Process Essays Show How Things Get Done: Clearly and Fully

Process essays crop up in a variety of settings. You might encounter this format in one of several courses, or on the job, and for multiple reasons. Here are some suggestions to clarify what is needed.

Where might you need to create an essay about process?

  • Courses in:
  • Food science
  • Life sciences
  • Chemistry, Physics
  • Expository writing
  • Business writing
  • On the job, to instruct subordinates.


Why does an instructor or manager assign process essays?

  • To show that you understand how something works
  • To show that you can communicate to others how something is accomplished

Many things we encounter daily could be expressed this, in, for example:

  • Recipes
  • Instructions to use equipment/software
  • Sharing how to accomplish anything creative, such as crafts

There are also items that are similar to process essays in:

  • The methods section of laboratory reports or
  • Embedded in the methods section of a research paper

How do you begin?

  • Choose a manageable topic or break down a large topic into smaller chunks. Thus, installing software need not start with writing the code!
  • Deconstruct the task or process into the maximum possible decision points. Thus, for example, we know that a fertilized egg does not simply keep dividing until a complete organism is formed. In fact, at various points, different genes direct different organsystems to develop.
  • Aim for three steps at least – if you don’t have three steps, enlarge your view of the topic. For example, consider getting a glass of water. Does it not consist merely of running water to fill the glass? Not necessarily; what about the initial choice of glass? How is it served? Step back for a wider perspective.
  • Help the reader anticipate the next step. Use a variety of transitional words to keep things interesting, such as:
    • After a few seconds/minutes/hours,
    • Afterwards,
    • At last,
    • At the same time,
    • Before,
    • Before this,
    • Currently,
    • During,
    • Eventually,
    • Finally,
    • First/Second/Third,
    • First of all,
    • Formerly,
    • Immediately before,
    • Immediately following,
    • Initially,
    • In the end,
    • In the future, In the meantime,
    • In the meanwhile,
    • Last/Last but not least/Lastly,
    • Later,
    • Meanwhile,
    • Next,
    • Previously,
    • Simultaneously,
    • Soon after,
    • Subsequently,
    • Then.

Anticipate questions and objections.

The use of “You” is acceptable in an instructional process essay.

These links offer useful guidance:

  • http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/process.html
  • http://www.jalc.edu/departmentpages/english/pdfs/write_place_tutorials/10_process_analysis_how_to.pdf

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