How to Write a Process Essay: Step-by-step Guide

The process essay, also known as the “how-to” essay, is commonly written for people or companies that need tutorials or a set of instructional steps. Whether it’s building a robot or cooking a chocolate cake, process essays use a similar format for any variations. They follow a step-by-step style, with the initial step influencing the second, which influences the third, and so on. Each step carries its own importance, and a poor explanation of one step can ruin the entire process. It’s important to stay concise and efficient. However, before you begin writing your essay, you should do some small preparations.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is a Process Paper?

A process essay is a type of essay that explains a process step by step and gives guidance for a certain process, working mechanism, procedure, etc. Process essays range from very simple ones, such as instructions for how to ride a bicycle, to more complex ones, such as a chemistry lab report of an oxidative reaction experiment. The goal of a process paper is to give its readers guidance and directions. 

A process paper is characterized, first of all, by explaining a process using a description. Some words that are frequently used in process essays are “further”, “then”, “next”, “first”, “last”, “finally”, and “initially”. It is really important to remember that every process essay includes features, such as:

  • clear and straightforward narration – the last thing you want to do is to confuse your reader with complex language and an unorganized thought thread;
  • chronological order – avoid skipping steps and shifting them around, as it will result in misunderstanding and frustration for the readers;
  • transition words – make sure to separate the next step from the previous ones by using transition words;
  • descriptions of the steps – make sure your steps are clear and easy to follow.

There are several types of process essays. The first one is directional – it explains the “how to” for something. It can take on a wide range of subjects, such as how to apply for a credit card, how to get your driver’s license, how to plan a wedding, etc. The outcome of the directional essay should be a result. In the cases of the examples above: a credit card, a driver’s license, or a carefully planned wedding. The other type of process paper is informational – it explains how something works. Here are some examples: how a weather forecast is determined, how a space rocket works, how intermittent fasting changes your body, etc. An informational essay explains something to a reader and does not necessarily end up with a result, like directional does. 

Another type of essay that is similar to a process essay is a process analysis essay. The biggest difference is that a process analysis essay not only explains the steps, but also analyses them in depth. It has all of the characteristics of a process essay, although goes into more detail about the causes and consequences of every step.

How to Write a Process Essay

Writing a process essay is not extremely difficult. By following simple rules and a set of steps, a successful, well-structured essay can be guaranteed.

Prepare The Small Stuff

Here we gathered some small general tips and advice that you should follow throughout your writing process to make sure that all of the expectations of a process paper are met.

  • Determine the Audience’s Skill Level. It’s important to base the level of complexity of the essay on who the readers will be. For example, if you need to teach a friend how to do a simple fix or create a certain tool, then it would be most reasonable to stick to more basic terminology. However, if you are writing an essay for your astrophysics professor about the creation of a black hole in the universe, use more sophisticated and informative terminology.
  • Make a List of Materials. Obviously, the creation of anything comes with some prerequisites. Whether it’s items or ideas, the importance of knowing the necessities beforehand and having them ready to go is essential. Make sure to place each item in accordance with its importance. The more impactful a part is, the higher up on the list it should be. 
  • Write out Each Task. In a step-by-step tutorial, each individual task carries some sort of weight. Since an entire process can not be complete if a step is skipped, it’s crucial to write out every single step. However, don’t go overboard in your explanations. It’s not necessary to bring the tutorial to a microscopic level, but each step should be understandable and competent.

Process Essay Topics

Choosing a topic for a process paper can be quite challenging. A good place to start is with your passions. If you pick something you are excited about, you can make it interesting for your readers and fun for yourself to write about. If your professor limits you to write a process essay on something you have very little knowledge of, choose a topic that is intriguing and triggers your interest. Then, conduct enough thorough research to make sure you understand everything perfectly before you go ahead and try to explain it to someone else. 

Another very important thing to consider while writing a process essay is your audience. It is highly unlikely that college students are interested in instructions for “How to Get Into Your Dream School” or “How to Pass Your SATs”. Make sure your topic relates to the subject you are studying and you are following your professor’s prompt guidelines.

Here are some ideas that might be of interest for you:

  • How to lose weight on a keto diet
  • How your immune system fights COVID-19
  • How to start selling on Amazon
  • How to improve your credit score
  • How to decrease your social media usage
  • How to apply for unemployment insurance
  • How to improve your college performance 
  • How to open your first bank account

It’s important to note that these essay topics are just some common examples used by several college students for their course papers. Feel free to use any one of them if you want, or think of one on your own. Just make sure it’s a PROCESS!

Process Essay Outline

Most essay outlines follow the standard scheme: Intro > Body Paragraphs > Conclusion. follow the standard scheme: Intro > Body Paragraphs > Conclusion. A good process essay outline should look like this:

  • Introduction — brief your reader on your topic, explain why you have chosen it and how you are planning to approach the explanation of the process. 
  • Body — the biggest part of your essay that should be divided into paragraphs for easier understanding and structure. Make sure each paragraph is flowing smoothly into the next one with connective words.

Paragraph 1. First step of the process. Explain what the step is, what the best way to perform it is, and how to avoid common mistakes when doing it.

Paragraph 2. The next step of the process (the same as in Paragraph 1). Thoroughly explain what this step is about.

  • Conclusion. Here you need to explain why your instructions are valuable. It is your opportunity to persuade your reader(s) that the steps you presented and the process they learned will be useful for them in the future. 

Every process is different: some can take a couple of minutes, while others can take months or years to complete. The length of the essay is generally based on the difficulty and number of steps it takes. However, the structure doesn’t maneuver.

