For this paper, you will be composing a Summary/Response paper for a reader unfamiliar with Michaela Cullington’s “Does Texting Affect Writing?”.
A Summary/Response essay summarizes and then responds to an author’s argument on a particular subject or issue. First, this requires careful, faithful explanation of what the author is actually saying in the “summary” part of your essay, even if you disagree with their premise, chain of evidence, argument, or conclusion. Second, in the “response” part of your essay, you will refute or agree with the author’s argument and state your own opinion on the subject based on evidence (facts, personal experience, etc.).
Your essay should be 750-1000 words, that’s 2-3 pages long with standard MLA formatting, with a single entry on a Works Cited page as the last page of your essay. Your goal is to briefly summarize the author’s overall argument while focusing on how it supports their main point in roughly half of your essay. For example: if your essay is 4 paragraphs long, summary should be no more than 2 paragraphs). The remaining 2 body paragraphs would include your response to her argument.
1. Introduction/1st Paragraph (Ch 35 – pg 373 – of our textbook lists several strategies for the intro/conclusion paragraph)
Sentence # 1 should situate the issue within its context, also giving the full name of the author/piece that discusses the issue. If relevant, you could also write a sentence describing what the author’s contemporary culture thought about the issue (whether this opinion was divisive, brave, typical, etc. of the time period).
Sentences #2 – 4 should mention the author by last name, providing relevant background details such as profession, cultural or ethnic identity, etc. and then briefly describe what this person argues in the piece they wrote and why.
Thesis (Sentence #5) should both sum up what the author claims and what your opinion is regarding the argument in a single sentence. You will need to highlight that single sentence thesis in your final draft, before you submit it. Also avoid using the first person“I,” as all statements except those attributed to the author are assumed to be your own. You will actually avoid using both first person (I) and second person (you) in all of the essays in this course because these are all formal writing assignments. Back to the thesis: consider the following two thesis statements for a different Summary/Response Essay:
Thesis #1: “Hurston’s opinion is not for everyone because her life might be different from other people’s.”
Thesis #2: “Though Zora Neale Hurston’s positive self-identification as a black woman is inspiring for minorities attempting to locate themselves as Americans, her attitude may not come so easily to minorities lacking her early self-confidence, good family background, and initial upbringing in a heavily minority community.”
Thesis #2 is the strongest, clearest thesis, because it can be both proved and argued against. If this were your thesis, you would thoroughly explain this opinion in the next paragraphs, describing how you think these factors helped formulate Hurston’s perspective on embracing racial and cultural difference. You can allude to content from the summary you already wrote such as in the following topic sentence for a paragraph: (“When Hurston describes thinking white tourists were an amusement for her instead of the other way around, she expresses an unusual understanding of race relations that threatens the status quo despite being naïve”).
2. Summary Paragraphs (1st half of your paper)
In the 1st-2nd body paragraph(s), start by discussing the historical context of the issue in more depth, and explaining the author’s overall opinion (thesis). Describe the author’s tone, expressed intentions in writing this piece, expertise in the subject, and any other information that will be relevant to your summary.
In the 3rd-4th body paragraph(s), briefly summarize how the essay or piece begins to prove the author’s argument. Does the author start by describing an image? Telling a story of personal experience? Does the author present information logically, arguing for or against an unjust situation? One way to make sure that you summarize the whole argument without becoming long-winded is to try to summarize the point of each section written by the author in 1 sentence, in your own words.
3. Response Paragraphs (2nd half of your paper)
After summarizing the author’s argument, it is time to respond to the author as if you were having a logical debate with them. Remember, even if this author is famous, well-published, or an expert in their field, you are entitled to disagree with them if you can prove any part of their argument is wrong, could be phrased in a better way or proved more convincingly. Critiquing and correcting or supplementing other thinkers’ ideas in a constructive way is what leads to human progress in any field of study. If you remain respectful of the other author and refrain from name-calling, personal attacks, or sarcastic comments on their work, you are participating usefully in an ongoing academic, professional, and/or or social conversation on the subject under discussion.
Ideally, the length of your response should equal that of your summary (i.e. 2 paragraphs for the response if you wrote 2 for the summary – keep within the assignment’s page limits).
4. Conclusion Paragraph (Ch 35 – pg 373 – of our textbook lists beginning and ending paragraph strategies)
This should mirror your introduction paragraph for the most part.
Do not introduce “new” information in this paragraph – you are wrapping up your discussion.
You can sum up the practical value of considering the author’s argument (pros and cons), and state if it can be useful for certain readers (i.e. a certain demographic), or all readers in another way (ideological, cultural).