Unit 3: Summarizing and Responding to Writing

16 Responding to Writing

Preview Questions:

  1. What does it mean to “respond” to writing?
  2. When do we respond to writing? Why?
  3. Can I use “I” or other personal pronouns in a response essay?
  4. Can’t I just use AI to write my personal responses?

Responding to a written text is an opportunity to engage with the text. As a reader, you should be reading actively, thinking about the information in the text. In this course, you will develop your understanding of the theme for Essay 1 by responding to one of the articles provided.

When writing a response assignment, your teacher is looking to hear “your voice.” An AI-generated response may lack your authentic voice. Write the first draft of your response on your own and use AI to refine it. BUT, be very careful of what information you share with ChatGPT since it does store all data you input. Many experts recommend avoiding inputting personal, confidential information.

Directions: Read the example and answer the questions below.

Selective Summary response example

Example student
ESL 117

Selective Summary Response of “How Technology Makes Us Better Social Beings”

In the article “How Technology Makes Us Better Social Beings,” Megan Gambino (2011) contrasts how previous research showing that Social Networks (SN) have disconnected people, making them less involved in community activities. In their analysis, Gambino, explores recent research that shows the opposite trend showing that SNS have actually been instrumental in bringing people together, in real life and in virtual spaces.

According to Gambino many research studies indicate SNS may isolate people. These sites take up most of the time people would use for social gatherings and discussions about community affairs. However, research by University of Pennsylvania sociologist Keith Hampton suggests SNS have not weakened interpersonal relationships; on the contrary, they have strengthened them by making people more active at political and social events. For Gambino, SNS might become an obsession but such connections are a good one according to what Hampton found in his research. Hampton’s data shows, for instance, that Facebook helps people trust in others and build closer connections with people.

Gambino also reports on the results of the Hampton’s research about the use of Internet in public places. According to Hampton SNS do not result in isolating people who use SNS in public spaces; in fact, they are just interacting in a different way through social networks. While SNS users might appear to be isolated, they are engaging actively in online forums in efforts to improve society, such as spreading information about voting rights and ways to register to vote. The article concludes with the idea of Piedmont-Palladino, who warns society about these changes and suggests people should adapt in order to make society healthier.

I find the result of Hampton’s research about how people feel they can trust more people very compelling. He claims, “People who use Facebook multiple times a day are 43 percent more likely than other internet users to feel that most people can be trusted” (as cited in Gambino, 2011, p. 40). In other words, his study seems to suggest that frequent Facebook users tend to feel other people are trustworthy. Even though this research was conducted by a specialist through surveys to American adults I don’t think that it reflects reality.

I disagree to some extent with that result because I consider SNS can actually make us doubt who we should trust or not. Currently, the Internet represents a freedom of expression, and it barely has any regulations about what you publish online at all. In web sites such as Facebook who decides what to publish and what not is you; furthermore, you decide which self-image you want to show the world. There is a popular American TV show called “Catfish” which brings real life stories about people who fall in love online but have never met their crush. Then, once they meet most of them weren’t what they said they were, hurting the person in love. I consider most people are now aware of how people can cheat on you by having a different identity online or simply showing the bright side of his\her life or what might interest you just to catch your attention. However, those are all lies or maybe only partially true.

In my personal experience my family, my friends, and I have a very strict way when we want to accept a friend request of someone wants to start a conversation. We typically only connect with people we know within our circle. I think the way our parents and society in general teach us to use the Internet is changing. Most people are now more careful about who to trust online and everywhere in general. Due to the progress of technology, fraud and deceit is increasing, so I think people are more aware of that, and on the contrary to the result of the Hampton’s research people are actually more doubtful about who to trust.

Despite the lack of trust, I do believe SNS offers more benefits than disadvantages, especially to tighten relationships. In my personal experience being an international student in the United States, Social Networks provide me an easy way to communicate with my relatives and friends faster. In these cases, these are people I already know, so I trust messages and friend requests. It also allows me to be in touch with people I haven’t seen in years. A few days ago, I received a friend request on Facebook of a girl who was a closer friend of mine in elementary school but then she move to a different city and I hadn’t heard from her in years until now. Ultimately, I think it is better to be a little skeptical about strangers to protect yourself, but it is worth making the effort to use SNS for keeping in touch with those who are near and far.


Gambino, M. (2011, July 11). How technology makes us better social beings. Smithsonian Magazine. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/

EXERCISE #1: Analyze the selective summary response example

  1. Look at the first two sentences of the summary. Has the writer included the required elements of a summary introduction?
  2. Identify the overall thesis and narrowed scope.
  3. Where does the response begin? What language signals the start of the response?
  4. Does the writer properly introduce and cite the quotation?
  5. What is the idea the reader responds to?
  6. What techniques has the writer used to respond to the idea?
  7. What information is included in the reference?
  8. Identify all the transitions used in the summary response.

EXERCISE #2: Practice responding to ideas in an article

  1. Look at the article you will respond to and identify one or two sentences you find interesting.
  2. Paraphrase the sentences.
  3. With a partner, read the original sentences and your paraphrase.
  4. Discuss your reaction to the idea you have chosen.


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Academic Writing I Copyright © by UW-Madison ESL Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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