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Writing the Open Response Essay

Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 11 years, 5 months ago


  • A brief, 3-4 sentence opening that draws the reader in, expresses a thesis, and ends
  • Introductions should not:
    • Involve asking a rhetorical question, or any question
    • Start with a general statement about the nature of the universe, humanity, or writing
    • Begin with a quotation
    • Include the author and/or title of the work in the first five words
    • Should not be a restatement of the prompt
  • Introductory Sentences should:
    • Be engaging and fit the tone of the work
    • Not be forced. Let the author do the work for you. The best introductory story/anecdote is often found in the novel itself
  • The Thesis Statement
    • Should capture the entirety of the prompt. If the essay asks for the meaning of the work as a whole, then answer what that is.
    • Should be the last sentence of the first paragraph 96% of the time (only deviate if you have a reason to do so)
    • Should be one sentence 93.4% of the time (Again, only deviate when you have a reason to do so)
    • Must be an argument


Body Paragraphs (First Half of the Prompt)

  • Should start with a clear topic sentence that is an argument that supports the thesis. If your topic sentence is plot-driven or does not flow back through the thesis and then the prompt, you are on the wrong track.
  • Each paragraph should then contain sub-topics or examples that a) support the topic sentence and b) support the thesis. You want to excise any information that does not.
  • Each example/sub-topic deserves analysis, a thoughtful examination of how the sub-topic relates to topic sentence and thesis. You want to show not only that you are aware of the plot elements of the novel, but that you can fashion arguments from them.
  • Each body paragraph should be as distinct as possible. Try to avoid going back to the same examples/details as other paragraphs or the introduction.


Body Paragraph (“Meaning the Work as a Whole” Part of Prompt)

  • The most important function of this paragraph is to relate the first part of the essay to the theme. You want to demonstrate how the controversy/difference/disagreement/growth of the first two paragraphs demonstrates a major theme of the novel.
  • If you can develop 6-8 sentences here without becoming repetitive, treacly and sophomoric, by all means just focus on the conflict and the theme. If you are struggling to extend this section, use the rest of the novel, in brief mentions, to show that the conflict you have chose to highlight is only one of the places where they author has developed the theme.



  • Again, short. 3-4 sentences.
  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Go back to the clever and interesting introduction that you offered in the beginning of the piece. Bookends.


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