To answer the simple question “What is a process analysis essay?”, we just need to understand what it “does”. Let’s define process analysis. A process analysis reveals and describes all the stages of a certain process or all the steps one has to make to achieve some result. Such type of essay can be easily recognized by its typical step-by-step exposition that makes many process analysis essays look like instructions or textbook lessons. When we are on the “reading end” of a manual, we want those guidelines and principles to be accurate, easy to understand, and effective. Now the time has come to see how it’s like, to be on the opposite, “writing end”. How hard can it be to write and analyze paper?

Process Analysis Essay Outline

The process analysis essay outline follows a traditional essay format template, consisting of an introduction, the main body of the text, and a conclusion. Altogether they take at least five paragraphs.

The Introduction

The introduction acquaints the reader with the process that is about to verbally unfold. The purpose of bringing the reader’s attention to this process or the value of describing it in a certain way is what the thesis statement should point out, finishing the introductory paragraph.

Process Analysis Thesis

A nice and strong process analysis thesis is as laconic as it can be, yet expressive enough: about a couple of clear and succinct sentences. The thesis statement in a process analysis essay gives purpose to the paper, reflecting in itself a specific value that the process may have. It also highlights any specific aspects or points that make your essay unique and different from other interpretations and analyses. 

A thesis for a process essay should not be in a form of a question. In the introduction or the conclusion, a questions to the reader can serve as a stimulus for them to read the essay or to ponder over its meaning. But in the actual thesis, a question is not appropriate, because the thesis must be an assertive statement that holds the whole essay together; if anything, it would be the answer, not a question.

The Main Body

The main body explains the actual course of the process in a few process analysis paragraphs. The right way to do it is to arrange the stages of the process chronologically, one by one, clarifying the causes of such particular sequence. Every major phase of the process is investigated in detail in a new paragraph. In case a certain phase is too complex or rather long, it’s best to break it down into a few more paragraphs as well (or sub-paragraphs, if you so choose). It’s also possible to do the contrary and assemble small easy steps to make one paragraph.

The Conclusion

The conclusion presents a brief summary of the process that has been described and emphasizes its final outcome. As always, this very last paragraph of the essay welcomes the thesis statement once more to congratulate it on being proven, and the thesis says, “See, I told you, and it’s true” - this is the kind of writing that is not allowed in a process analysis paper, no matter how well it makes you remember the content.

Writing a Process Analysis Essay

Sometimes the topic of an essay is given with the assignment, and sometimes a student must pick one to their liking. Ideally, it should be something that interests you and you don’t have to break your head over it, it’s not hard to understand and you can successfully explain it to the reader. Even better if the process you are going to describe is something you have experienced (most applicable to the instruction type of process analysis). An exemplary situation that follows the steps of the process can be pictured to help the readers see it in the mind’s eye. For specific cases when a step in a process is hard to imagine without auxiliary expressions, it may help to use a good metaphor. Although, keep in mind that a process analysis article, like any other expository paper (with rare exceptions), is not a space for excessive use of literary devices and fancy figures of speech. The process analysis definition does not allow it.

Transition Words for Process Essay

Do not forget about transition words for process essay. These are word combinations and expressions that connect one step or stage of the process to another and keep the mind of the reader from wondering. They point out sequential relationships between different stages of the process. Some of these transitional words and expressions are: afterward, next, later, at the same time, while, immediately, first, second, eventually, et cetera.

When you write a process analysis essay, the steps or stages of a process you describe may be ordered not just by their sequence in time but also by their importance. With such arrangement, the crucial factors that influence the course of a process are the first ones to be brought to the reader’s attention. Of course, the writer still has to make sure that the readers will not get lost but successfully find the sequence thread, whether it’s explicitly worded out or not.

If you choose to order the steps of the process by time, most of the transitional word combinations and expressions you are going to need are those that emphasize this temporal sequence: firstly, secondly, meanwhile, during, simultaneously, subsequently, finally, the last step is, lastly, next, after that, following that, et cetera.

If you choose to order the steps of the process by their significance, most of the transitional word combinations and expressions you are going to use should emphasize that kind of hierarchy: of utmost importance, most importantly, most urgent, less urgent, a crucial stage is, secondarily, of least importance, of big significance, a major step is, et cetera.

What is the Purpose of a Process Analysis Essay?

A process analysis essay is hardly ever persuasive by purpose, but it can be characterized as either informative or directive. An informational process analysis essay (also known as informative) is one that describes a process which the reader is not going to participate in and explains how it works out, whether it’s a physical or an abstract one. A reader is not going to participate in this process, because it’s most probably impossible. To give information about a process is to describe or explain things such as a star formation process, adoption of laws, or rewiring neural connections in the brain.

On the other hand, if the process that you analyze in your essay is something your reader intends to participate in or accomplish and they need guidance to help them do it properly, then it’s a directional process analysis essay we are talking about (also known as directive). As a writer of such a paper, you would be showing stars how to make a formation, telling the legislative body members how to adopt laws, or giving your brain instructions to rewire itself. In a real world, though, a typical topic for such an essay would be something like “How to start a fundraising campaign”,  “How to write a process analysis essay”, basically, any how-to instruction that is good enough to write about in an academic paper. Writing a directional essay is a little bit similar to drawing a treasure map. If you read it yourself and clearly understand how to find that treasure chest (meaning, to reach your goal), it’s ready to be shown to other readers.

Some other types of analysis papers in academic world are literary analysis essay (analysis of literary works), critical analysis essay (critical evaluation), and rhetorical analysis essay (critical evaluation of a non-fiction text). Thankfully, a process analysis differs enough from all of the former ones to prevent confusion; yet, it may be a bit easier to confuse a process analysis essay with such types of expository writing as a descriptive essay and a cause and effect essay. Both a descriptive paper and a process analysis paper describe certain subjects, but the former is focused on depicting characteristic features of things, while the latter describes a process in the course of its analysis. A cause and effect essay seems similar to a process exposition in the way it exposes how a cause has led to some effect. However, the purpose of a process analysis essay is not as much in making such connections as simply in explaining the nature of a process or its moving force.


Some basic rules you should remember when writing any kind of essay:

  1. Do all the necessary research after you get your assignment and make an essay plan before you write.
  2. Build your text on logical sentences, concise language, clear-cut arguments or points, logical sentences, and coherent paragraphs.
  3. Reread your paragraphs when you finish them and review the essay when it’s done; rewrite any parts you do not like.
  4. Check your spelling, grammar, the structure of the paper, and the appropriateness of the vocabulary you have used.