Response Paper guidelines

Write your academic essays for a general, public audience. Imagine your reader as a smart person who knows nothing at all about the subject. It is also helpful imagine your reader as a potential employer, a lawyer or a company executive who will hire you on the basis of your self-expression. Do not refer to the class. Write as formally as possible. This means no contractions, careful grammar and correct punctuation.  


This acts as a road map for your essay.  It should not be too broad and sweeping (just as you would not want a map of the Bronx to include Asia and Australia). It should set up the topic and argument clearly and simply (but not informally). It should also mention the sources you are going use to make your argument.


This develops and provides evidence for your argument. Each sentence should refer to what comes before and after it in a logical flow. Be specific. Tell the reader who, what, when were and—if relevant—why.


Write short, crisp clear sentences. Long, complicated constructions do not sound more intelligent; they often appear incoherent.


Use the present tense (is rather than was) unless referring to a specific event in the past.

Make sure tenses and numbers agree:

            Mistake: Men were considered closer to culture, while women are seen as closer to nature.

            Should read:

            Men are considered closer to culture, while women are seen as closer to nature.

 And make sure numbers (singular and plural) agree:

Mistake: Ortner points out that women is not objectively closer to nature.

            Should read:

            Ortner points out that women are not objectively closer to nature.

Avoid the passive voice:

In the article by Sherry Ortner, the theory that women are associated with nature, and men with culture was argued.

Should read:

Sherry Ortner argues that women are associated with nature, and men with culture.

Avoid using more words than necessary:

The article by Sherry Ornter, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?”, Sherry Ornter she argues that…

Reads better as:

            In “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?”, Sherry Ortner argues…

And even better as:

            Ortner (1974) argues that…


Start a new paragraph when you begin to treat a new subtopic. Paragraphs should be linked with transitional sentences. For example, you might start a new paragraph with “Another theory which attempts to explain gender inequality…”. 


Books and articles must be cited the first time you mention them, and then every time you draw a specific point from them. Examples:

Sherry Ortner argues that women are associated with nature, and men with culture (1974).


One theory holds that women are associated with nature, and men with culture (Ortner 1974). 

No page number needed above, because the sentence reflects the author’s general argument rather than a specific point.

When drawing on a specific point:

            Paraphrased (preferable):

Ortner contends that a woman’s biology is seen to prioritize her reproductive role (1974: 75).

            Direct quotation:

Ortner contends that a “woman’s body seems to doom her to mere reproduction of life” (1974: 75).

Quotations longer than three lines should be blocked: indented and single-spaced, with no quotation marks. These should be avoided in short response essays.

For quotation of material bay another author quoted or referred to in the text:

            De Beauvoir examined the implications of women’s “enslavement to the species”

(cited in Ortner 1974: 75).


This should restate the topic and your argument. You can be creative here and speculate about the implications of what you have written in the essay, and offer opinions, but this is not the place to introduce entirely new material. Think of it as a review of your material and the conclusions you have drawn from it.


Be sure to cite authors of individual articles, not editors. The examples below follow the American Anthropological Association stylesheet, available on Blackboard. Any standard citation formal is acceptable; you may prefer to use the one preferred in your major. HINT: look at your syllabus for examples:

Book chapters:

Ortner, Sherry B. 1974. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” In Women, Culture and Society, edited by Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere, 67-87. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Eugenides, Jeffrey

2003 Middlesex: A Novel. New York: Picador.

Journal articles:

Rasmussen, Susan. 2002. “Tuareg Labor Migration, Gendered Spaces, and the Predicament of Women.” City & Society 14 (2): 282-311.

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