Process Essay: Writing Tips from 3 Experts

Process Essay: Writing Tips from 3 Experts

When writing a process analysis essay, your primary goal is to write about a series of actions that lead to a planned or otherwise expected outcome.  There are two basic forms of process essays that you may be asked to write.  The first is the process-analysis essay that strives to direct or instruct while the second type is that which explains or analyzes.  In both cases, the report tells the reader how to do something.

If you are writing process analysis essays that are intended to provide direction, your main goal is to tell the reader how to do something.  As such, your writing should serve to clarify the steps that need to be taken in the procedure.  Therefore, your writing should be clear and thorough enough that the reader could recreate the steps you have described.  

When writing a process-analysis essay that explains or analyzes, your purpose is to tell how something happened, how something works, how something was done, or how something is.  Keep in mind that the purpose of the process-analysis essay is to explain, inform, or analyze.  Further, your writing should help the reader gain a better understanding of the process, though the reader isn't necessarily going to be expected to recreate the process.

As you plan your process-analysis essay, you must first consider your audience.  If your audience is a group of professionals in the topic you will be writing about, there may be certain steps that you can assume they will already understand.  By identifying your audience, you can determine which information can be omitted as well as which information absolutely must be included.  If in doubt, you should generally assume that your audience has little knowledge about the topic but has some of the same general knowledge that you have.

After identifying your audience, you will then need to consider the steps necessary for the procedure you will be describing.  Put these steps in chronological order, making sure each step works logically toward the outcome you wish to have.  With any report, you should ensure the ideas are arranged in a logical order, but this is particularly important when writing a process-analysis essay since you are striving to help the reader understand a particular process.  In fact, the only time that you can break away from writing in chronological order is if you need to give advice, provide words of caution, or explain an unfamiliar term.

As with any report, your process-analysis report should have an introductory paragraph that contains a thesis statement.  Your thesis statement should simply inform the reader about what you will be explaining.  Your introductory paragraph should also briefly describe why the reader should be interested in learning more about the process you will be writing about.

The body of your process-analysis report should consist of the actual steps the reader must follow, though it should not be written in list form or as an outline.  Finally, your conclusion should revisit the topic and once again summarize the importance of understanding the process that was described.

Viewpoint of Author #2

When learning how to write a process essay, your main goal is to write a document that describes how something is done or how to do something.  Therefore, the first thing you need to do when writing one of these reports is determine what the process is that you will be trying to explain.  In addition, you need to determine why this process would be important to your target audience, including what and who the process affects.

Since you will be explaining how a process works when you write a process essay, you will obviously need to gain a clear understanding of the steps within the process.  In addition to understanding one method of completing the process, however, you also need to consider other possible methods of completion.  When you write your paper, you should choose the method that is the clearest and the most likely to be understood by your target audience.

If you are writing about a process that may be confusing to the reader or that requires an understanding of certain information or processes, you might need to provide a bit of background information in your paper, as well.  Similarly, you will need to discuss any equipment that might be necessary to complete the process.

In the introductory paragraph of process essays, you will tell the reader what the process is that you will be discussing as well as why it is important to understand the process.  In the subsequent paragraphs, which are those that make up the body of the document, you will describe the steps in chronological order.  In addition to describing the steps, you might provide a brief summary of why the step is important, as well.  Similarly, if there are certain problems that might occur during a particular step, you might describe the potential problem as well and how those problems can be handled.

Since a process paper involves describing steps, you will use a great deal of transitional phrases.  Examples of transitional phrases include:

  • After a few hours;
  • Immediately following;
  • Afterwards;
  • Initially;
  • In the end;
  • At last;
  • At the same time;
  • In the future;
  • Before;
  • In the meantime;
  • Before this;
  • During;
  • Later;
  • Finally;
  • First, second, third;
  • Next, soon, after.

By using these transition words, you can clearly signal to the reader when you are moving from one step to the next.

Keep in mind that a process essay isn't necessarily intended to provide the readers with enough instruction to allow them to reconstruct the process.  At the same time, they should have a clear understanding of the process that was used.

In your final paragraph, which is your conclusion, you will summarize the activity you have just described and you will reiterate the importance of understanding the process.  When the essay is complete, be certain to read it again in order to check for grammar and punctuation errors.  In addition, read to make sure the report flows naturally and has a logical order.

Viewpoint of Author #3

A process essay is a brief text in which the writer explains a particular process in a precise and detailed way.  Process essays can be envisioned as "how-to" texts because they provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of how to carry out the particular process described.  Other types of process essays are focused more on outlining and explaining a process to reveal information about it rather than to teach about it.  These types of process essays are written to demonstrate the writer's understanding of the process discussed.

Because process essays have a very narrow purpose, some students may wrongly confuse a process essay with a report.  The difference between a process essay and a report is that a process essay explores the discovery and thought behind the process, whereas a report merely describes actions and outcomes.  Whereas a report recounts the steps in a procedure, an essay would discuss the methods behind the steps.

Clarity is the most important element of any process essay.  Whether the process being described is a simple or a complex one, it is absolutely imperative that the reader is completely clear on the steps being outlined and the order in which they should be executed.  It is often difficult for an individual who knows a great deal about a certain topic to overlook what an individual unfamiliar with that topic may need to know in order to understand it.  Explaining a process in a clear and understandable way is therefore the primary difficulty of any process essay.  The writer must step outside of her own mind and knowledge and anticipate what information and explanations her readers will need in order to understand her assignment.  Because of this, it is often extremely helpful to have friends or other individuals unfamiliar with the writer's topic to read drafts of the process essay.  This will help the writer determine where she needs to provide more information or make the text more clear.

In addition to clarity, a process essay benefits greatly from adopting an exploratory style.  Because process essays have a very specific purpose, it is perhaps more difficult to infuse such a text with creativity.  However, writers of process reports should strive to make their documents both informative and compelling by highlighting interesting aspects of the process, including personal information related to the process (if appropriate), and varying the writing style of the report so as to avoid a report-like text.

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