On a magical Saturday afternoon in the mid ’90s, my family and I made a trip to the nearest Circuit City to buy our first home computer.
I remember it well. The salesman in his red polo shirt saw my corn-fed parents and thought he might feed them a few lines of malarkey to go with it.
“You could go with one of these bargain PCs, but it will be obsolete before you even get it home.”
“Or… ,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “You could go with this brand-new desktop that just hit the sales floor.”
It was state of the art, sporting a whopping 1 gigabyte hard drive along with the newly released Windows ‘95, which he assured us would make it a top-of-the-line piece of equipment for years to come.
“IBM Aptiva 486 booting Windows 95” by Al Lemos, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)/speech bubble added
My parents were sold, and so was the computer. The salesman, obviously feeling quite confident and seeing that we were obviously clueless, sold us one more thing before we left: a yellow and black book aptly titled Windows 95 for Dummies.
Ahh, the ’90s. Where did those who didn’t know how to use the Internet go for information on how to use a computer? Books.
It seems like an antiquated approach now, but that how-to manual from ye days of olde isn’t too dissimilar to what many students still have to produce today: a process analysis essay.
Choose How to Approach Your Process Analysis Essay
A process analysis essay describes how something is done. There are two ways to approach this task.
With the first approach, you will describe how to do something with the purpose of teaching your readers how to do it themselves.
With the second approach, you will describe how to do something with the purpose of teaching your readers how something is done, but with the knowledge that they will not be able to do it themselves.
For example, if you’re analyzing the process of making the perfect cup of coffee, the goal should very well be that, after reading your paper, the reader will be able to make the best damn cup of coffee ever.
However, if you’re analyzing the process of sending a satellite into space, then your average readers will most likely be interested in how others do this without having the means to actually do it themselves.
The different approaches may change the tone of your paper since the goals are quite different, but the fundamental structure for both approaches will be the same.
Choose (a Topic) Wisely
A process analysis involves describing a step-by-step process. Keep this in mind when choosing a topic.
Most essay assignments come with guidelines regarding their length. It is important that you take this into consideration when deciding on an appropriate topic.
Choosing a topic that is too complex can be nearly impossible to tackle in an essay with a moderate word limit. In fact, depending on the complexity of the topic, it may be nearly impossible to explain clearly in essay form at all.
On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, you will find it difficult to write a paper that is long enough. You could write a process analysis essay about how to braid hair, but you may find yourself splitting hairs when it comes to the process in order to flesh out a lengthy enough essay.
Making either mistake will drastically hurt the readability of your essay and, undoubtedly, your grade. Instead, look for a topic that falls somewhere in the middle.
Moreover, you’re going to want to choose a process that you’re familiar with but that the majority of your readers are not. Don’t choose something so simple that everyone already knows how to do it.
I encourage you to brainstorm many topics. Make a list, and then go through each topic and consider how well it would work in essay form. You can also take a look at some example process analysis essays in the Kibin database.
Once you have a topic you like, you can begin outlining it to see how well it will actually work.
Outlining and Structuring Your Essay
Making an outline is important when writing any essay, but it’s even more important with process analysis essays.
In order to teach someone a process, it is extremely important that all steps are presented in a clear and logical order.
Creating an outline will give you the chance to think about which steps are important and then put the steps in the correct order.
While outlining, you should determine which steps are complicated enough to warrant their own paragraphs and which are related and simple enough to lump together into one paragraph.
If while outlining your topic you find that it’s going to be too long or too short, too complex or too simple, you can return to your brainstorming list and try a new topic. It’s much better to have that realization at this point in the project—before you start writing your essay.
Writing Your Process Analysis Essay
In case you haven’t noticed, many of the posts we write on the Kibin blog are similar to process analysis essays. We’re describing how to write certain types of essays and how to become a better writer in general.
So in a way, I’m writing a process analysis about how to perform the process of writing a process analysis about how to perform a process.
Therefore, there are some things that you can learn about process analysis by reading this blog.
For example, we write these posts in the second person (you) because we’re explaining to you (the reader) how to do something. In most cases, you will want to take this same approach in your process analysis essay (but double check your assignment guidelines first as some instructors may ask you to keep to third person).
