Reaction papers

This page is meant to help you write reaction papers. The point of writing them is to give you some practice in evaluating – concisely and critically – someone’s position on an important but debatable issue.

How to write it: watch the film; stop when you think something important is said; take notes; stop when you think something wrong is said; take notes; try to decide on what were the main and/or the most interesting ideas; write down in 2-3 sentences your concluding thoughts on those ideas.

Here is a tentative structure for your reaction paper:

  • State the main goal, idea or claim of the film you’ve seen. Say very briefly what you think about it. This announces what you do next.
  • Identify a few argumentative moves in the material – the ones you consider most important. What is the director aiming at? What is the evidence?
  • At each step, write down your thoughts about what is said. Support your position with argument and evidence.
  • Wrap up with a concluding thought. Overall, what did the film do for you?

If the above doesn’t really help you, search for ‘reaction papers’ on any search engine. Here’s an example link. And a sample reaction paper.

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One thought on “Reaction papers

  1. Alexandra Cioara’s RP on “Food, inc.”

    “Food, inc.” Is a documentary directed by Rober Kenner in 2008. The film, whose main subject is the food industry, aims to answer to some questions such as: what do we eat, where is food comming from, what are we allowed to know about the products we eat.

    In the first part of the film there are presented some sectors of the automated food industry, such as the mass production of chicken and beaf meat, of corn products. Kenner explains that the roots of highly mechanized food processes lead to the McDonalt’s fast-food restaurants and to their attemp to produce large quantities of food, on small surfaces of land at affordable prices. Throughout the years, this led to mass production of “artificial” food – a “combination of science and technology”. At the other pole of the industrial food system we find the farmers who are often unable to fight on their own with the huge companies producing food products. These farmers end in becoming the “slaves of these companies”, who influence and controll the entire food market.

    Although the film manages to draw an exclamation mark regarding the unhealthy food system in the United States of America, the viewer of this documentary cand easily sense the ‘borders’ of the reality described in the film.

    Firstly I personaly see this film mostly in black and white, whitout many shades of grey for this director: there is the ‘black’ camp represented by all companies producing food, by supermarkets and by fast-food restaurants and on the opposite – the ‘bright’ side of the farmers that are trying to fight, without much of a success, against this system.

    I also disliked that Kenner limited himself, when choosing as selection method of consumer-types the income, giving the example of a poor imigrants family who cannot afford to eat healthy food because of the higher costs of this and also because of the lack of time needed to prepare the food. This is not a general situation! The film failes to analyse exceptions from the rule by not taking into concideratin the level of education and also the level of ignorance of the consumers, as there are people with a medium to high income who invest time and money in (at least) trying to eat healthy, also there are incredibly rich people who prefer fast-food to healthy food.

    Probably the most interesting part of this film was about the regulatory agencies and about the government role in the food industry. The regulatory agencies are called “toothless”, being lead by former managers of companies, they are supposed to verify in the present. USDA – the United States Department of Agriculture – has the authority to shut down a plant, only after this failes repeatedly the E.coli test. Moreover the government, the one which is supposed to protect us, the consumers, by laws and regulations, offers more protection for these huge companies which controll the food industry and the food market.

    After watching the trailer, I was expecting with disappointment great praise in favour of “organic food”, which fortunately was not to come. It is true that R.Kenner reffers at the end of the film to bio products as if these represented one of the alternatives to fast-food and to average “artificial” supermarket food. Though, he allocates to the subject of “bio food” no more than 10 minutes, which is fair enough for me. In the documentary one of the presented ideas is that, “even if we do not eat fast-food, we do eat food produced by the system”, consequently Kenner could have tried in these ten minutes to unhide some of the “ungly truths” related to the bio industry as well, which he didn’t. Personally I see locally bred “bio tomatos”,for example, with better eyes than those genetically modified tomatos imported from oversees, injected with “some obscure substances” in order to turn read. However when choosing and purchasing bio products, we should take into concideration that behind the bio industry is hidden a business like any other, dominated like the others by the “grasp for the growth”, and this could be an interesting topic to talk about in a food-related documentary as well.

    Overall I found that the documentary succeeds in taking off the veil showing parts of the “ugly truth” of the industrial food system, a must-see especially for amateurs, meaning especially for those who were not interested untill know to know what’s hidden behind the beutifull packages of the supermarket products we buy on a daily basis. However those who informed themselves previously about the topic might find the film less surprising and scarce in new information.

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