Response papers can be designed to address several different purposes, and precise nature of your assignment can be tailored to the skills you want your students to use and/or the concepts you want them to engage with:
Do you want to students to summarize a reading assignment in light of concepts you have taught in class? For example,
- Have you just taught your students about a scientific concept, and you want them to read and interpret a paper that describes how that scientific concept was discovered?
- Have you just taught your students about a scientific concept, and you want them to read about how that scientific concept has been proposed to design a new technology?
- Have you just taught about a scientific phenomenon that we do not fully understand—perhaps one that could be explained by several possible models—and you want students to read a paper that provides evidence supporting one model and refuting another? The students could then be asked to explain how the experiments and data of a paper can be used to support one model and rationalize why the experiments were set up in the way that they were by the authors.
Do you want students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various tools and methods?
- For example, do you want students to analyze two arguments that are in disagreement, and choose one that they agree with more with, explaining why they do so?
Do you want students to learn about a type of methodology?
- For example, do you want your students to read an article or paper that introduces a type of experimental methodology that is novel to the students, and ask students to apply that methodology to study a set of concepts you have been studying in class?