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Writing a personal Response


What is a personal response?

A personal response is a paper which explains your own reactions to what you have read. Your emotions and perspectives are prominent; your writing should be honest and personal, not dry and scholarly. (This does not mean that you can get away with poor writing, however. Your paper should still be clear and effective!) When you write a personal response, use "I."

A personal response, by definition, can take any of several forms. Your professor should let you know if he or she wants you to adhere to any specific guidelines.

How do I write a personal response?

Here are three types of personal responses, which might help get you started:

1. You can write your personal response in much the same manner as you write other types of essays: You state a thesis--in this case, you describe your emotional reaction to what you have read (anger, sadness, hilarity, joy, tedium, confusion, etc.). In the body of your essay, you analyze why the work moves you the way it does. Your analysis describes the elements that stand out in the work--for example, in the case of fiction, these elements might include themes, the plot, characters, atmosphere, structure, language, particular episodes, or powerful passages.

2. If you do not have a strong reaction to the work--or if you do, but you cannot explain it--you may write a personal response in which you simply point out any elements that are most vivid to you and tell what it is about these things that attracted your attention and interest.

3. Finally, you might tell a story from your own life which relates to the work. Perhaps you have gone through an experience like that of one of the characters. Maybe you or someone you know is similar to one of the characters. Or perhaps the images or emotions evoked by the work remind you of something you have experienced.

What other information should I put into my essay?

Regardless of which approach you use in your personal response, your introduction should mention (1) the title and author of the work, (2) what it was about the work which evoked your response, and (3) what your response was.

You should quote from the work if there is a specific passage that has affected you (but avoid long quotations). In writing one of the first two types of responses (as opposed to telling a story), you should illustrate each point with at least one exact quotation or paraphrase from the work. Also tell the reader where the passage is found in the text (put a page number or line number in parenthesis after the quotation or paraphrase), and briefly describe the context. Be clear; be concise, but do not leave the reader guessing what the passage is about and why you chose it.

In a personal response, express any opinions or emotions you wish, and use informal language if it is appropriate, but discuss your ideas clearly, in logical order, and with good evidence from the text.





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