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3.4: Process Essay

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    The Purpose of the Process Essay

    The purpose of a process essay is to explain how to do something (directional) or how something works (informative). In either case, the formula for a process essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps.

    Almost everything we do involves following a step-by-step process. From learning to ride a bike as a child to starting a new job as an adult, we initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, we have likely had to instruct others, so we know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly put together.

    Exercise 10

    On a separate sheet of paper, make a bulleted list of all the steps that you feel are required to clearly illustrate three of the following four processes (note that the first three are directional and the fourth is informative).

    • Tying a shoelace
    • Parallel parking
    • Planning a successful first date
    • How a historical event occurred (pick one you know well!)

    The Structure of a Process Essay

    The process essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process. The organization of a process essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur, and so your body paragraphs will be constructed based on these 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 easy to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph.

    The time transition phrases covered in the Narration section are also helpful for organizing process analysis essays (see Table of Transition Words and Phrases for Expressing Time). Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally are cues to orient readers and organize the content of the essay.

    Finally, it’s a good idea to always have someone else read your process analysis to make sure it makes sense. Once we get too close to a subject, it is difficult to determine how clearly an idea is coming across. Having a peer read over your analysis will serve as a good way to troubleshoot any confusing spots.

    Exercise 11

    Choose two of the lists you created in Exercise 10 and start writing out the processes in paragraph form. Try to construct paragraphs based on the complexity of each step. For complicated steps, dedicate an entire paragraph. If less complicated steps fall in succession, group them into a single paragraph.

    Writing a Process Essay

    Choose a topic that is interesting, is relatively complex, and can be explained in a series of steps. As with other rhetorical writing modes, it is best to choose a process that you know well so that you can more easily describe the finer details about each step in the process. Your thesis statement should come at the end of your introduction, and it should state the final outcome of the process you are describing.

    Body paragraphs are composed of the steps in the process. Each step should be expressed using strong details and clear examples. If you are writing a directional essay, you should provide every detail necessary for your reader to complete the process. If you are writing an instructional essay, your body paragraphs should explain the process and how it works, although you should not expect your reader to be actually performing the process. Use time transition phrases to help organize steps in the process and to orient readers. The conclusion should thoroughly describe the result of the process described in the body paragraphs. See the student paper below, “Keep Them in Stitches,” or one of the sample professional essays to read an example of a process analysis essay. 

    Exercise 12

    Choose one of the expanded lists from Exercise 11. Construct a full process essay from the work you have already done. That means adding an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, time transition phrases, body paragraphs, and a solid conclusion.

    Sample Process Essay

    “Keep Them in Stitches,” by Jacob Gallman-Dreiling, describes the process of finding the perfect yarn for a knitting project. As you read, pay attention to the words and phrases the author uses to help orient the reader, as well as the strong details that bring the subject to life. 

    Outline:

    Jacob Gallman-Dreiling

    English 1101

    Dr. Cox

    24 February 2013

    Outline

    Thesis statement: Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the preferences of the person for whom the project is being made, the availability of the yarn, and the type of yarn called for by the pattern.

    1. Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the preferences of the person for whom the project is being made.
      1. The knitter must determine if the recipient has any allergies or sensitivities.
        1. Wool yarn will aggravate allergies to lanolin.
        2. Acrylic yearns can be scratchy or leave splinters.
      2. The knitter must consider the type of project.
        1. Warmer items should be made with animal fibers.
        2. Lighter items should be made with cotton.
      3. The knitter must consider the care of the finished garment.
        1. Wool yarn should be hand washed with cold water.
        2. Cotton and acrylic yarns are machine washable.
      4. The knitter must determine what color the recipient prefers.
        1. Solid colors are great for sweaters and accessories like professional iPad cases.
        2. Variegated yarn makes for show-stopping pieces and can help maintain the knitter’s interest through the end of the project.
    2. Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the availability of the yarn.
      1. Many people prefer to shop for yarn at a local yarn store.
        1. An advantage to shopping in person is the ability to touch the yarn.
        2. An advantage to shopping at the local yarn store is the knowledgeable staff, many of whom have been knitting for years.
        3. An advantage to shopping at the yarn store is that the staff can provide ready assistance and often have first-hand knowledge of the yarn the knitter intends to use.
      2. Other people prefer to shop at one of the many online retailers.
        1. Online retailers typically have greater stock availability.
        2. Online retailers also provide tutorial videos.
    3. Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the type of yarn called for by the pattern.
      1. The knitter must determine the proper yarn weight for the project.
        1. Fingering, sport, and DK weight yarns are good for smaller projects like socks or baby clothes.
        2. Worsted, bulky, and super bulky are great for sweaters, scarves, blankets, and washcloths.
      2. The knitter must determine the recipient’s preferences.
        1. Some people prefer sweaters with a small gauge.
        2. Some people prefer socks with a large gauge

