The goal of writing a response to an article, a chapter, or a book is to create meaning from the text rather than simply absorbing the material. The process of responding enables you to better grasp the original, and the result shows the reader that you understand it as well. In addition, the knowledge gained allows you to better analyze and critique the original. Ultimately, your college career will most likely ask you to devise your own paper topics—rather than responding to the questions a professor might pose about a text (literary or otherwise). You will be asked to make an academic argument—without the guidance of “leading” questions. The purpose, then, of this chapter response assignment is to help you begin to see the kinds of issues that most interest you in the texts you read. From there, you can begin to take control of your academic voice.
Writing a chapter response paper might seem to imply that you will be writing about your emotional responses and reactions to a particular text, that you will be answering the question: “How did you feel about the text?” This is NOT what you are to do in a critical response paper. In this sort of paper, “How did you feel” is a legitimate starting point perhaps, but what is more interesting is why you felt that way and what connections you can make between the text, your life, and the world.
You may choose to write about your own reaction to the chapter as a whole or you may choose to write about a particular point or points made by the author. Whatever you choose to focus on, the response must be critical, not simply a description of your own personal feelings about the essay. The...