The Secret to Writing Successful Reaction Papers

A reaction essay is basically a commentary on a work and why it made you feel a certain way and can include why you indulged it in the first place. Roughly any material can be the subject of a reaction essay:

  • Movie or other video
  • Book or other writing
  • Album or other sound recording
  • Video game
  • Artwork

Whatever the subject of your essay is, you’ll have some reaction to it whether it is a strong emotional response, boredom, disinterest, and so on. The steps to doing a reaction essay are simple as with most essays.

  • Familiarize yourself with the material.
  • Take notes.
  • Do an outline.
  • Write the essay.

Familiarize Yourself with the Material

All you have to do here is read, watch, listen, or play whatever it is you’re going to do the essay on. You’ll need to have some sort of interaction with the subject before you can even start.

Take Notes

During your reading, viewing, listening, and playing experience you should take notes. At pivotal points in the material, write the event and your thoughts on it. Anything can be included as well as your feelings about the pace of the material and quality. Notes can be vague, but it’s best that they are somewhat detailed.


Structure your notes and ask questions. An outline will prove to be a guide for how your essay should flow as well—which are extremely important. You’ll want to ask about yourself how you felt about the material, what imagery stood out to you, what the creator managed to get through in their work, and so on. Simple questions will do as it will be similar to have many smaller thesis statements that you will address.

Write the Essay

This is the same process for any other essay you’ve done in your academic career. You’ll want a strong introduction about what your reaction was to certain things or the work overall. The bulk of the essay will be about why you felt a certain way about what the author, director, etc. set out to present and the reactions they wanted to evoke as well as your opinions on the author’s message.

Quotes, studies, and research are all important here as in any essay, but take more of a shotgun seat than the driver’s seat to your essay. Overall, this form of essay could be more of a commentary.

You’ll want to close with what your reaction was to the work and if it changed anything about your initial thoughts going in about what the work itself or the topic it addressed if any.