Reaction Paper Format

Reaction Paper Format

A reaction paper format refers to the structure or organization of a reaction paper. The basis of the format of writing a reaction paper is the APA or the American Psychological Association’s guidelines. These guidelines are accepted as the format of writing materials for any higher education institution and they are common in colleges globally. This format has been accepted and used since the early 1920s. However, the guidelines are revised and updated from time to time but the overall basic components of this format remain the same-

A reaction paper is simply a response paper. It is a form of writing in which the writer is required to analyze a work and then come up with a commentary that relates to it- It is simply a response to a prompt where the prompt can be a current occurrence or event, a question, media that includes a movie or a video clip or a text. This form of writing is very common in the academic world because to accomplish it you have to engage in thoughtful reading, research and analysis first.

When the instructor asks you to write a reaction paper, he/she wants you to share your thoughts about a topic, an issue or work. Although everybody can have a thought or opinion about something students are expected to have higher level thoughts or opinions. It is important to remember that you are also expected to express your opinion or thought on the basis of what you have been taught. Additionally, your writing should be structured in an academic way which includes referencing the work.

Additionally, your reaction paper must:

  • Include your thoughts or opinion about something with evidence to support that opinion or thought.
  • Be organized.
  • Be based on something that you have seen, read or watched.
  • Provide a summary of what you are responding or reacting to.
  • Explain a reaction or reactions to the topic clearly while explaining the reason or reasons for thinking or reacting this way to the topic, issue or work.
  • Analyze, judge or evaluate the issues of a topic that you are reacting to.
  • Identify and then discuss polarizing issues.

Organizing a reaction paper in an acceptable reaction paper format

Once you have known what your paper should include, it is important to know how to organize it in the acceptable format. Just like any other academic paper, a reaction paper must be organized into three sections. It must have an introduction, the body part and the conclusion.

  • The introduction

The introduction of a reaction paper should convey all basic information. It can be one or two paragraphs.

It should have the following:

  • Sentence 1: This should provide the title, name of the author or creator of the work and the work or publication that you are reacting to.
  • Sentence 2, 3 and in some cases 4: These should summarize the studied or analyzed work that is being reacted to.
  • Sentence 5: This should be a thesis statement. In this sentence, you can state your disagreeing or agreeing remarks, evaluate or identity something.

The introduction of a reaction paper should have a focused and concise thesis statement which is a statement of your specific response or reaction.

  • The body

The body of a reaction paper should support the thesis statement that you state in the introduction. Every paragraph should have a single idea but all sentences should be in support of the stated thesis statement. The final sentence in every paragraph should be a link or transition to another paragraph.

  • Conclusion

The conclusion should restate what you stated in the introduction or comment on the overall reaction. It can also predict the effect that what you are reacting to will have. However, the introduction should not include new information-

Sample format of a reaction paper

To know how to format a reaction paper, you need a sample reaction paper format to guide you.

Here is a sample format that can guide you in organizing a reaction paper of three or four pages:


  • Introduce the reaction paper’s topic and summarize the topic issues briefly.
  • Explain the reasons for discussing the topic or why it is important.
  • Explain your own position about that particular topic.


  1. Main Idea: State the first main idea in one or two clear sentences
  • Cite relevant examples or evidence to support the first main idea.
  • Develop the paragraph of this idea by explaining your thought or opinion. Make sure that you convince the instructor that your thought or opinion is based on research and careful analysis of the work.
  • Tell the instructor or reader what your thought was before reading or analyzing the work and what you think about it now after reading or analyzing the work and why. Be careful not to say, “I feel” and instead use “I think” because thinking is more active than feeling.
  1. Main idea: State your second main idea
  • Provide evidence or examples to support your second main idea.
  • Develop another paragraph that explains your thought or opinion just the way you did with the first main idea.
  1. Repeat this format or organization with all main ideas and then move on to the concluding paragraph.


  • Restate your thesis statement or remind the instructor or readers your thought about the topic and changes that you have gone through after analyzing the work if any.
  • Summarize the entire paper in a brief manner.
  • Wrap up the paper with a strong concluding sentence so that you can keep readers thinking about the topic or the reaction paper.

After writing your reaction paper, use citations in referencing the points that you used as the evidence for supporting your main ideas. This enhances the credibility of your reaction paper because it proves that you took time to study and analyze the work.

A guide on how to format body paragraphs of a reaction paper

To write a strong reaction paper, make sure that each paragraph is a response to the work that you are required to respond or react to. Thus, the reaction paper format that you adopt should enable you to express your thoughts about the topic or work clearly in every paragraph-

To write such paragraphs:

  • Write a topic sentence for each body paragraph or the main idea that states your reaction to a point that the creator of the original work made in a brief manner.
  • Describe your response or reaction in details by stating your observations, thoughts and opinions about that particular point.
  • Explain why you react to that particular point that way.
  • Reflect on the essence of the event or point to the real world, your life, school or course.
  • Conclude the paragraph with a single sentence that indicates that the presented ideas have come to an end. Conclude the paragraph instead of ending it abruptly.
  • Edit the paragraph to ensure clarity, proper grammar and to eliminate mistakes.

How you organize or format a reaction paper can vary depending on the purpose, audience and assignment limitations. For instance, you can take a specific-to-general approach or a general-to-specific approach. You can also use an informal format or a structured format depending on the audience and the purpose of writing the paper. However, regardless of the organization or format that you take, make sure that your approach enables you to react or respond to the original work by analyzing it carefully.

The ideal reaction paper format

An ideal format for writing a reaction paper should enable you to examine the original work extensively and conclusively. This includes examining how ideas are expressed and how they relate to each other in the entire work. The format should also enable you to relate the work with your pre-existing experiences and knowledge about the issue or topic. Such a format enables you to depict personal experiences and knowledge about the topic in a way that shows your analysis of the message that the creator of the work conveys or tries to convey.

Remember that reaction papers are written in an expressive manner. Therefore, an ideal format for writing a reaction paper should enable you to structure your thoughts about the topic, issue or work in a flowing manner. It should enable you to depict your imaginative character and the ability to use language effectively. As such, although you are allowed to free-write while writing a reaction paper, it is advisable that you adopt a format that allows you to organize thoughts and your argument in a clear manner. Also know the kind of thoughts or thinking that the instructor expects you to depict in the reaction paper. If there are no provided guidelines, ask the instructor to provide them before you start formatting your reaction paper.

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