The Process Essay Solano College Federle, English 1 What is a process?



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The Process Essay

  • Solano College
  • Federle, English 1

What is a process?

  • A process essay explains how to do something or how something occurs.
  • An obvious example of process writing is a recipe.

Characteristics of Process Writing

    • Strict chronological order
    • If the steps described are repeated, the same outcome should always be achieved.
    • Fixed order
    • Clarity extremely important
    • Transitions essential

Two Types of Process Writing

    • Instructions:
      • Enables readers to perform a process
      • A recipe, a handout, an operating manual are examples of instruction writing.
      • Use imperative mood.
      • Subject of sentences is “you” understood; speak directly to reader.

2. Process Explanation

    • Purpose is to help reader understand how a process is carried out.
    • Use either 1st person or 3rd person; not second person or imperative mood.
    • May be in present or past tense, depending on whether the writer is explaining a process that takes place regularly or one that occurred in the past, and on whether the writer or someone else carried out the process.
  • First Person
  • Third Person
  • Present Tense
  • “After I place the chemicals in the tray, I turn out the lights in the darkroom.”
  • (habitual process performed by the writer)
  • “After photographers place the chemicals in the tray, they turn out the lights in the darkroom.”
  • (habitual process performed by someone other than the writer)
  • Past Tense
  • “After I placed the chemicals in the tray, I turned out the lights in the darkroom.”
  • (process performed in the past by the writer)
  • “After the photographer placed the chemicals in the tray, she turned out the lights in the darkroom.”
  • (process performed in the past by someone other than the writer)

Using Process Writing

  • College writing for science, literature, history, or any other subject.
  • Use process writing to persuade or to inform.
  • A process essay should have a clear thesis statement that identifies the process and tells why it is performed.

Planning a process essay

Using transitions

  • Check list of transitions on page 43 of our textbook
  • Specifically useful are such transitions as first, second, meanwhile, after this, next, then, at the same time, when you have finished, and finally.
  • Use transitions to establish sequential and chronological relationships between steps in process.

Structure of Process Essay

  • Introduction: identifies the process and indicates why and under what circumstances it is performed.
    • Includes thesis
    • Introduces whatever materials or preliminary steps may be needed.

Structure of Process Essay, cont.

  • Body of essay
    • one major stage of the process in each body paragraph.
    • Each stage may involve several steps

Structure of Process Essay, cont.

  • Formal Conclusion
    • May not be necessary in very short, simple process essay.
    • Briefly reviews the procedure’s major stages
    • Reinforces the thesis by summarizing the results of the process, or explaining its significance.

Revising Checklist for a Process Essay

  • Does your assignment call for a set of instructions or a process explanation?
  • Does your writing style clearly and consistently indicate whether you are writing a set of instructions or process explanation?
  • Does your essay have a clearly stated thesis that identifies the process and perhaps tells why it is (or was) performed?
  • Have you included all necessary reminders and cautions?
  • Have you included all necessary steps?
  • Are the steps presented in strict chronological order?
  • Do transitions clearly indicate where one step ends and the next begins?

In Class Process Writing Exercise

  • Look at the photograph to the right. How is this jack-o’-lantern different from the pumpkin from which it was carved?
  • List the steps involved in the process of carving a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern. Where dies the process begin? Where does it end?
  • What cautions and reminders might be helpful to someone who has never made a jack-o’-lantern?

Journal Entry

  • Write a set of instructions for someone who has never made a jack-o’-lantern. Using commands and present tense, explain each step in the order in which it occurs, including all necessary cautions and reminders.

Grammar in context

  • Avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense, voice and mood, and in pronoun person.
  • Link to Verb Tense explanation and exercises.
  • Link to Verb Voice explanation and exercises.
  • Link to Verb Mood explanation and exercises.
  • Link to Pronoun Person explanation and exercises


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