Writing a Response Paper

This kind of writing is very commonly found in UVM ENVS classes, though the guidelines will vary depending on the instructor and class. Typically, response papers are brief (2-3 double spaced pages), opinionated, have a clear focus, and, most importantly, show that the student has learned something from the lecture and/or course readings. The goal of this type of writing is to respond to the prompt (if provided) and demonstrate what you have taken away from the readings/lectures/field trips by using critical thinking and analysis. These papers do not necessarily have to make an argument, but they must respond to the topic(s).

It is important to:

  • Clearly and concisely express your ideas (and arguments) by using focused topic sentences as well as good transitions between ideas.
  • If you make an argument, support it well. Opinions can (and must) be supported by facts or logical reasoning.
  • Show that you understand the material by using examples, facts, etc. from the readings and lectures.
  • Make connections between lectures, readings, discussions, guest lectures, and field trips.

Sample Papers

This sample response paper, Economists vs. Ecologists (PDF), connects ideas presented in a guest lecture by Jon Erickson with personal experience and another guest lecture to create a thoughtful response for ENVS 001.

Organic Food: Is it Truly Better for the Environment? (PDF) is a brief paper outlining the pros and cons of organic agriculture. While brief, it is well-organized and persuasive.