Process Essay Mr. Olson College Writing
Definition • A process essay explains how to do something or how something occurs. • It presents a sequence of steps and shows how those steps lead to a particular result. • Process presents events in chronological order. • But it’s important to note: A process essay explains events that always produce the same outcome whenever the steps are duplicated.
What you need in your process essay: • Because these events form a sequence with a fixed order, clarity is extremely important. • Your essay must make clear the exact order of the individual steps, as well as their relationship to each other and the process as a whole. • As such, you need clear, logical transitions (see page 43 in Patterns.) • Events or steps need to be in chronological order.
Types of processes • Instructional: these give the reader instructions in order to perform a process. • Examples: recipes, a handout about using your library’s online databases, the operating manual for your DVD player. • Process explanation: these are to help a reader understand how a process is carried out. • Examples: how silkworms spin their cocoons, how da Vinci painted his masterpiece, etc.
Point of View • You may use either first person “I” or third person (they, he, she) as your point of view.
Process in College • College writing frequently calls for instructions or process explanations. • Ex: A biology paper might devote a paragraph on how homeostasis is lost. Editorials, character analyses, or finance midterms might be organized around a process.
Planning a Process Essay • As you write, keep your readers’ needs in mind. When necessary, explain the reasons for performing the steps, describe unfamiliar materials or equipment, define terms, and warn readers about possible problems that may occur. • Develop a thesis statement (the central question; the seed of the paper; statement of fact + statement of opinion). Ex. “Applying for food stamps is a needlessly complex process that discourages many qualified recipients” or “The process of slaughtering baby seals is inhumane and sadistic.”
Thesis Continued • If your essay topic at hand isn’t debatable, you still need a thesis: “Typing their own blood can familiarize students with some fundamental laboratory procedures.”
Planning a Process Essay • Transitions: look for sequential and chronological transitions, such as first, second, meanwhile, after this, next, then, at the same time, when you have finished, finally… • AVOID UNNECESSARY SHIFTS IN TENSE, PERSON, VOICE AND MOOD. • Be careful not to omit article (a, an, and the) so that your discussion moves smoothly, like an essay – not abruptly, like a cookbook.
Structure • Introduction: hook, identifies the process, why and under what circumstances it’s performed. Thesis at the end. • Body: typically each paragraph treats one stage of the process. Each stage may group several steps, depending on the nature and complexity of the process. • Conclusion: (A short process essay may not need a formal conclusion; this essay will require one.) Briefly reviews the procedure’s major stages. May reinforce the thesis by summarizing the results of the process or explaining its significance.
Rubric • Do you have a clear introduction that mentions the process and why the reader should understand this process? • Do you have an explicit thesis? • Does the introduction have a strategy to capture the reader’s attention? • Have you included every step in the process? • Where necessary, have you explained how steps are performed? Did you define unclear terms? (This is getting to know your reader.)
Rubric • If it is important, have you explained what not to do? • Have you used specific nouns, verbs, and modifiers? (In other words, you’re not being vague.) • Are steps in a chronological order? • Are all your details relevant to your topic sentences? • Have you kept verb tenses, mood, and point of view consistent? • Are your steps described in clear, articulate detail appropriate for your audience? • Does the conclusion have a strategy to give a satisfying end to the paper?