A process essay describes how to do something, or how something happens.

A process essay describes how to do something or how something happens, either because it’s done by someone else or because it happens naturally.

When choosing a process essay topic think about the complexity of the process you’ll describe. Pick something suitable for the essay length - a brief essay is not the place to describe something that needs an instruction manual! You’ll need to be to able to describe the process you choose in words, without the use of headings, diagrams or other visual aids. Pick something that can be understood from the words of your process essay alone.

If you choose to write about some natural process be careful to define the scope of your essay topic first. Natural processes can be complex, and in those cases it may be necessary to limit your essay so that you cover some area in detail. You could do this by writing about part of a process or by defining the level at which you will describe the whole process. For example if you were to write about the genetics of coat colour in mice you could write at the level of the effects of the genes on external appearance, or the effect of genes at the molecular level (on coat pigments), or both. The first essay could be fairly straight-forward, and the other two would be much more complicated and require more research and preparation.

Don’t begin a process essay by just starting with the first step. Use your introduction to try and interest your readers in your process, by involving them in the human aspects of your process. For example, if you are going to describe how to grow sweet peas first enchant your readers by reminding them how beautiful sweet peas are. Describe their sweet intoxicating scent filling the air on a warm summer evening. Make them want sweet peas in their garden! If you're going to describe how to make apple pie tell your readers how it feels to delight your friends with a mouth-watering pie and cream. Make them hungry, make them want to have a go! If your essay is about the process of fossilisation share the marvel that we have these tantalising clues to the nature of life so long ago. Wonder at how we can use fossils to reconstruct the past. Perhaps share the joy you felt on finding your own first, or most treasured fossil.

Think about the transitions between the sentences of your process essay. Avoid over-using “next”, and "then", and avoid enumerating your paragraphs (“first” or “firstly”, “second”, “lastly” and so on). It’s okay when your giving someone directions to the garage or telling them how to make Yorkshire pudding, but it's boring in an essay. Also remember that an essay is meant to be a continuous piece of prose, so don’t use bullet points.

When you round up your essay pick out one or a few essential or particularly interesting points to remind the reader of (remember though that they mustn’t be new points or examples). In the essay on sweet peas, for example, you might stress that these are thirsty plants requiring plenty of water to do their best. For the apple pie example you might remind the reader not to skimp on the fat or not to use too much water. Perhaps you have a favourite spice that the reader really must try!