Introduction

The first thing that you want to do as a writer for your process paper is to help your readers be interested in your individual process. Be descriptive about it, paint a picture for your readers. A joke or a personal reference can be a great attention grabber and can pull your reader right in. For somebody to be keen on approaching your process, they have to express interest in it. Though, it generally goes without saying that many writers ignore this fact. Let’s break it down into subsections:

  • Give a little bit of historical background. People often want to know the origins of whatever it is that they’re working on. Introducing this part of the process helps to intrigue your readers, as well as give them a sense of purpose for the task.
  • Create an approximate timeframe. Unfortunately, your readers don’t have all day to spend on this one event. In addition to learning about its purpose, people want to know how long the task will take. This way, they can decide how to break up the work. If it’s a quick fix, then they can knock it out in one session. However, if it’s a large-scale operation, then your readers will obviously have to create their own time schedule.

For example, let’s say that the topic of your essay is “How to Save Money”.
You can start the introduction of your process essay by explaining that as a college student, you often find yourself in need of extra money and you are stuck with bad money habits. This will create a good connection with your readers, because almost everyone has been in a situation of needing to be savvy with their finances. Another thing you can mention is the importance of saving money and the multiple opportunities it presents, such as being able to invest it, being able to pay off a credit card debt, or being able to save up to avoid taking out a student loan.

Body Paragraphs

This is the point in the process essay where you start introducing the step-by-step process your readers will need to take. A lot of the time, it helps to break down each process into subsections. For example, if a step has many parts to it, it would be clever to create a paragraph on its own just for that step. Remember, it’s important to keep things smooth and efficient. Break down the body paragraphs in unity with the steps. Let’s go into more detail about each step:

  1. Each step should be carefully explained. Every step will vary in length. Think about it: every instruction manual has several steps. Some are more difficult to comprehend or perform than others. For this reason, create your steps and explanations accordingly. You should be able to get a sense of their length and difficulty based on the explanation.

  2. Don’t forget to explain the purpose. People don’t want orders barked at them aimlessly. Besides just accomplishing a task, people want to learn as they perform.

    • Why did they do this?
    • What was the purpose of this method?
    • Why did we do it this way and not this other way?
  3. To make everything flow smoothly use transitions. Make the steps flow one after another to create a well-structured essay. As you introduce the next step, consider using transition words like “next”, “now”, “then”, “so that”, etc.

Before writing the steps out in full sentences, it is a great idea to create an outline for your body paragraphs. Here is an outline for the body paragraphs of a process essay on “How to Save Money”:

Paragraph 1:

  • keep track of your expenses
  • organize your collected data
  • decide what you can skimp on in your spendings

Paragraph 2:

  • create a realistic budget
  • check weekly to ensure you are sticking to it
  • save 15% of every monthly income
  • set a tangible goal for saving, such as a car

This example uses only two body paragraphs, but feel free to include more to ensure a better understanding and cohesive flow for your paper. Although, do not include excessive unnecessary details that clutter your essay and make understanding it even more difficult. While writing your essay, include small brief explanations for each statement. For example, “Even though eating out and grabbing a coffee on your way to class sounds tempting, setting a budget and saving 15% of each of your monthly earnings aside can help you have enough to put down a downpayment on a new car.” Here the reader will understand that there is a direct relationship between each step and the result it is going to give. 

Showing the readers that they are learning and not just repeating is one of the most effective ways to lock down their attention and keep them coming back!

Conclusion

After going through every step meticulously and explaining the whole process, a process essay needs a confident conclusion. This paragraph should be short, sweet, and to the point. It’s main goal is to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Discuss the main result. After the readers have completed the process, they should be left with a final result. It’s important that you explain to your readers what the end result will look like, and what can be done with it.
  • Restate the process’s general purpose. After completing the task, you obviously would like to know its overall purpose. When your readers feel that they have accomplished a challenge, learned something from it, and have a path to take the result towards, they will be satisfied!
  • State your Overall Conclusion. To put a pretty tie around your process essay means that you need to neatly wrap things up! Restate some of the highlightable points as well as the process’s key overall purpose. Make sure that your readers feel accomplished after going through your process, and  ensure that you strengthen the necessity of its purpose with a nice concluding sentence!

The conclusion of an essay on “How to Save Money” would explain that the completion of all of the steps will result in saving money that can be used for a specific goal or for rainy day fund purposes. You can mention the importance of every step and briefly repeat some of the key points. 

Post-Writing Tips

Here are some final tips to wrap up your writing process. Use them as a checklist for a successful and coherent essay. 

  • Make sure the work is simple enough to follow. Worst-case-scenario: its author creates a feeling of absolute confusion in the reader’s mind. To avoid this problem, always remember that your readers can be beginners. Do not try to impress them with complicated words or sentences, use simple language to provide clear directions on how to do something. Give as many details as possible, but do it plainly.
    “Why is he making me do this?”
    “What was the purpose of this?”
    “I don’t understand this step at all!”
    If the reader is asking themself these questions, then it’s time to do some editing!
  • Experiment and try it for yourself or ask a friend. There’s no better way to experience success than to actively attempt your process through your own instructions. If everything truly makes sense, then you should have no problem solving the task using your own words. Even better, ask a peer to try it through your words to get an outside point of view.
  • Choose the right topic for you and research it well
  • Maintain a logical order of steps, make it easy to follow
  • Avoid using imperative sentences – you do not want to sound like an Apple TV manual
  • Explain terms that are most likely outside of most people’s range of common knowledge 

Examples

Now that you know all about process essays and how to write them, we have prepared some great essay topic ideas in case you are stuck and cannot choose one:

Building a business from scratch is an intricate process that entails a number of steps. Each of these steps should have specific objectives and measurable outcomes.The following analysis gives the basic steps followed when building any business from scratch.

Saving can be defined as a differed consumption or keeping aside a portion of your income for unexpected future uncertainties or plans. Read for reason and actual steps for saving more money

Still Need Help?

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