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from Tidewater Community College


Process analysis presents a chronological sequence of steps that explain how something is done, how something happens, or how readers can do something.


Types of Process Papers


I. Informational or mechanical process Explains the way something happens so the reader can understand the steps and the result more clearly but is not necessarily intended for the reader to duplicate. Examples: how a bill becomes a law, how an egg becomes a chicken, how political events affect the price of gold, how witchcraft was diagnosed in the seventeenth century, how a linotype machine operates, how a computer's central processing unit functions.


II. Instructional or directional process Offers instructions or directions that readers can follow in order to duplicate the process.

Examples: how to build a birdhouse, how to repair a crab trap, how to train a dog to sit, how to avoid doing homework, how to improve reading comprehension.

Note:  the information is presented as a sequence of items that must be considered in a particular order. A process analysis emphasizes how something is done rather than the ways or the reasons something is done.


Technique  To plan a process analysis, first choose an interesting process that you understand fully from your own experience and observation.

  1. Be sure your topic is neither too complicated nor too technical for your readers Being too simplistic is just as bad.
  2. Make a list of all the steps in the process.
    1. Organize the steps in sequence, classifying major and minor steps if necessary.
    2. Check that you have not omitted any steps.
  3. Write your first draft.
    1. Write an introduction that clearly identifies the process.
      1. Explain the significance of the processhow readers would benefit from following the directions or from learning the sequence.
      2. For an informational process, assure readers that they can indeed duplicate the process.
    2. At the beginning, mention any equipment or information readers need in order to understand or to duplicate the process
    3. Introduce and explain all the steps in the process, giving specific examples where appropriate
    4. Warn readers about dangers or pitfalls (for example, "Pour the hydrochloric acid slowly because it might splash and burn skin").
    5. Use consistent mood.
      1. Imperative mood gives commands in the present tense: "Next, turn the key to the right while reciting the words  'open, sesame.'"
      2. Indicative mood makes statements: "Next, the magician turns the key to the right while reciting the words open,  sesame'" or "Next, you should turn the key to the right" [check with your teacher about using "you". ]
    6. Write an appropriate conclusion in which you re-emphasize the benefits, describe the finished product or process, and draw whatever other conclusions are appropriate.
  4. Edit your draft carefully for clarity of expression, logical organization, adequate explanations, unity, and coherence.
    1. Provide transitions to signal steps and substeps and examples.
    2. Avoid passive voice as much as possible: Say "The waitress places the fork to the left of the plate" instead of "The fork is placed to the left of the plate."
  5. Proofread your revised draft for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
  6. Prepare and then proofread your final copy.


Process Analysis Topic Suggestions The following topics are intended to stimulate your thinking. You are not limited to one of those listed. Be sure to select a topic that you know and understand from experience and observation unless research is required. Be sure you understand the type of process your teacher wants you to describe (for example, instructional rather than informational). Always check with your teacher for the specific requirements of the assignment.


hitching a ride/  packing a suitcase/  wasting time/  dieting/   cheating on a diet/  exercising/  treating a wound/   planning a particular type of party/  teaching a particular skill/  operating a camera/  developing or printing film/  operating a particular tool/  playing a simple instrument/  winning a particular game/  playing a particular sport or game/  buying an automobile/  establishing a budget/  choosing a college/  selecting a roommate/  saving money/  wasting money/  avoiding work/  choosing a career/ 
passing a course/  quitting a job/  preparing for an interview/  building a particular article/  making a particular decision/  making a compost heap/  repotting a houseplant/  transplanting a tree or shrub/  cleaning a gun/  cleaning a chimney/  cleaning a room/  milking a cow or goat/  making a good impression/ overcoming stage fright/  giving up a bad habit/  finding a spouse/  giving a pedicure/  giving a home permanent/  ironing an evening gown/  choosing a gift for a particular person/  avoiding the Christmas shopping rush/  breaking a particular habit/  how to remove a stuck cork from a wine bottle without using a corkscrew/ 
how to dress a toddler for an outing/  how to tell a toddler where babies come from/  getting rid of an undesirable roommate 

Sample Paragraphs

Student English, Professor X, March 15, 1988 Process Analysis (Instructional)

