Helpful hints for Writing a Critical Response
Paper: See page discussing MLA 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 paper.
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.
You also should avoid using the second person ("you") as
Do not refer to "the reader", i.e., "In these lines
the reader can really see what the speaker is describing,"
"the author lets the reader understand what he is feeling,"
It must contain a strong thesis statement in a strong
Be sure your first paragraph is 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 Agamemnon and Gilgamesh in terms of their kingly
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: "Oedipus blinds himself after he discovers his mother's
body in the bedroom." "Brent escapes to freedom after she
spends seven years in an attic."
Evidence is needed in your paper.
Be sure to "back up" all your points with either examples from the
text or citations from the text.
You really should not use outside sources.
Using proper MLA format, include parenthetical citations with
proper punctuation and a Works Cited page.
Be very careful when making references to the Humanities
textbook. For example, Homer is the author of The
Iliad. Martin Puchnar is the main editor of the
work in which The Iliad appears. Also be careful
when citing information from the introductions to the authors
Benjamin, translator. The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Norton Anthology of World Literature Shorter. 3rd
Ed., edited by
Martin Puchnar, et al. Vol. 1. NY: W.W. Norton, 2013,
only the first line is flush with the margin; subsequent
lines are tabbed over. It's called reverse indent, if
you want to look it up.)
Do Not Number the Entries in a Works Cited.
Also be careful when quoting verse--Use slashes to show
line breaks and cite by line (or act.scene.line for plays).
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.
Also, avoid using quotes as the subjects of sentences!
"xxxxxx" means that . . . [awkward]
When he says, "x x x x x," he means . . . .
[also pretty awkward]
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.
Don't use "in which" when you mean "that."
Don't use "that" when you mean "who" (i.e. when referring
Use Punctuation to show Possession: "Morrison's
book" not "Morrison book"
Proofread your paper. Check for spelling errors. USE SPELL-CHECK
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 by.
Possible Paper Topics:
Please!! Avoid making comparisons
to Present Day Society !!! Such comparisons almost never
have a basis in actual textual analysis !!
Please Do NOT Write a Paper About
Slavery itself. Of course, Slavery was a horrible, terrible
institution. However, this discussion should be of a
literary nature, critiquing the narratives themselves, not
Women: Prizes, Goddesses, Mothers, Wives in Gilgamesh
Gods in Gilgamesh or Sundiata
War vs. Love/Sex in The Iliad or Sappho
Prophets & Prophecies/ Dreams & Dreamers
in the Old Testament or Oedipus or Gilgamesh
Kings & Rulers: Good and Bad Qualities (i.e.
Gilgamesh or Sundiata)