A common purpose for process analysis essays is to teach a skill, such as how to play a musical instrument.

Like other kinds of essays, a process analysis essay offers detailed, organized information to its audience for a specific purpose. What sets a process essay apart is the way the information is organized: These essays follow a pattern based on steps. The purposes are usually to instruct the audience how to do something or to give insight into how something works. Therefore, the thesis depends largely on the audience and purpose.

Step One: Establish the Topic and the Audience

Topics for process analysis essays include anything you can explain in a series of steps. For instance, you can write about how to learn a new skill, how to create something, how changes occur in nature, or how things get done in government or in the business world. The key is making it relevant for a specific audience. Not everyone would be interested in how companies hire new employees, but job seekers would certainly benefit from this information. A good brainstorming technique is making a list of potential topics in one column and a list of related audiences in a corresponding column.

Step Two: Establish the Purpose

Once you have decided on your topic and audience, you can establish the purpose. It helps to think of the purpose as a "to (verb)" phrase, such as "to instruct," "to inform," or "to break down a complex concept." If you pick a common or a well-known topic, then chances are you would choose to focus on a little-known part of the process. If you pick a complex process, then the purpose may be to explain it in detail so that an audience unfamiliar with it understands the process better than they did before reading your essay.

Step Three: Draft a Thesis Statement

Before drafting your essay, write out a potential thesis statement. The thesis should be one sentence and relate to the purpose of the essay. Strong thesis statements make a specific assertion about the topic and provide focus for the content of the essay as well as follow standard grammar and mechanics rules. Think of this thesis statement as the "why" of your essay. Ask, "Why should my audience care about this topic?"

Here is an example of a thesis statement for a process analysis essay on how jellybeans are made: Fans of jelly beans assume that they are easy to produce, but the truth is that a lot of care is put into making them.

Step Four: Draft the Essay and Check the Thesis

A strong thesis statement is not worth much out of context. Once you have a draft of your thesis, plan out your subtopics, or steps, and write the first draft of your essay. Organize the steps in chronological order from first step to last. Once you have a complete first draft, compare the idea set up by your thesis statement with the content that follows. Ask, "Does this thesis prepare my audience for the rest of the essay?" and "Does the content of my essay fulfill the expectations put forth in the thesis?" The answers to these questions will guide your revision.