How To Write Processing Essay

LEO: Literacy Education Online

Writing a Process Essay

What to consider when writing a process essay

A process paper either tells the reader how to do something or describes how something is done. As you write your process essay, consider the following:
  • What process are you trying to explain? Why is it important?
  • Who or what does the process affect?
  • Are there different ways of doing the process? If so, what are they?
  • Who are the readers? What knowledge do they need to understand this process?
  • What skills/equipment are needed for this?
  • How long does the process take? Is the outcome always the same?
  • How many steps are there in the process?
  • Why is each step important?
  • What difficulties are involved in each step? How can they be overcome?
  • Do any cautions need to be given?
  • Does the process have definitions that need to be clarified?
  • Are there other processes that are similar and could help illustrate the process that you are writing about?
  • If needed, tell what should not be done or why something should be done.
  • Process papers are often written in the second person (you), but some teacher prefer that you avoid this. Check with your teacher.

Your responses to these questions and statements should enable you to write an effective process essay.

Suggested transition words to lead readers through your essay

Process essays are generally organized according to time: that is, they begin with the first step in the process and proceed in time until the last step in the process. It's natural, then, that transition words indicate that one step has been completed and a new one will begin. Some common transitional words used in process essays are listed below:

After a few hours,Immediately following,
At lastIn the end,
At the same time,In the future,
BeforeIn the meantime,
Before this,In the meanwhile,
Currently,Last, Last but not least, Lastly,
Finally,Next, Soon after,
First, Second, Third, etc.Previously,
First of all,Simultaneously,
Immediately before,Then,

A Sample Process Essay

Kool-Aid, Oh yeah!

It has been said that Kool-Aid makes the world go 'round. Let it be advised, however, that without the proper tools and directions, the great American beverage is nothing more than an envelope of unsweetened powder. There are five simple steps to create this candy-tasting concoction.

Picking the proper packet of flavoring is the first step in making Kool-Aid. Check the grocer's shelf for a wide variety, ranging from Mountain Berry Punch to Tropical Blue Hawaiian. If it is a difficult decision for you, knock yourself out and buy two. The packets usually run under 65 cents.

After choosing the flavor that best suits your taste buds, the second step is making sure that your kitchen houses some necessary equipment for making the Kool-Aid. Find a two-quart pitcher. Plastic is nice, but glass pitchers allow the liquid to shine through and add festive coloration to any refrigerator shelf. Next, find a long-handled wooden spoon, a one-cup measuring cup, a water faucet that spouts drinkable water, usable white sugar, and an ice cube tray full of ice. Then, you are ready to mix.

Third, grab the left edge of the Kool-Aid packet between your thumb and index finger. With your other hand, begin peeling the upper-left corner until the entire top of the envelope is removed. Next, dump the contents of the envelope into the pitcher. Notice how the powder floats before settling on the bottom of the pitcher. Then, take the measuring cup and scoop two cups of sugar into the pitcher as well. At this point, adding the water is a crucial step. Place the pitcher under the water faucet and slowly turn on the cold water. If the water is turned on too quickly, powder will fly all over when the initial gusts of water hit. After the pitcher is filled within two inches of the top, turn the water off and get prepared to stir. With the wooden spoon submersed three-quarters of the way in the liquid, vigorously stir in a clockwise motion until all of the powder is dissolved. Taste it. If the Kool-Aid is not sweet enough, feel free to add more sugar.

Fourth, when you are finished seasoning the Kool-Aid to your liking, rinse off the spoon and the measuring cup. Take a glass from the cupboard. An eight-ounce glass is usually sufficient. But stronger thirsts might prefer a 32-ounce mug. Add ice and then fill the glass with Kool-Aid. Find a comfortable chair, put your feet up, and drink away. After all, Kool-Aid makes the world go 'round.

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© 1995, 1996, 1997 The Write Place
This handout was written by Heidi Everett and revised for LEO by Judith Kilborn, the Write Place, St. Cloud State University. It may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writers; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Last update: 28 September 1997


A process paper (or a ‘how to’ essay) is a guide which shows how an action is done, explains how it works, or how it occurs. Your process paper may refer to any topic: cooking a sandwich, writing a capstone project, or conducting a nuclear fission. The main condition is an excellent knowledge of the topic you are going to write about. The goal of a ‘how to’ essay is to give readers directions so that they can accomplish their task.

Steps for Writing a Process Paper

  1. Choose a topic. This might be a part of your job, hobby, or personal experience, or what you studied at school.
  2. Do research. No matter how awesome you are at the subject, it is useful to study it once more to make sure you miss nothing.
  3. Make notes. Write down all thoughts and ideas that come to your head while revising the topic. This will help you keep every important detail in mind. It might also be useful to note all the materials and/or equipment readers would need to accomplish their task.
  4. After you have your brain emptied and all your ideas written down, it is time to organize what you’ve got. Put all the steps you’ve described in a logical order, describe each of them in a detailed manner, from what happened first to last.
  5. The final step is to revise your paper, since your text might contain various factual mistakes, typos, and formatting mistakes.

Topic Selection

There is an enormous variety of topics and subjects you can choose from. Almost every process can be divided into a sequence of certain steps, and then described with an easy-to-understand language, so choosing a topic for a ‘how-to’ essay shouldn’t be a problem. Still, there is one important condition: the author should know what they are writing about.

Below are just a few examples of topics that one might choose when writing a process paper:

  • Writing admission essays
  • Drawing with watercolors
  • Tuning a guitar
  • Baking bread at home
  • Installing software on a PC
  • Cooking a certain exotic dish
  • Conducting a chemical experiment

Key Points to Consider

  1. Choose a practical, easily-manageable topic.
  2. Do some additional research if needed. Even well-known actions tend to change.
  3. Fill the steps with details—readers will appreciate such careful explanations for sure. It is also useful to specify materials and/or equipment needed to accomplish the goal.
  4. To check if your paper is clear, imagine you know nothing about the subject you are writing about. Try to follow your own instructions and recommendations.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Use transitional words, which are necessary to guide readers from one step to another. There are lots of useful signal words, such as initially, at first, before, while, when, at last, meanwhile, then, during, finally, and so on.
  • It is better to describe every step of the process to avoid your reader not understanding you.
  • Add some interesting examples into your ‘how-to’ essay. This will make it more intriguing and interesting to read.
  • Be precise with formulations and terminology.
  • Highlight really important steps.
  • Don’t be afraid to be emotional—a process paper does not mean that its author is an academic. When you are truly passionate about your topic, your enthusiasm can be exciting.
  • Avoid starting each of your steps with the words: “then” or “after that.” It makes your essay boring.
  • Write an introduction—don’t just start your process paper from the first step. You want to describe the situation so that a reader can see what the text is about.
  • Don’t be lazy about checking details you are not quite sure about.

Common Mistakes When Writing a Process Paper

– Choosing too easy or too complex subjects may affect your paper’s length, reducing it to a simple recipe or, on the contrary, extending it to a size of a manual.

– The lack of details. Keep in mind that someone may be trying to perform the process for the first time.

– An order of steps that don’t make sense. Double-check your essay after it is ready to see if you can improve the order and to make sure you have not caused confusion.

– Poor language skills and inappropriate word usage. In this case, your readers may misunderstand you.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic process paper writing tips and rules, you can check out our  process paper samples to link theory with practice.

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