How to Write a Process Analysis Essay

Think of your essay as a condensed instruction manual.
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A process analysis or procedural essay tells the reader how to perform a task or accomplish a goal. To write this type of essay, break down the task you are trying to teach into a series of individual, easy-to-digest steps. Keeping your language clear, precise and unambiguous will help ensure that your reader fully understands the process.

1 Choose a Teachable Process

Before you begin writing your essay, choose the process you want to teach, so you can focus on the details that matter to achieving that process. Choose a topic that is complex enough to warrant instructions and simple enough that you can break it down into a few paragraph-long steps. For example, a paper on "How to Research a Term Paper" could include steps for deciding on your course of research, gathering materials from libraries and the Internet and narrowing your information to a thesis statement. Prior to writing your essay, sketch the steps of the process sequentially -- in the order they should be performed. This will be the structure of your essay.

2 Explain the Process

Begin with an introductory paragraph that tells your reader what you are going to teach him and describes why it might be useful or important. If your topic is writing a research paper, you might explain: "Research papers are a frequent assignment in high school and college courses, so the sooner you learn research skills, the more you will benefit." Your introduction should also include an outline of the steps your reader will take, without going into the details of each step. For example: "Research is a process of deciding on a topic, collecting information and synthesizing it into a defined thesis."

3 Break it Down

Each paragraph of your essay will describe one of the steps in your process. Arrange your steps in the order they should be performed. Splitting your essay into a different section for each step will help your reader comprehend them without becoming confused. For instance, if you're writing how to research a paper, you might dedicate a paragraph each to considering angles of research, looking for primary sources, seeking secondary sources, checking your sources' validity and synthesizing your sources to choose your topic of writing.

The first sentence of each paragraph should describe the step in general, for example, "Search libraries and academic databases for scholarly commentaries." The rest of the paragraph would tell your reader how to perform the step and note any possible irregularities, such as: "If a relevant source is in an inaccessible database, check with your professor to see if you can get special access."

4 Keep it Simple

While writing, avoid vague pronouns like "it," and ambiguous phrasing: Tell the reader directly "check if a survey is peer reviewed" rather than "you should check if a survey is peer reviewed." While you should begin your sentences with temporal phrases such as "once" and "then" to locate your steps in relation to each other, avoid beginning multiple sentences in a row with the same phrasing, as this will make your essay feel repetitive and mechanical.

5 Describe the Results

End your paper with a conclusion paragraph describing the result of your process. Tell your reader what she should have produced or achieved by following your steps -- this will allow her to check if she has been successful. Include a sentence or two describing what the final product can be used for or how the process benefits your reader, such as: "Once you've mastered these research skills, you can spend your energy concentrating on the actual subject you're studying."

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.