Writing a process analysis essay

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  • Catherine Wishart
  • Senior Adjunct Instructor
  • Rowan College at Burlington County


  • A process analysis essay can either provide steps on how to do something or provide information.
  • A process analysis essay may explain to the reader:
    • How to perform steps in a process.
    • How something works.
    • How the important steps in a process coalesce.
    • The logical order in which to do something.
  • A process analysis essay also may:
    • Describe how something is done.
    • Explain how something happens.


  • A process may be:
    • A series of actions.
    • Specific changes.
    • Certain steps, operations, or functions.
      • All of these are meant to demonstrate how to achieve a particular result.
    • While some essays may focus on what, process analysis normally focuses on how.
  • Writing about a process should be accomplished in a logical order.
    • Many times in a process, the logical order will be chronological.
    • The logical order may also be order of importance in order to accomplish the particular result.
    • Source: www.southtexascollege.edu/dev-english/…2/i-process_analysis.ppt.


  • Make sure that the process described is a “good fit” for the intended audience.
  • Make sure that the idea is unusual or even unique.
    • When reading the selections on “The American Dream” for this essay, avoid the obvious.
    • Dig deep and find a novel point of view about which to write.
  • Make sure that the process decided upon to describe can be fully explained in a 5 paragraph essay.


  • Based on the readings provided, consider the questions below:
    • How can the American Dream survive?
    • How does education play into the American Dream?
    • How does capitalism play into the American Dream?
    • How can the government help the American Dream remain a reality?
    • How does ethnicity and racism effect the American Dream?
    • How do we create equal access to the American Dream?
    • How can the definition of the American Dream be changed?
    • How does globalization make the American Dream harder/easier to achieve?
  • Note that each question asks “how.” Answering “how” is the purpose of a process analysis essay.


  • For the purposes of this essay, focus in on three main steps, three main pieces of information, three main actions, or three main changes needed in order to achieve the particular result or goal.
  • The essay should use this format for the thesis statement:
  • The pattern for this essay will be:
    • Introduction
    • Step, information, action, or change #1
    • Step, information, action, or change #2
    • Step, information, action, or change #3
    • Conclusion that demonstrates the end result of the process.


  • Use a hook to engage the reader
    • Make certain that the reader understands why knowing how this process works is important.
  • Transition from the hook to the thesis statement
    • Thesis statement: follow the pattern required for this group essay: When considering the American Dream, some experts believe that ___________________, _______________, and ___________________ be completed in order for ___________________________.


  • A topic sentence that informs the reader what the paragraph will cover.
  • Supporting details that include a quotation, summary statement, or paraphrase of at least one of the authors read.
  • A closing that explains the function of what was described in the paragraph and that may help to transition to the next paragraph.


  • The result of the process should be demonstrated.
  • Restate the thesis statement in a novel way.
  • Include closing remarks that give the reader something to think about:
    • It may discuss the future.
    • It may inspire the reader.
    • It may provide contemplation on the impact the process has on families.


  • Each essay for this course is a formal writing assignment.
  • Even though the task of this essay is to describe a process, the paper must be written in a formal voice.
  • Do NOT use second person. This means that the essay must not include these words:
    • You
    • Your
    • You’re
  • However, “you understood,” as in a command, is acceptable when explaining steps in a process.
  • Attempt to stay in third person: he, she, it, they, one, the family.


  • Besides being a specific type of essay, all essays for this class are expected to be a “synthesis essay.”
  • When synthesizing information, the writer combines information from several sources in order to create new knowledge or explore a new perspective.
  • By definition, a synthesis essay uses more than one source and finds common themes amongst these sources.
  • For the process analysis essay, groups are expected to use at least three of the passages the class read on “The American Dream.” Utilizing each source can be accomplished by:
    • Directly quoting the source (make sure to integrate the quote into the group’s own writing).
    • Paraphrasing information from the source (parenthetical citation still required).
    • Summarize a portion of the source (least favorable method; parenthetical citation still required).


  • An example of a process analysis essay, including comments by the original professor, has been posted by Jefferson Davis Community College. This essay may be accessed at: www.easyliteracy.com/processanalysisessayjdcc.doc
  • An example of a synthesis essay, which was converted from APA to MLA, may be accessed at: www.easylitercy.com/synthesisexessay.pdf This essay was originally located at: http://www.tracihv.net/SmpleStudEssayAPA.htm
  • Information about writing a synthesis essay, including a checklist to assist in checking group work may be found at Drew University’s On-line Resources for Writers site: http://www.users.drew.edu/~sjamieso/Synthesis.htm


  • Writing collaboratively is both invigorating and frustrating.
    • Being able to bounce ideas off others may lead to lively discussions, deeper reading, and better writing skills.
    • Working with others also may lead to frustration that a particular thought or idea is not the consensus of the group.
  • If a specific group needs assistance in working together, these sites may help:
    • The University of North Alabama offers assistance in how to assign roles within a group. Remember, though, that the expectation is that all members of the group will be part of the editing process. http://www.una.edu/writingcenter/docs/Writing-Resources/Collaborative-Writing-Help.pdf
    • Texas A&M also offers advice on how to assign roles and manage the group process: http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/2010/composing-process/collaborative-writing-peer-response/managing-group-writing-projects-2/


  • Jamieson, Sandra. “Synthesis Writing.” On-Line Resources for Writers. 1999. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • “Process Analysis Essay, The.” Academic Support Center Writing Lab. Austin Peay State University. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • “Process Analysis Essay PowerPoint.” South Texas College. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • “Process Analysis Essay.” Writing Resources. Kamehameha Schools Distance Learning. Oct. 2010. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • “Process Analysis: Sample Essay.” Jefferson Davis Community College. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • “What is a Synthesis Essay?” The Writing Lab. Bellevue College. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
  • Note: Additional resources are listed with direct links within this PowerPoint.

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