Process Essay

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Advanced Business Core Class                                                                                     Fall 2013


Writing Assignment : Describe a Process


One very specific and important form of academic writing is the ability to accurately describe a process as a series of steps that a reader can follow in order to achieve a desired result. This is harder than it sounds; the history of international marketing is littered with comically inept translations of user’s manuals and physically (as well as linguistically) impossible instructions. Writing clear, easy-to-follow instructions is an invaluable skill, and the key to being good at it is the ability to describe a process.


There are many situations in which a writer needs to describe a process.  Describing a process means explaining, in order, the separate steps necessary to reach an objective. For example, it can be explaining how to apply for a loan or scholarship, how to prepare a favorite recipe, how to change a tire or a toner cartridge, or how to assemble or use a product or piece of equipment are all processes.  In order to accurately describe a process you must accurately describe each discrete step, as well as tie them together in the correct manner.


Your assignment is to write a short essay (1-2 pages double-spaced) describing a process. You can use any of the process topics listed above.  In addition, you can choose to describe a process from your job or daily life such as how you get to class, step by step from your home, how to perform a function on the computer or how to make one of your favorite dishes.


Let me suggest the following steps to complete this assignment


First, think about various possibilities before making a choice.  Your topic should be a process you know something about.  It should not be something too grand, like “How to achieve World Peace” or “How to build an Atomic Bomb.” It should not be something too simple, like “How to Blink” or “How to call 911”.  Aim for something with 6-12 discrete steps.


Next, try to beak down the process into its separate steps.  Each step should describe one single action. Do not write the steps out in their final form; just make a list of the steps in the correct order. Don’t leave a single step out, even if it seems obvious.


After you have all of the steps in order, you need to start writing the essay.  Begin with a good topic sentence.  It should not be a simple declaration like “This is a description of making Chili”. Introduce the process, say who does it and why, and describe any special words or skills used in your explanation. You could also mention what the final goal or objective of the process is.


Following this, you should include a list of all of the materials and tools the reader will need to complete the process.  This allows the reader to obtain everything needed before beginning the first step.  If you are describing how to prepare a dish, be very specific in your description of the materials needed. Include both ingredients and implements (pots, pans, mixers, etc.) Also in this section describe any preparatory work that need to be done (sift the flour, or fast for twelve hours).


Now it’s time to start describing the steps.  Introduce each step with a transition word or phrase. Transitions you may want to consider include: next, now, then, subsequently, afterwards, after completing, when is finished, once you have, the next step, the following step, the next stage, continuing, after that, after finishing the previous step, when you are ready, at this point, and later. Try to use a variety rather than next, next, next, next and more next.


Since a process is a series of steps or actions, I want you to pay special attention to your verbs and adverbs.  Adverbs will tell the manner in which actions are performed, which can be very important in a process.  Some of the more common adverbs you might want to use are: quickly, slowly, carefully, finally, initially, softly, firmly, sequentially, randomly, permanently, temporarily, regularly, unexpectedly, fully, partially and better.


You can also use cause and effect transitions to show causal as well as temporal relationships between steps in the process.


Remember, you can’t be too basic. You are trying to make your process “foolproof”.  Do not assume any technical knowledge or expertise on the part of your reader. Do not even assume much intelligence, education or common sense.


After you have completed describing all of the steps (double check to make sure you didn’t leave anything out), write a short, general conclusion. It could include a restatement of the purpose of the process, what the result will be after the reader has completed all of steps.


Finally, go over each step and make sure that it makes sense and fits together with the steps preceding and following it. Give your process essay to someone else and see if they could execute your process.  Make changes as necessary.


When you finish you should have a clear, detailed description of a complex process which any reasonably intelligent but unskilled person could successfully follow. Being able to do this can avoid untold problems, miscommunication, wasted time and effort and personal resentment.  Anyone who has ever struggled on Christmas Eve with indecipherable instructions on how to assemble a child’s Christmas present produced in some far-off, exotic land will thank you.