Your essay will start with an introduction of the topic you will discuss. This introduction paragraph shouldn’t include any of the steps in the process, though.
Instead, you can use this space to define important terms in the process, list any needed materials, and relay any necessary warnings related to the process, along with any other information that’s pertinent to the process.
After the introduction, you will begin to describe the step-by-step process. Using transition words is important when doing this. Your essay should present the steps in chronological order, and transition words can help to do this clearly.
Because some paragraphs will include numerous steps and others will include just one, each paragraph within the body will vary in length. This is fine. The important thing is that the process is described in a logical order and in a clear way.
Your conclusion will restate the purpose of your process analysis essay and describe the appropriate end result.
Edit and Revise
It’s important to have someone review any essay you write, but it’s imperative with a process analysis essay. When writing about a process you already know well, it can be easy to overlook something.
It’s quite common for a writer to make a seemingly obvious mistake because he or she can’t see the process from an outsider’s point of view. For this reason, it’s important to let an outsider read your paper.
If there’s someone close to you who you trust and who has the time to take a look, give it to them. If not, you can send your paper to one of the professional editors at Kibin. Not only will they point out any glaring weaknesses in your paper, but they will also provide insight into how to improve your writing in the future.
Moreover, they will never make you feel like a dummy.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
- Determine the purpose and structure of the process analysis essay.
- Understand how to write a process analysis essay.
The Purpose of Process Analysis in Writing
The purpose of a process analysis essay is to explain how to do something or how something works. In either case, the formula for a process analysis essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps.
Almost everything we do involves following a step-by-step process. From riding a bike as children to learning various jobs as adults, we initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, we have likely had to instruct others, so we know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly put together.
Writing at Work
The next time you have to explain a process to someone at work, be mindful of how clearly you articulate each step. Strong communication skills are critical for workplace satisfaction and advancement. Effective process analysis plays a critical role in developing that skill set.
On a separate sheet of paper, make a bulleted list of all the steps that you feel would be required to clearly illustrate three of the following four processes:
- Tying a shoelace
- Parallel parking
- Planning a successful first date
- Being an effective communicator
The Structure of a Process Analysis Essay
The process analysis essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process.
The organization of a process analysis essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur. Body paragraphs will be constructed based on these steps. If a particular step is complicated and needs a lot of explaining, then it will likely take up a paragraph on its own. But if a series of simple steps is easier to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph.
The time transition phrases covered in the Narration and Illustration sections are also helpful in organizing process analysis essays (see Table 10.1 “Transition Words and Phrases for Expressing Time” and Table 10.2 “Phrases of Illustration”). Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally are helpful cues to orient reader and organize the content of essay.
Always have someone else read your process analysis to make sure it makes sense. Once we get too close to a subject, it is difficult to determine how clearly an idea is coming across. Having a friend or coworker read it over will serve as a good way to troubleshoot any confusing spots.
Choose two of the lists you created in Note 10.52 “Exercise 1” and start writing out the processes in paragraph form. Try to construct paragraphs based on the complexity of each step. For complicated steps, dedicate an entire paragraph. If less complicated steps fall in succession, group them into a single paragraph.
Writing a Process Analysis Essay
Choose a topic that is interesting, is relatively complex, and can be explained in a series of steps. As with other rhetorical writing modes, choose a process that you know well so that you can more easily describe the finer details about each step in the process. Your thesis statement should come at the end of your introduction, and it should state the final outcome of the process you are describing.
Body paragraphs are composed of the steps in the process. Each step should be expressed using strong details and clear examples. Use time transition phrases to help organize steps in the process and to orient readers. The conclusion should thoroughly describe the result of the process described in the body paragraphs. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read an example of a process analysis essay.
Choose one of the expanded lists from Note 10.54 “Exercise 2”. Construct a full process analysis essay from the work you have already done. That means adding an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, time transition phrases, body paragraphs, and a solid conclusion.
- A process analysis essay explains how to do something, how something works, or both.
- The process analysis essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the outcome of the process.
- The organization of a process analysis essay typically follows a chronological sequence.
- Time transition phrases are particularly helpful in process analysis essays to organize steps and orient reader.
This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.