Guidelines Short Response Essay

A Report on Man's Search for Meaning

Dr. Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966) is both an autobiographical account of his years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps and a presentation of his ideas about the meaning of life. The three years of deprivation and suffering he spent at Auschwitz and other Nazi camps led to the development of his theory of Logotherapy, which, very briefly, states that the primary force in human beings is "a striving to find a meaning in one's life" (154). Without a meaning in life, Frankl feels, we experience emptiness and loneliness that lead to apathy and despair. This need for meaning was demonstrated to Frankl time and again with both himself and other prisoners who were faced with the horrors of camp existence. Frankl was able to sustain himself partly through the love he felt for his wife. In a moment of spiritual insight, he realized that his love was stronger and more meaningful than death, and would be a real and sustaining force within him even if he knew his wife was dead. Frankl's comrades also had reasons to live that gave them strength. One had a child waiting for him; another was a scientist who was working on a series of books that needed to be finished. Finally, Frankl and his friends found meaning through their decision to accept and bear their fate with courage. He says that the words of Dostoevsky came frequently to mind: "There is one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my suffering."  When Frankl's prison experience was over and he returned to his profession of psychiatry, he found that his theory of meaning held true not only for the prisoners but for all people. He has since had great success in working with patients by helping them locate in their own lives meanings of love, work, and suffering.

The big idea

"Constructed-response answer" is the newfangled term for what we used to call a "short-answer essay question." All it means is that you're going to answer the question in one well-written paragraph.  If you follow these guidelines, your answers should generally be complete enough to make your teacher happy.

How to do it

Here are the parts you need to include in a constructed-response answer:

  1. Restatement
    Don't just copy the question; restate the question in your answer.  If the question is "What important things do we learn about the character of Charlie in the story?" your answer will begin with something like "The important things we learn about the character of Charlie are..."

  2. Answer
    Answer all parts of the question.

    (Note that the restatement and answer can, if you do it right, be your topic sentence.)

  3. Evidence
    Cite the proof for your answer.  Find a quote that proves what you're trying to say.  Begin with a phrase like, "As it says in..." and say where you got your information.  REMEMBER: you need to put quotation marks around any quote you use!

  4. Analysis
    This is where you're going to explain your choice of quote.  Why, of all the sentences that are written in the book or article you used, did you choose the sentence you chose?  What is this quote showing the reader that helps to make your point?  Begin your analysis with the phrase, "This shows that..." Then tell us what it shows.

  5. Conclusion
    Briefly restate your topic sentence.  Begin with a standard conclusion phrase: "In conclusion..." or "As you can see..."

An Example

What important information do we learn about Charlie and his family in chapters 1-5?  Use quotes to prove your point.

We learn many important things about Charlie in the first five chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, including the fact that his family is poor.  As it says in chapter one, "There wasn't any question of them being able to buy a better house--or even one more bed to sleep in.  They were far too poor for that." This shows that the family doesn't have enough money to spend on two beds for the two sets of grandparents.  In conclusion, this is one of the important pieces of information we learn about Charlie and his family.

An easy to understand Online Writing Guide for beginning writers.  Here you will find a list of various writing models, general tips and hints to help guide you to writing success.

Last Modified: Friday, February 19, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

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