A reaction paper is one of the most common writing assignments given at the college level, as it requires students to employ critical thinking skills when developing their unique perspective on a particular reading. A reaction paper is not based in summary, but instead in evaluation and assessment; the writer does not tell the reader what the text was about, but instead focuses on its strengths and weaknesses, its primary argument or arguments, and whether or not the author effectively plead their case through their writing.
A reaction paper, however, is not as easy as it might sound. To write an effective reaction paper, students must read the given piece thoroughly, and then dedicate enough time and energy to think critically about it. It should be read multiple times, ensuring that all the key points are understood and considered for overall effectiveness. When reading, the document can be annotated with initial reactions or notes; additional questions that arise when reading should be noted and, ideally, answered with additional research. Too often, students read something quickly and write a cursory reaction to what they think the author was saying; by giving oneself enough time to read and think critically about the document, students are able to write a more in-depth reaction that fully expresses their thoughts and opinions and appropriately reflects their ability to evaluate an assigned text.