Possible Topics


Explain one of the following in detail:


A: Everyday activities



How to change a tire

How to build a campfire

How to wash your clothes

How to download an mp3

How to get a driver’s license

How to clean your bedroom

How to email an essay to your instructor

How to win a scholarship

How to plan a vacation

How to make a bed

How to get to Logan Airport on the T

How to get ready for a big date

How to carve a jack-o-lantern

























B: Recipes



How to cook your favorite dish

How to make lasagna

How to make kim chi

How to make ceviche

How to make a cheeseburger

How to make Turducken


C: Business-related


(0n your own)


How to select stocks

How to start a business

How to choose an MBA program

 How to open a bank account

How to sell stocks short

How to compute a P/E ratio

How to buy stock in your country

How to become a CPA (or equivalent)

How to get a document notarized

How to evaluate an investment opportunity

How to prepare for a job interview

How to dress right and impress your boss


Sample Process Essay

The Perfect Diet

Teaching young children about nutrition is not easy, although it is important. One of the things I remember most vividly from my early childhood was a "scientific experiment" that one of my grade school teachers led us through, designed to teach us the value of eating a balanced diet in the most dramatic way possible. It must have been successful, since I remember it to this day!

In preparation for this experiment, the teacher began by leading us in a discussion of what our most favorite and least favorite foods were. She was very clever because she approached the subject of diet from the direction of taste rather than nutrition. By asking us what our diet woud be if we could have anything we wanted but only one thing to eat and one thing to drink she got us thinking about food and candy.

After some animated discussion we decided that if we needed to eat the same thing everyday, it would be Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, a popular candy composed of chocolate and peanut butter, and Coca-Cola to drink. We were convinced that this would be the perfect diet, and were all ready to run home and try to convince our mothers to convert.

The next day when we got to class, there was a surprise waiting for us. In a corner of the classroom, next to a window, were two one-foot-square cages. Inside each cage were two cute white mice, with tiny pink eyes and noses. We were immediately captivated, and set about giving them names. Sandy and Sunny were one pair, and Batman and Robin were the other. Then someone asked what they were going to eat.

Now we had come to the key step in the process. After a brief review of what mice eat in the wild (grains and seeds) our teacher told us that most mice in captivity eat scientifically prepared pellets which contained all of the vitamins and nutrients they need for a glossy coat, a healthy heart and abundant energy. Coincidentally, she just happened to have a big bag of these pellets on hand.

To demonstrate, as well as to make the experiment more "hands-on", she next distributed one of the little pellets,which were about the size of a pencil eraser, to each student, and encouraged us to eat them. We all tried, and soon were competing with each other to show the most dramatic expressions of disgust. They tasted terrible!

So as a result of our clear preference for the Reese's Cups diet, the teacher "suggested" that we feed Sandy and Sunny the pellets, and give Batman and Robin the candy and coke diet. What a brilliant idea! We were sure that Batman and Robin would be much happier and healthier with our dream diet.

Well, as you can imagine, from that point on, we observed our test subjects very closely. Everyday the teacher would give us 20 minutes to take them out of their cages and play with them on the floor and at our desks. After a week or so we began to notice that Batman and Robin seemed a little lethargic. They were getting heavier, and they didn't scamper around on the floor or run on their exercise wheel like Sandy and Sunny.

In another week, we noticed that the candy-fed mice's eyes weren't pink and shining any more, and that their fur was starting to look dirty and uneven. As we watched with increasing concern, they got progressively fatter, sicker and scruffier. Their fur started falling off, and they didn't even want to leave their cages. We could all see that something was seriously wrong.

At the same time we were observing our pets, the teacher was introducing the rest of the unit on nutrition, a little each day, and letting us make the connection between the theories and what we were seeing with our own eyes.

Mercifully, we discontinued the experiment before Batman and Robin died from malnutrition or hardening of the arteries, and they lived happily at least until the end of the school year, on a diet of pellets and water (although we still occasionally gave them a tiny bit of peanut butter cup on special occasions).

As a result of this experience, all of us understood why we can't just eat what we want all of the time. It was also cool to see something we were studying being acted out in a life-and-death drama. On the other hand, it is now almost 50 years later and I still eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and drink Coca-Cola.


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