      Bathing a Samoyed

Most pet owners take for granted the grooming of their dogs, casually hosing them down or dragging them to the tub. Most dogs eventually learn to accept baths as part of the normal cycle of dog living. Some dogs, however, not only dislike the periodic bathing that their owners inflict, they also make the bathing ritual a torment. Samoyeds, for example, have thick, tight fur that resists water and soap; in addition, their massive heads and heavy bodies, averaging about eighty pounds, create problems. Along with these natural barriers to bathing, Samoyeds readily demonstrate their disdain for the procedure by pulling away forcibly from owners who have "Now, it's time for a bath" looks in their eyes. In spite of the difficulties, bathing a Samoyed is both possible and necessary--for the dog's skin and the owner's sense of smell. First, gather all equipment. This includes a full bottle of dog shampoo, a pitcher for wetting and rinsing, a dozen towels, and an extra set of clothing for you and your helper ( yes, you need a helper). With your partner's help, grab the dog and start dragging him to the bathroom. Once in, each of you needs to grab half a dog and attempt to lift him into the tub. This is no easy feat, because Samoyeds squirm constantly. Once the dog is in the bathtub, adjust the water temperature to warm but not hot (dogs can be picky). Fill your pitcher with water and begin wetting the dog while your partner holds him. Be careful around his head, watching out for his eyes and ears. He'll let you know if you get water in his eyes; be prepared for a soaking. Completely saturate the dog's coat, and make sure you don't forget his belly just because it's underneath. Next, pour a handful of shampoo into your palm and start massaging it into the dog's hair. Scrub as hard as you like; he won't mind. In fact, he'll enjoy it very much. Wash his neck, back, tail, stomach, and legs completely. Now, fill your pitcher again and start rinsing the dog around his neck. Be prepared to refill your pitcher at least a dozen times because Samoyeds have thick hair. Continue until the dog is completely rinsed. You can tell when you're done by running your hands through the fur afterwards. You'll be able to feel the soap if there's any left. Next, remove the dog from the bathtub. He will probably jump out gladly, splashing half the water in the tub all over you and the bathroom. Give your partner a towel and take one for yourself. Start at opposite ends and dry the dog. It will easily take the dozen towels you put out earlier. After about twenty minutes, stop and feel the hair. It should be dry. If you still think you could give a Samoyed a bath, here's your chance. Mine needs one. Pick her up anytime.


Smoking Animals out of a Tree [Informational Process Analysis: Book Excerpt by Gerald M. Durrell]

     The smoking of a tree is quite an art and requires a certain amount of practice before you can perfect it. First, having found your tree and made sure that it is really hollow all the way up, you have to make sure whether there are any exit holes farther up the trunk, and if there are, you have to send a man up to cover them with nets. Having done this, you drape a net over the main hole at the base of the tree, and this has to be done in such a way that it does not interfere with the smoking process and yet prevents anything from getting away. The important thing is to make sure that this net is secure: there is nothing quite so exasperating as to have it fall down and envelop you in its folds just as the creatures inside the tree are starting to come out. With all your nets in position you have to deal with the problem of the fire: this, contrary to all proverbial expectation, has to be all smoke and no fire, unless you want your specimens roasted. A small pile of dry twigs is laid in the opening, soaked with kerosene, and set alight. As soon as it is ablaze, you lay a handful of green leaves on top, and keep replenishing them. The burning of these green leaves produces scarcely any flame but vast quantities of pungent smoke, which is immediately sucked up into the hollow interior of the tree. Your next problem is to make sure that there is not too much smoke, for, if you are not careful, you can quite easily asphyxiate your specimens before they can rush out of the tree. The idea is to strike the happy medium between roasting and suffocation. Once the fire has been lit and piled with green leaves, it generally takes about three minutes (depending on the size of the tree) before the smoke percolates to every part and the animals start to break cover.


Breadmaking [Informational Process Analysis: Excerpt from a Book]

       The most widely used breadmaking process in the manufacture of commercial bread is the sponge and dough method. The first step of this process involves setting a mixture of flour, yeast, and water, called the "sponge," into the dough troughs. Seven hundred pounds of flour, for example, may be conveyed mechanically from the flour storage bins to the mixer. A yeast suspension is added to the flour, together with enough water to make the total water content about 460 pounds. The ingredients are then combined into the spongy mixture and placed into a dough trough where fermentation is permitted to take place. Fermentation is the second step in the sponge and dough method. The dough troughs are large, stainless steel oblong containers with rounded bottoms and are mounted on wheels, to facilitate their being rolled into the fermentation room. Here, where the temperature is held at 80 degrees F., the sponge ferments for about five hours. During this time, there is a chemical interaction of carbonates and acids, causing the sponge to rise. At the completion of the fermentation period, the sponge is ready for the next step in the method, mixing the dough. The sponge is returned to the mixer together with three hundred pounds of flour, 240 pounds of water, nonfat milk solids, and sugar. These ingredients are mixed into a dough, a process which plays an important part in determining the lightness and porousness of the ultimate loaf of bread. The fourth step is the division of the dough pieces into loaf size. The dough is conveyed mechanically to the dividing machine, which cuts the dough into pieces. From the divider, the pieces are carried to an overhead machine called a proofer, where each piece of dough remains for fifteen minutes. Here the dough is softened in preparation for the molder, which first flattens the dough pieces and then curls the dough the length of the bread pan. After the dough pieces have been panned, the pans are moved into a proof box under a constant temperature of 100 degrees F. The actual baking, of course, concludes the entire process. From the proof box, the pans go to the oven by means of traveling trays. The temperature of the oven is maintained at 450 degrees F. in order to cause the dough to rise. The speed of the trays is controlled so that the pans remain in the oven for exactly twenty-seven minutes. As the bread emerges from the oven after that time, it is dumped from the pans onto belts which convey it to the cooler. After about an hour and a half in the cooler, the bread is carried once again, this time to the slicer, where it is mechanically sliced to uniform thickness. Finally, the sliced loaf is wrapped by machine and made ready for early morning delivery to the retail stores.


Download this Handout


Text to Analyze:  "Camping Out" by Ernest Hemingway


Student Sample:  "A Process of Digestion"


CCC Handout


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