Helpful hints for Writing a Critical Response
Paper: See page discussing Format (i.e. using proper header, etc. ) See page listing more specific hints for the Research Paper
First and foremost, remember that this is a critical
response paper, not a personal response
You must maintain an academic perspective throughout your paper.
You are presenting an argument and supporting it with evidence
from the text or other sources. Therefore, avoid the
following types of statements: "It seems to me," "I think," "I
believe," and "It is obvious that." In fact, try to avoid
using the first person altogether.
It must contain a strong thesis statement in a strong
Be sure your first paragraph provides an overview of the contents
of your essay. It's almost like an outline for your reader that is
written in complete sentences. Sometimes it's helpful to go back
and refocus your first paragraph after you've finished your essay.
Your thesis sentence should present a point that you will
prove. Do not make announcements ("This paper
will compare Coleridge and Wordsworth in terms of their
portrayal of nature").
You also need to make sure you introduce both the author
and work to be analyzed as early as possible.
Be sure to use quotation marks for titles of shorter
works, such as poems and short stories, and italics for
titles of longer works, such as plays, epic poems and
Avoid using references to the dictionary (Webster's
defines love as . . . ").
The body of the essay should be filled with information
related to your thesis.
Each paragraph has a topic sentence and a concluding
sentence. You should use evidence within your paragraphs
which further explains what your topic sentence introduced.
Don't forget to clearly express your own opinions. Avoid repeating
Avoid plot summary. Use quotes from only those
sections of the text immediately relevant to your discussion.
Use past tense to discuss historical or biographical events, but
present tense when discussing literature.
Each time your read a text, the events "occur" all over again.
Therefore, as you describe these events, always use present verb
tense: "Wordsworth experiences ambivalence about the French
Revolution." "Christabel lies down naked with Geraldine."
Evidence is needed in your paper.
Be sure to support all your points with either examples from the
text, citations from the text, or citations from your outside
Using proper MLA format, including parenthetical citations with
proper punctuation and a Works Cited page.
Be very careful when making references to the class
textbook. For example, Christopher Marlowe is the author
of Faustus. Stephen Greenblatt is the general
editor of the text in which Faustus appears.
Marlowe, Christopher. The Tragical History
of Doctor Faustus. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The
Major Authors, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et
al., 10th ed., vol. 1, W.W. Norton,
2019, pp. 514-49.
(Note: Obviously, the various bullet points would not
be included in the Works Cited page.)
Do not number the entries in a Works Cited, either.
Also be careful when quoting verse--Use slashes to show
line breaks and cite by line (or act.scene.line for plays).
Remember, also, to indent long quotes (four or more lines
of verse or over four lines of prose).
Introduce and explain all quotes. This means you
should avoid beginning or ending a paragraph with a quote and
you should never place quotes back to back without discussion
in between them.
Avoid plagiarism. See Policy
Do not use a cover page.
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are critical to your reader.
Good grammar will make your ideas clearer to your reader.
Do not use "how."
Seriously, avoid using this word. In most cases "that" is
a more appropriate word to use.
Do not use constructions that might lead to the use of
For example, instead of saying, "Shakespeare talks
about how ..." say "Shakespeare says that
Don't use "in which" when you mean "that."
Don't use "that" when you mean "who" (i.e. when referring
Proofread your paper. Check for spelling errors. Use Spellcheck!
Do not use run-on sentences. Again, it's better to make shorter
clearer sentences than long confusing ones.
Commas are often needed when you do write a longer sentence (but
don't overuse them!).
Try to use smooth transitions between one paragraph and the next.
A strong conclusion leaves your reader fulfilled and your
Briefly sum up your thesis. Perhaps your final thesis has a little
more content than the thesis in your introductory paragraph
because the reader now knows where you are coming from.
Don't be afraid to make your final paragraph really count
in some way. Again, it gives the reader something to remember you
Possible Paper Topics:
Please avoid making
comparisons to present day society!
Such comparisons almost never have a basis in actual textual
Character Analyses of Main Characters in one of the
Portrayal of the Heroic Code in Beowulf and/or Sir Gawain and the Green
Comparison of Character Descriptions in Chaucer's
Allegory in The
Religion in The Faerie Queene
Dialogue between Marlowe and Ralegh
Temptation in Faustus
Appearance and Reality in Othello
Iago as Puppet Master in Othello
Race in Othello
Women in Othello
Contrasting Portrayals of Similar Subjects in
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience
Biblical Imagery in "The Rime of Ancient Mariner"
Characteristics of the Lyrical Ballads (as
per Preface) in Coleridge's Ancient Mariner or
Wordsworth's poems from the collection
Relationship between Human and Nature: Blake,
Coleridge, or Wordsworth
The figure of the poet in Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical
Ballads, Percy Shelley's "Defence of Poetry," or
Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"