Reaction Papers Guidelines

A reaction paper can seem, and can be, a little free form in that I am asking for your reaction to something (article, video, podcast, movie, etc). That can seem both daunting (who am I to judge?) and formless (what, I can just B.S. this?). Neither is true. What I am asking is your reaction to why the piece was important. The closest match to this in current media is the opinion piece. I don’t mean the noise that sometimes passes for news on cable TV, but rather the opinion pieces found on most major media outlets. This differs from a new story (just the facts) in that the author expresses a point of view – often personal or partisan – and wants to make a quality argument on its behalf. Given that some of the topics will be new to you so I don't necessarily expect you to have deep expertise but rather to bring to the paper what you have learned in the class and in college. I don’t expect you to be partisan (some of this isn’t easily placed in current partisanship) or ideological (although this is okay) but you should express an informed opinion.


1. Consider the article, video, or podcast carefully.

2. Think about 1 or 2 major points you want to articulate in your paper.

3. Describe your point first ("Lessons Learned," "What you agreed on…" or "What you disagreed on…") in the first paragraph.

4. Justify why you think that way.

5. Describe how the topic relates to other parts of the class and/or how it relates to some current event. This is your chance to relate history to your life. Did you change your mind or reconsider a previously held position (you don’t have to). Provide sufficient background information and how your example(s) support your argument.

Desirable Formats

1. Follow the guidelines for writing a paper (see syllabus and my web page).

2. Normally, when structuring a paper one idea per paragraph is the goal.

3. After you finish articulating all the points, have a conclusive statement at the end. The conclusion should agree with your opening thesis, for the most part.

4. Limit your quantity to 1 to 2 pages, typed double spaced.

5. Please proofread your reaction paper carefully to avoid any grammatical mistakes or typos.

Do Not

1. Just summarize what you read (I want to see your thoughtful and well-argued thoughts - not a summary)

2. No evidence to back up your point (e.g. no examples)

3. Provide random examples without making careful effort to relate to your point.