

Text: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 

“Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is a timeless classic that explores themes of racism, injustice, and morality in the American South. Through the eyes of young Scout Finch, the reader is taken on a journey that challenges societal norms and forces characters to confront their prejudices. This essay will analyze the novel’s use of symbolism, character development, and narrative structure to uncover its deeper meaning and relevance to contemporary society.” 

  • Engaging and Relevant First Sentence : The opening sentence captures the reader’s attention and relates directly to the topic. 
  • Background Information : Enough background information is introduced to provide context for the thesis statement. 
  • Definition of Important Terms : Key terms or concepts that might be unfamiliar to the audience or are central to the argument are defined. 
  • Clear Thesis Statement : The thesis statement presents the main point or argument of the essay. 
  • Relevance to Main Body : Everything in the introduction directly relates to and sets up the discussion in the main body of the essay. 

how to start text response essay

Writing a strong introduction is crucial for setting the tone and context of your essay. Here are the key takeaways for how to write essay introduction: 3  

  • Hook the Reader : Start with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. This could be a compelling question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or an anecdote. 
  • Provide Background : Give a brief overview of the topic, setting the context and stage for the discussion. 
  • Thesis Statement : State your thesis, which is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be concise, clear, and specific. 
  • Preview the Structure : Outline the main points or arguments to help the reader understand the organization of your essay. 
  • Keep it Concise : Avoid including unnecessary details or information not directly related to your thesis. 
  • Revise and Edit : Revise your introduction to ensure clarity, coherence, and relevance. Check for grammar and spelling errors. 
  • Seek Feedback : Get feedback from peers or instructors to improve your introduction further. 

The purpose of an essay introduction is to give an overview of the topic, context, and main ideas of the essay. It is meant to engage the reader, establish the tone for the rest of the essay, and introduce the thesis statement or central argument.  

An essay introduction typically ranges from 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 1,000-word essay, the introduction would be roughly 50-100 words. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the overall length of the essay.

An essay introduction is critical in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. To ensure its effectiveness, consider incorporating these key elements: a compelling hook, background information, a clear thesis statement, an outline of the essay’s scope, a smooth transition to the body, and optional signposting sentences.  

The process of writing an essay introduction is not necessarily straightforward, but there are several strategies that can be employed to achieve this end. When experiencing difficulty initiating the process, consider the following techniques: begin with an anecdote, a quotation, an image, a question, or a startling fact to pique the reader’s interest. It may also be helpful to consider the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how.   For instance, an anecdotal opening could be structured as follows: “As I ascended the stage, momentarily blinded by the intense lights, I could sense the weight of a hundred eyes upon me, anticipating my next move. The topic of discussion was climate change, a subject I was passionate about, and it was my first public speaking event. Little did I know , that pivotal moment would not only alter my perspective but also chart my life’s course.” 

Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your introduction paragraph is crucial to grab your reader’s attention. To achieve this, avoid using overused phrases such as “In this paper, I will write about” or “I will focus on” as they lack originality. Instead, strive to engage your reader by substantiating your stance or proposition with a “so what” clause. While writing your thesis statement, aim to be precise, succinct, and clear in conveying your main argument.  

To create an effective essay introduction, ensure it is clear, engaging, relevant, and contains a concise thesis statement. It should transition smoothly into the essay and be long enough to cover necessary points but not become overwhelming. Seek feedback from peers or instructors to assess its effectiveness. 

References  

  • Cui, L. (2022). Unit 6 Essay Introduction.  Building Academic Writing Skills . 
  • West, H., Malcolm, G., Keywood, S., & Hill, J. (2019). Writing a successful essay.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education ,  43 (4), 609-617. 
  • Beavers, M. E., Thoune, D. L., & McBeth, M. (2023). Bibliographic Essay: Reading, Researching, Teaching, and Writing with Hooks: A Queer Literacy Sponsorship. College English, 85(3), 230-242. 

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Trump has been unable to get bond for $464 million judgment, his lawyers say

Former President Donald Trump has not been able to get a bond to secure the $464 million civil fraud judgment against him and his co-defendants, his lawyers said in a court filing Monday.

Trump and his company need to post a bond for the full amount by next week in order to stop New York Attorney General Letitia James from being able to collect while he appeals . They've asked an appeals court to step in in the meantime and said Monday that they have not had any success getting a bond.

