The first thing to know about a process essay or paper is that it is a type of “how to” guide that explains to the reader how something is done, how something occurs, or how something works. A process paper can be based on any topic from baking a cake or writing an essay to carrying out a nuclear experiment. Sometimes your tutor may assign a topic to you or you may be free to choose your own topic. In either case, the primary condition is that you fully understand the topic you are writing about. In fact, you should have an exceptional knowledge of it since you will be giving information or instructions to other people. That is the objective of a process essay i.e. to provide readers with directions they will understand so that they will be able to complete that same task by themselves.

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How to Write a Process Paper – The Essential Steps

Select a suitable topic. The subject matter for your process paper maybe something to do with your profession or job or it may concern something you learned at high school, college or university. It may even relate to a hobby you enjoy or a particular experience you have had.

Do whatever research is necessary. It is often the case that regardless of how good you are at something or how well you know a subject, it can help to study it again to ensure there are no gaps in your knowledge. It may even be that some information or procedure has been updated since you last did a particular thing, used a particular item or learned about a particular subject.

Write notes as you go along. Make a note of every thought and/or idea that occurs to you while you are thinking about a topic, researching it, or revising it. Notes are a great way of ensuring that you retain every worthwhile detail that will be useful to you when you start writing. It can also be a great help to make notes about any equipment or materials that your readers will need to complete the task you are describing to them.

Once you have emptied your brain of ideas and written all of these down, it is now time to evaluate and organize the material you have got. Consider all the steps you have written down and put these in logical and sequential order. Describe each step in as much detail as is necessary, moving from what should be done first or what happens first to what should be done or what should happen last.

The final but equally important step is to revise what you have written. It could be that your paper has a variety of mistakes such as typos, inconsistencies in the formatting, or errors in the factual information you have provided.

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Selecting a Topic

There are numerous topics and types of subject matter that can be used as the basis for a process essay. It is possible to divide most processes into sequential steps, each one of which should then be described in easy-to-understand language. Therefore, it should not be difficult to choose a topic for a process essay. There is, however, one crucial condition, which is that you should know and fully understand what it is you are writing your paper about.   

The following are some topic ideas that you might like to consider if or when you are asked to write a process essay.

  • How to write an application essay
  • Tuning a piano
  • Cooking some unusual dish
  • Baking your own cake
  • Painting with watercolors
  • Undertaking a chemistry experiment
  • Installing a piece of software on a home computer

Key Considerations

  1. Select a topic you are very familiar with, and one that is practical and easy to manage.
  2. If necessary, carry out some extra research.
  3. Complete the details for every step. Your readers will certainly be very appreciative if you explain everything very carefully. It also helps to describe any equipment and/or materials that readers may need to complete a particular task.
  4. It is important a “how to” paper is clear and easy to understand. To check that your paper meets this criterion, imagine the subject is entirely unfamiliar to you. Now, use the steps and instructions you have written to try and accomplish the task.  
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What You Should and Should Not Do

What to do

  • Make use of transitional (or signal) words and/or phrases. These are important for taking your readers from one process step to the next. While there are many transitional words, some of the most frequently used are “and so on,” “at first,” “at last,” “before,” “during,” “eventually,” “finally,” “meanwhile,” “then,” “when” and “while.”   
  • The best policy is to describe each and every part of a process to ensure your readers do not misunderstand or not understand.
  • Your process paper will be all the better if you include a few interesting and relevant examples. These will add intrigue make your written work more compelling for the reader.
  • Any terminology and/or formulations you use should be precise.
  • The most important points and/or steps should be highlighted.

What not to do

  • Do not worry or frightened to show emotion. Writing a “how to essay” is not to say the person who writes it must be academically qualified. If you have real passion for your subject, it is no harm to show the extent of your excitement and enthusiasm.
  • Do not start every step with the same words i.e. “after this” or “then.” Repetition can make your written work sound tedious.
  • Begin with an introductory paragraph. Do not just go straight into the “how to” elements immediately. Try and describe the background or situation to show your readers what your paper will cover.
  • Do not ignore checking any details you are not certain about (yes, attention to small details is important.
  • Do not hesitate to asl for help, if you fill like is is too much for you to handle on your ow

The Most Common Errors in Process Papers

  • Choosing subject matter that is too complex or too simple is a mistake since this can affect the length of your paper. It can reduce it to “recipe” size or it can lengthen it so much that it has the appearance of a full-scale manual.
  • Too little detail can render a “how to” essay ineffective. Do not forget that it may be the first time a reader tries to perform this task.
  • There is no sense to the order of the steps you describe. Check your process essay again once it is written to find out if the order can be improved and to ensure it will not lead to confusion.
  • Choosing inappropriate words and/or demonstrating inadequate language skills. These mistakes can create a situation where readers may not understand what you have written.

Having read the advice provided above, it is likely you are now acquainted with at least the essentials of writing a process paper. On a very final note, it is recommended you always re-read or proofread your written work upon completion to ensure it is error-free and perfectly polished. It is hoped you find these tips helpful and you can check out the sample process papers on PrimeEssays.com’s website.

Free Process Paper Sample (Cognitive Processes)


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