Summary/Reaction Papers—What Are They?
- In a reaction paper, your job is to, in the space of 6 double-spaced pages, (A) summarize the key points in the reading (2-3 pages) and (B) offer some commentary on one or more points in the readings which you find interesting or problematic (3-4 pages).
- Summary/reaction papers can be about any of the readings.
- Papers must be passed in (via Moodle) on or before the day in which the reading is to be covered in class. The papers must be passed in before class starts.
- You can complete a maximum of one summary/reaction paper per week.
- You can do your paper on the same week you do your class expert session.
- You do not have to follow the traditional essay structure. Introductory and concluding paragraphs are not necessary. You can use “I.”
- Citations are not necessary as long as you are using only the readings from the course—simply indicating the page # after direct quotes is sufficient. However, all readings from outside the course must be cited according to APA Style.
- You can integrate your personal experiences in the summary/reaction paper, but it should not be composed entirely of these. It’s important that you demonstrate that you understand the reading (see the criteria on the next page).
- A trap that writers of these papers occasionally fall into is to spend all their time summarizing the reading. Although a significant portion of the paper must be devoted to summary, the paper needs to “add value” in a meaningful sense. I want to know what you think about what you are reading.
- An additional trap is to pick a reading simply because it is short. However, good reaction papers are written when you are genuinely interested in what you are reading, so I recommend making your choice according to that criterion and nothing else.
How do I evaluate summary/reaction papers?
When marking your papers, I have the following four criteria in mind:
|Is the paper well-written from a grammar and style standpoint?||Not really/Somewhat/Mostly/Absolutely|
|Is the paper well-organized and coherent?||Not really/Somewhat/Mostly/Absolutely|
|Is the paper accurate? Does the author understand the reading he/she is writing about?||Not really/Somewhat/Mostly/Absolutely|
|Does the paper add valueto the reading? Is it interesting and thoughtful? Do the arguments make sense?||Not really/Somewhat/Mostly/Absolutely|
These four criteria will be factored holistically by me (i.e. you won’t get a specific score on them) to generate a final grade. Generally speaking, a majority of “Absolutelies” will translate into A+, A, or A/A-; “Mostlies” will translate into A- and A-/B+; and “Somewhats” will translate to B and B+. Receiving a “Not really” in any category can drag your mark down according to my discretion, depending on how bad I think the “Not really” is.
Please note that Criterion 4 is more important than the others, and I weigh it more heavily. You will never receive an A without receiving “Absolutely” on Category 4. Likewise, “Not Really” on Category 4 will count particularly heavily against you.