Reaction, Review, and Critique Papers

Here’s an excerpt from a sample reaction paper.

“Nothing about the play stimulated me. I was dragged into it only because the class was required to watch it. So many aspects of the play need improvement. For one, the props were outdated. Made me wonder if that was part of the ploy, or because the production team was operating on a tight budget. Another thing that displeased me was the venue. It was evident that the acoustics had seen better days. Lastly, the script was lackluster and boring. Also, it’s hard to believe that the characters from this economic group would speak and behave this way. I also find the speaking style of the characters too pretentious. While I appreciate the effort of the writers, perhaps they can rethink the characters’ worldview. The only saving grace was that the script tried as best as it could, to mimic the struggles of the working class.”

When you write about what you have read, or something you have seen or experienced—an event, situation, or phenomenon—you’re writing your reaction about it and your output would be classified as a reaction paper. Chances are, you’ve been asked many times to write reaction papers in your elementary days. However, it’s not uncommon for Senior High School students to be asked to write reaction papers as well.

When you write reaction papers, you are expected to write about your total experience in relation to an event or reading material. You write about not just the usual details but also your reaction to it; you can discuss whether the experience had a positive or negative impact on you.

For example, if you’re asked to write a reaction paper after attending a seminar on “Youth Empowerment,” you are expected to discuss not just the sequence of the seminar including the topics, objectives, and program flow, but also your feelings after watching the event. Your insights about it will be useful when you summarize the event.

A reaction paper would not be complete without your assessment of your experience. In your assessment, you may include statements praising the organizers or suggesting points for improvement. Whether you’ve chosen to highlight the positive or negative aspects, it would be best to be both objective and careful in your assessment, making sure that you balance your opinion with verifiable facts.

Here are some questions to ask when you write a reaction paper:

  1. What is the book, event, or phenomenon about?
  2. Did it meet its objective/s?
  3. How do I feel about it? Did it influence me in a negative or positive way?
  4. What insights did I get from it?
  5. Did I tactfully justify my reaction toward the book, event, place, thing, etc.?

Here’s an excerpt from a sample review.

Think of a glass cullet: rotund, translucent, illuminated by rays of light. A robust figure cradling what seems to be an outline of a child. Or a 12″-high brass piece of a faceless chunk in a contemplative pose. These remarkable sculptures highlight the exhibit aptly titled “In Praise of Form” held recently at the Grand Ballroom of Manila Hotel.

The artworks are in scintillating emerald green and deep electric blue, candy-colored but ovoid and sleek. Cosmopolitan. They look like sweet stuff; but the art pieces would make fitting adornments in plush homes and offices. Although faceless and rendered as non-representational abstraction, the art works speak of a profound message about humanity and love. The other art forms are forays into other media: metal, wood, semi-precious stones and glass. But the piece de resistance is a combination of glass and bronze, of concave and convex. It is a study in contrast: simplicity and strength; seamlessness and grace.

Such is the essence of an exhibit that gives tribute to form.

How well did the reviewer describe the art exhibit? Did it go beyond a mere recounting of the event? Did the writer attempt to tell a story in the framework of the exhibit or did it just describe the artworks?

Your honest answer to these questions will help you determine the qualities of a well-written review.

Expressing your opinion about an event, book, restaurant, art, exhibit, performance, movie, or latest trends is called a review paper. You can also talk about tourist destinations, government policies, and social phenomena. This type of writing takes the form of blurbs, blogs, and essays. It is not just a summary but a commentary involving the writer’s opinion, and thus requires persuasion and critical evaluation. You also aim to argue when writing a review since you want your readers to make informed decisions based on what you have written.

It is important to be concise in your review, but not too concise that you miss the important aspects of the book, event, place or phenomenon that you are evaluating. You are also expected to be unbiased in your evaluation. You can do this by providing your honest appraisal of it, combining your opinion with accurate facts. In addition, reviews involve arguments, so you are expected to state your claim in the thesis statement.

For example, when writing a book review, you may quote actual passages from the book that you can either agree or disagree with. You can explain the passage further in relation to the book’s literal or symbolic meaning. Furthermore, you can explain your reasons for persuading or dissuading your readers to read it.

When writing about a film, you might wish to discuss the movie in terms of its subject matter, theme, cinematography, direction, musical scoring, or actors. You may include your criticism against any aspect of the movie—and to balance your criticism, you might wish to include your sincere compliments about an aspect of the movie that you found truly praiseworthy.

Here are some questions to ask when you write a review:

  1. Does my review reflect my understanding of the book, event, or phenomenon that I am evaluating?
  2. Did I highlight important aspects of the book, event, or phenomenon?
  3. Have I included enough details and evidence to help readers evaluate the merits of the book, event, place or phenomenon that I am evaluating?
  4. Have I been fair in my evaluation?
  5. Did I make a clear argument? Did I support my opinion with accurate, verifiable facts?
  6. Have I given my readers enough basis to make an informed judgment based on my evaluation?

Here’s an excerpt from a sample critique.

Pulitzer-prize winner Toni Morrison gives readers a glimpse of the rich tapestry of her imagination and insight on how it is to be an African-American in a multi-cultural society. She brings her own experiences as an African-American from a small town in Lorrain, Ohio to the intricate web of her novels resorting at times to magical realism, as in two of her novels Song of Solon and Beloved, she weaves her tales using folklore and myths. Her language is clear and lyrical. Her characters are like the ever-changing facets of a kaleidoscope.

Morrison has written extensively about racism, class and sexism and explored how these issues have affected the lives of her characters, positing that these issues are societal and psychological restrictions that leave a gaping hole in the black woman’s psyche. Her narratives depict the characters interacting with a variety of forces: the protagonist at odds with other characters; the protagonist at odds with nature; protagonists at odds with themselves.

Precisely because of her own unique experience as an African-American, Morrison is at her best when she writes for, and about African-Americans. The extent to which she acknowledges their experiences against a backdrop of gender oppression and racism is what makes her novels worth reading. She infuses her novels with these realities and shows just how such issues restrict the individual not only physically but also emo

As a contemporary fictionist, Morrison continues to be intrigued by the question of how African-Americans, particularly women—transcend or sometimes succumb to restrictions of class, gender, and race. Morrison gives her readers a glaring account of the disparity between the American woman’s experiences vis-a-vis the African woman’s circumstances. In most of her novels, white American women are depicted as being financially well-off, educated, pretty, and living a charmed life. In contrast, African-American women are depicted as impoverished, uneducated, unattractive, and more often than not, deserted by their husbands. However, despite these glaring stereotypes, Morrison redeems her characters by giving them qualities that would endear them to the readers. That she should situate her characters in situations where they have to grapple with the roles ascribed to them by society on the basis of their gender, race, and class is inevitable.

Of all the types of academic writing in this lesson, critiques are considered the most academic. Defined as a form of intellectual discourse involving one’s evaluation of an event, book, place, or phenomenon, a critique is the more expanded version of a reaction paper. Examples of critiques include a critique of an artist’s work, literary criticism, and scholarly essays evaluating a project. This type of writing allows writers to articulate their opinion about issues familiar and relevant to them.

Reaction papers/reviews/critiques allow writers to express their views, enabling others to share their point or a contrary viewpoint. Although they rely on the writer’s opinion, as with all types of academic writing, these types of papers require evidence in the form of facts, statistics, examples, testimony, reviews of fellow writers, pictures, and other pieces of evidence to make the writer’s claim more valid.