"Defendants’ ongoing diligent efforts have proven that a bond in the judgment’s full amount is 'a practical impossibility,'" the filing said. "These diligent efforts have included approaching about 30 surety companies through 4 separate brokers."

Donald Trump during a "Get Out The Vote" rally in Rome, Ga.

Their efforts, including “countless hours negotiating with one of the largest insurance companies in the world,” have proven that “obtaining an appeal bond in the full amount” of the judgment “is not possible under the circumstances presented,” the filing said.

The other bond companies will not “accept hard assets such as real estate as collateral,” but “will only accept cash or cash equivalents (such as marketable securities),” the filing said. The lawyers also noted those companies typically “require collateral of approximately 120% of the amount of the judgment” — which would total about $557 million.

"In addition, sureties would likely charge bond premiums of approximately 2 percent per year with two years in advance—an upfront cost over $18 million," the filing said. That $18 million would not be recoverable even if Trump wins his appeal.

In all, the filing said, the "actual amount of cash or cash equivalents required 'to collateralize the bond and have sufficient capital to run the business and satisfy its other obligations' approach[es] $1 billion."

While the filing says Trump can't afford the bond, it also argues that the attorney general doesn't have to worry about being able to collect her judgment.

"Defendants’ real estate holdings — including iconic properties like 40 Wall Street, Doral Miami, and Mar-a-Lago, — greatly exceed the amount of the judgment. Such assets are impossible to secrete or dispose of surreptitiously, leaving the plaintiff effectively secured during the pendency of an appeal," the filing said.

Trump's team also argued the $464 million penalty is "grossly disproportional" and cited the argument they made throughout the monthslong trial that "there are no victims, as there were no damages and no financial losses." 

In a filing last month, Trump's lawyers asked that the bond amount be reduced to $100 million, but Monday's filing argues he shouldn't have to put up any bond at all.

James' office has argued that Trump should put up the full amount.

A 30-day automatic stay of the judgment handed down by Judge Arthur Engoron is set to expire March 25, at which point James would be clear to start seizing Trump's assets unless the appeals court steps in.

James would not need an additional court order to start collecting in New York, where Trump has his company and a large number of real estate assets, but those efforts could be complicated by any mortgages or debts he has on those properties. It’s unclear what properties or assets James might look to seize.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump's campaign, said in a statement that the judgment is "unjust, unconstitutional" and "un-American."

"A bond of this size would be an abuse of the law," he said.

Trump asked that if the state Appellate Division denies his request, the judges enter a temporary stay so he can try to make his case to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Engoron handed down his judgment last month after finding Trump and his company had repeatedly committed fraud by overinflating personal financial statements that he used to secure bank loans and insurance policies. James' office said there were years when Trump's assets were overvalued by more than $2 billion.

Trump maintained he did nothing wrong and testified that, if anything, his properties were undervalued.

The judge hit Trump and his co-defendants with a judgment saying they had to pay over $350 million — an amount that ballooned to $464 million with pre-judgment interest. Of that amount on the date the judgment was entered, the vast majority, or about $454 million, was against Trump and his companies.

That amount has grown since — the judgment against Trump will increase at a daily rate of nearly $112,000 until it’s paid off because of interest on the penalty, according to the attorney general’s office.

The filing Monday seeking to freeze the entire $464 million was filed on behalf of Trump and his co-defendants, including his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who've been running the Trump Organization since their father first went to the White House.  

In a separate case in New York federal court, Trump last week posted a $91 million bond to secure writer E. Jean Carroll's $83 million defamation judgment against him while he appeals that verdict as well.

how to start text response essay

Adam Reiss is a reporter and producer for NBC and MSNBC.

how to start text response essay

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Strong Response Essay

    See all the different steps in action to make writing a response essay a breeze. ... As you summarize the work and your response, you may start to see something you missed. Creating an Outline & Writing Your Paper. An outline isn't a necessity. However, it'll make the process of writing the actual paper easier because everything will be ...

  2. How to write a text response

    The Process: To ensure students fully understand the question, have them underline or highlight keywords in the sentence or question. Distribute thesauruses and have students find synonyms for the keywords that they have highlighted. Have them rewrite the question as a series of questions in their own words.

  3. How to Write a Text Response Essay: Structure & Tips

    When writing the body of your text response essay you should include 3 to 5 paragraphs. This allows you to be able to discuss your topics and your text in as much detail as possible. When writing your body paragraphs, it could be helpful to remember the acronym 'TEEL'. Topic Sentence - Each paragraph should begin with this sentence; it ...