    Essay

    Jacob Gallman-Dreiling

    English 1101

    Dr. Cox

    24 February 2013

    Keep Them in Stitches

    The popularity of knitting is cyclical, rising and falling according to the prevailing opinion of women’s places in society. Though internationally a unisex hobby, knitting is pervasively thought of as a woman’s hobby in the United States. Knitting is currently enjoying a boost in popularity as traditionally minded women pick up the craft while women who enjoy subverting traditional gender roles have also picked up the needles to reclaim “the lost domestic arts” and give traditionally feminine crafts the proper respect. American men are also picking up the needles in greater numbers, with men’s knitting guilds and retreats nationwide. This rise in popularity has made the receiving of hand-knit items special, and many people enjoy receiving these long-lasting, painstakingly crafted items. For any knitters, the perfect gift starts by choosing the perfect yarn. Choosing the perfect yarn for a knitting project relies on the preferences of the person for whom the project is being made, the availability of the yarn, and the type of yarn recommended by the pattern.

    In order to select the right yarn for a knitting project, the knitter must take into account the preferences of the recipient of the knitted item. The most basic choice is the composition of the yarn to be used. Natural fibers are luxurious and tend to age better. Nevertheless, the knitter must determine if the recipient has any allergies or sensitivities. Wool yarn, for example, will aggravate allergies in those sensitive to lanolin, but mohair, alpaca, cotton, or angora will not cause discomfort. Acrylic is a synthetic yarn, but it can be scratchy or leave splinters. A second consideration is the type of project the knitter plans to complete: each project requires a specific type of yarn. For warmer items such as sweaters, blankets, or mittens, animal fibers are best. Socks, warmer-weather items, and household accessories are best served using cotton. One must also give thought to the care of the finished project. Items made from wool yarn survive best when hand washed in cold water whereas cotton and acrylic items are machine washable.

    Once the type of yarn has been chosen, the knitter should consider what color yarn the recipient prefers. A solid color garment looks more professional and functions as a base piece in a wardrobe or interior design. Sweaters, iPad and tablet cases, as well as belts are well-suited to solid colors. Pieces made with variegated colors, in which the yarn has either multiple colors or shades of the same basic color, make for show pieces and accessories. Socks, gloves, scarves, and cowls are great projects for variegated yarn. Variegated yarn colors tend to keep the knitter’s interest, but multicolored yarn can be difficult to use when working on larger projects which require multiple skeins of yarn. Due to the way yarn is dyed, the color at the end of one skein may not match the color at the beginning of the next skein.

    The next step in determining the right yarn for a project is availability, particularly where to purchase the yarn. Some people prefer to shop at a local store for yarn because it offers many advantages. Shopping in person allows the knitter to feel the yarn he or she intends to purchase. This can help sway the knitter’s opinion in regards to yarn choice. The staff at a local shop is often knowledgeable; many of them have been knitting for years, and they are usually ready to offer assistance with projects or yarn selection. If a knitter does not live near a yarn store, there are many online retailers who can fulfill their orders. Online retailers typically have a larger selection of yarns and patterns available for download. Since they cannot give personal assistance, many compensate for this deficiency by providing free tutorial videos.

    Finally, choosing the right yarn for a project relies on the type of yarn called for in the knitting pattern. Patterns are highly adaptable. Most things in a pattern can be substituted: yarn type, yarn weight, color, and number of stitches can all be substituted to fit the knitter’s desire, but the pattern will provide a good place to start. The yarn weight, which determines the gauge of the project, is one of the most basic substitutions. Fingering or lace weight, sport, and DK weight are lighter weight yarns typically good for smaller projects like socks or baby clothes. Those types of yarn tend to be knit on smaller needles and produce a smaller stitch. Worsted, bulky, and super-bulky yarns are chunkier, knit on larger needles, and provide beautiful, large stitches. They are well suited for sweaters, scarves, blankets, and washcloths. The preferences of the recipient must also be taken into account. Some people prefer sweaters with a small stitch, while others prefer thick, warm socks to wear around the house.

    The right yarn for a knitting project is one that meets the preferences of the recipient of the project, is readily available, and matches the needs of the pattern. After the project is completed and given to the intended recipient, both the knitter and receiver can bask in the adulation the finished garment brings. These hand-knit items can be passed down for several generations, truly becoming a gift that keeps on giving.

    Online Process Essay Alternatives:

    Stanley Fish, an American literary theorist, public intellectual, and professor of humanities and law, tells us why “Getting Coffee Is Hard to Do.”

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