4.3 Process Analysis

The Purpose of a Process Analysis

A process analysis essay explains how to do something or how something works. In either case, the formula for a process analysis essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps. Almost everything writers do involves following a step-by-step process. From riding a bike as children to learning various jobs as adults, writers initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, they have likely had to instruct others, so they know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly written.

The Structure of a Process Analysis

The process analysis essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process. The organization of a process analysis essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur.

Body paragraphs will be constructed based on the aforementioned steps. If a particular step is complicated and needs a lot of explaining, then it will likely take up a paragraph on its own. But if a series of simple steps is easier to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph. Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally, are helpful cues to orient the reader and organize the content of essay.

Writing a Process Analysis Essay

  1. Choose a topic that is interesting, is relatively complex, and can be explained in a series of steps.
  2. As with other rhetorical writing modes, choose a process that you know well so you can more easily describe the finer details of each step in the process. A thesis statement should come at the end of an introduction, and it should state the final outcome of the process one is describing.
  3. Body paragraphs are composed of the steps in the process. Each step should be expressed using strong details and clear examples. Use time transition phrases to help organize steps in the process and to orient the reader.
  4. The conclusion should thoroughly describe the result of the process described in the body paragraphs.



  1. In the writing process, it’s important to brainstorm and organize your thoughts. Write a list of ten processes that you are familiar with (e.g., cooking rice, surfing, playing a game). Be daring. Include processes that others may not be familiar with. From this list, circle three processes that you are comfortable explaining. Pick one process. What process did you pick?
  2. Create an outline or list that includes instructions that a person needs to do to complete this process. Imagine a person who has never done this process before. Show your outline or list to a person in class. Based on this information, is there a clear picture of how to complete this task? Is the person able to perform this task? What instructions need to be added, changed, or deleted? As an additional step, the person could follow instructions to actually perform this task.

Further Resources

See examples of students’ essays in Mānoa Horizons: A Journal of Undergraduate Research, Creative Work, and Innovation (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 2019).


This section is adapted from OER material from “Reading: Process Analysis,” COMP VCCS OER. The content of this page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License except for any elements that may be licensed differently. The content of this page includes: Writing for Success, created by Anonymous under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License . Original content was contributed by Lumen Learning.


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