The purposes of a reaction paper are to help you develop a more thorough understanding of that week’s readings, to assist you in preparing for class discussion, and to help you prepare to take the comprehensive exam for your M.A. degree.
What is a Reaction Paper?
In analyzing the readings, it may be helpful to think about some the following questions and others like them:
Does the author(s) build a persuasive case for the main argument?
What are the reading’s strengths and weaknesses? Are these theoretical or methodological?
What are the main points of debate that arise for you after completing the reading?
How and why could the authors have gone further in their arguments than they did?
Does some point in the reading need further investigation?
What is the strongest scholarly contribution found in the reading?
Is there a common theme found throughout the week’s readings?
Are there contradictions found in the week’s readings? Can they be resolved?
How does this reading tie in with readings or themes discussed previously in the course?
Reaction papers do not need to cover all of the readings for a particular week (although they can). You may want to concentrate on one point or issue that the readings bring up for you and use your paper to develop that point. However, reaction papers must respond to specific required readings for that week, not just be about the week’s general topic and not address a supplemental or suggested reading. Example: If the week’s topic is “Political Parties,” your paper must be a reaction to the actual readings for class and should not simply be your other thoughts on the subject of political parties.
What is required?
You are assigned to write five separate reaction papers on five different sets of required (not supplemental or suggested) weekly readings. You cannot turn in more than one reaction paper per class period and set of readings. There will be no exceptions. Reaction papers are due in hard copy in class.
Each reaction paper should be two pages long, typed, double-spaced, with normal font and margins (one inch all around, Times New Roman 12 point font). Do not take up half of the first page putting the name of this class, the course number, my name, etc. Just your name, the date, and a title will be sufficient. For each reaction paper that you turn in, please indicate at the top of the first page which number paper you are on. Example: “Reaction Paper 3.” Please print your papers double-sided. Eliminate any extra lines or spaces between your paragraphs.
Citations and References
Always give credit to sources that you use in your paper, including the course books and readings. The general rule is that you must cite all information and ideas you get from an outside source, including ideas that you put into your own words. You are not expected to cite common knowledge or your own thinking (for example, that the sky is blue).
Citations should appear in parenthesis in the text as: (author year, page number). You should put a citation at the end of the sentence that contains the information from your source. Do not just put citations at the end of a paragraph in an attempt to use a single citation for the whole paragraph.
Please follow the guidelines of the Style Manual for Political Science. Do not use a different citation style, such as APA. A pdf copy of the relevant sections of the Style Manual for Political Science is available on Blackboard. Use of a style other than that outlined in the Style Manual for Political Science can result in a lower grade.
Use only in-text citations for your paper. Do not use footnotes. Do not use Ibid or Id. If you have any questions about how to properly use in-text citations, please ask me.
You cannot include sources that you do not actually cite in your list of references.
Reaction Paper Tips and Suggestions
Critically examine the readings – either positively or negatively. Specifically react to the week’s assigned readings. Don’t just write generally about the week’s topic. Don’t just make a list of questions. Don’t discuss whether you enjoy the author’s writing style. Don’t summarize the readings.
Write two full pages, and use one-inch margins. Don’t write one and a half pages. Don’t write three pages.
Use correct grammar and spelling. Don’t turn in a paper that hasn’t been checked for spelling and grammar. Graduate-level writing should be virtually error-free.
Reaction Paper Checklist – Did you:
Use Times New Roman, 12 point font? ? ?
Set your margins at one inch on all sides? ? ?
Use correct spelling and grammar? ? ?
Write two full pages? ? ?
Print your paper double-sided? ? ?
Critically examine and specifically react to an assigned reading? ? ?
Indicate which number paper you are on (e.g., Reaction Paper 3)? ? ?
Eliminate any extra spacing or lines between paragraphs? ? ?