  4. How To Write a Response Paper in 5 Steps (Plus Tips)

    Use concise and short paragraphs to cover each topic, theme or reaction. Use a new paragraph for each new topic discussed. Go into detail on your findings and reactions related to the text and try to maintain consistency and a clear flow throughout the body of your response paper. 5. Summarize your thoughts.

  5. How to Write a Reading Response Essay With Sample Papers

    5 Responses. 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 ...

  6. How to write a Text Response

    *** OPEN FOR TIMESTAMPS + RESOURCES + INFO! *** A long awaited video! Here's how to write a Text Response essay, breaking down introduction, body paragraph...

  7. How to Write a Response Essay With Magazine Article Example

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  8. How to Write a Response Paper: A Comprehensive Guide

    Carefully Read and Analyze the Text. The first step in response paper creation is to carefully read and analyze the text. This involves more than just reading the words on the page; it requires critical thinking and analysis. As you read, pay attention to the author's tone, style, and use of language.

  9. How to Write a Response Essay Guide: Tips, Topics, Examples

    Introduction. Paragraph 1: The first part of the introduction which needs to be vivid, catchy and reflect the point you are about to make. Paragraph 2: Provide a context to your response essay: details about the source-text and the author and what the main points in the article are. Body.

  10. Writing a text response essay: notes, tips and sample paras

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  11. How To Write Response Essay

    Step 1 - Read and Understand the Work Before you can write a good response essay, you first need to read and understand the work that you're responding to. Whether it's a book, movie, article, or poem, the quality of your response paper is directly proportional to how well you've understood the source material.

  12. How To Start A Response: Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 1: Understand the Prompt. Before you start writing your response, it's important to fully understand the prompt or question that has been given to you. Taking the time to analyze and comprehend the prompt will help you structure your response effectively and ensure that you address all the necessary points.

  13. How to Write a Response Paper

    The steps for completing a reaction or response paper are: Observe or read the piece for an initial understanding. Mark interesting pages with a sticky flag or take notes on the piece to capture your first impressions. Reread the marked pieces and your notes and stop to reflect often. Record your thoughts. Develop a thesis.

  14. 5.7: Sample Response Essays

    Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" in PDF with margin notes. Sample response paper "Typography and Identity" accessible version with notes in parentheses. This page titled 5.7: Sample Response Essays is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills ( ASCCC Open Educational Resources ...

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    A response paper is a type of academic writing that requires you to express your personal opinion and analysis of a text, film, event, or issue. If you want to learn how to write a response paper that is clear, coherent, and engaging, you should follow our guide and use our essay examples. You will find out how to create an outline, structure your paper, and use appropriate language and tone ...

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    45. Updated: To write a reader response, develop a clear thesis statement and choose example passages from the text that support your thesis. Next, write an introduction paragraph that specifies the name of the text, the author, the subject matter, and your thesis. Then, include 3-4 paragraphs that discuss and analyze the text.

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    For example, in Florida, students are expected to write text-based essays starting in fourth grade. This shift to fact-based writing is one of the most significant changes I have seen in education since I started teaching in the 1990s. ... Open-Response Writing. Open-response writing is an essay that requires writers to cite text evidence to ...

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  21. The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

    Unit 3 EAL - 40 marks. Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last.

  22. Summary-Response Writing Breakdown

    Identify the author (s) and the piece of writing that is being addressed. Give a brief summary that highlights the key parts, tone, arguments, or attitude. This may or may not include direct quotations. Critically evaluate the piece of writing. Depending on the task, this could include any sort of response, including but not limited to ...

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    One of the most important pieces of knowledge to any Year 12 English student is how to write a text response essay. Commonly seen as the easiest essay, the method of structuring a text response is often overly simplified, or simply not understood by students! ... Start your search today. Share this post. Article Author Klein E. Find Online & In ...

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    Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes. 5. Think About Your Response. Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you're genuinely enthusiastic about your subject.

  26. How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)

    Step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction Here's a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: Start with a Hook: Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic.The hook should pique the reader's interest and encourage them to continue reading.

  27. Trump has been unable to get bond for $464 million judgment, his

    Former President Donald Trump has not been able to get a bond to secure the $464 million civil fraud judgment against him and his co-defendants, his lawyers said in a court filing Monday.

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