WRITING THE PROCESS ANALYSIS ESSAY What is a process analysis essay?

The purpose of the process analysis essay is to give instructions or explain how something is done. Three elements are essential to the successful writing of this type of essay. First, there must be a carefully constructed sequence of steps that completely covers the entire process. All must be included and placed in the right order. Next, each step must contain enough detail and illustration to be understandable to the reader. Finally, the steps must be joined with appropriate transitions and include key words that create coherence and unity. There are two types of process essays: directional and informational. The directional essay outlines precise steps that must be followed to perform a task. An example would be the process of changing a tire. The informational essay explains how an object or process works, either now or in the past. For example, an informational essay might describe how a steam locomotive worked in the 19th century, or how monorail trains work today.

What a process analysis essay is not
The process analysis essay is purely informational. No opinion or analysis is needed (the word "analysis" in the title refers to analyzing steps in the process and reporting them clearly). Steps that do not move the process forward should not be included.

The Process Analysis Essay Introduction
Identifying the process to be described or the object, idea, or event to be explained is the first step in beginning the essay. This thesis sentence appears at or near the end of the first paragraph. The writer should begin the introduction with an unusual or unique fact or story, a question, or a startling statement. These attention-getting sentences should involve the reader immediately and provoke him/her to read further. The middle sentences of the introduction should continue to provide background or other interesting information which flows smoothly and logically into the thesis. The introduction should be at least four to five sentences long.

The Body of the Process Analysis Essay
In the directional process essay, use a step-by-step approach to development. Organize the steps around logical stages in the process such as getting started, performing the process, and, finally, finishing up and testing the results. Make sure all steps are included and eliminate irrelevant steps. Order the steps in a logical sequence. In the informational process, build your discussion around specific subtopics. For example, in describing the way a monorail functions, you

might include a paragraph on the science that underlies the way the train moves on a cushion of air and the electrical system that propels it. You might continue with a paragraph on the mechanical parts involved in this movement. A third paragraph might outline the way the train accelerates and decelerates, and so on. Again, make sure all steps are included and are presented in a logical sequence. In both types of process essays, include appropriate transitions words such as "first," "next," "following that," "Finally," and so forth.

The Conclusion of the Process Analysis Essay
Your conclusion should provide a quick overview of the process described and say something about the results of the process. This last statement should be more of a memorable comment than a strong opinion or assessment. Remember, the purpose of the process essay is to simplify a seemingly difficult task, so that the reader can appreciate the way in which the task is accomplished.
(Prepared by Dava Tobey, CFCC Writing Specialist)

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