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A process paper (or a ‘how to’ essay) is a guide which shows how an action is done, explains how it works, or how it occurs. Your process paper may refer to any topic: cooking a sandwich, writing a capstone project, or conducting a nuclear fission. The main condition is an excellent knowledge of the topic you are going to write about. The goal of a ‘how to’ essay is to give readers directions so that they can accomplish their task.

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Steps for Writing a Process Paper

  1. Choose a topic. This might be a part of your job, hobby, or personal experience, or what you studied at school.
  2. Do research. No matter how awesome you are at the subject, it is useful to study it once more to make sure you miss nothing.
  3. Make notes. Write down all thoughts and ideas that come to your head while revising the topic. This will help you keep every important detail in mind. It might also be useful to note all the materials and/or equipment readers would need to accomplish their task.
  4. After you have your brain emptied and all your ideas written down, it is time to organize what you’ve got. Put all the steps you’ve described in a logical order, describe each of them in a detailed manner, from what happened first to last.
  5. The final step is to revise your paper, since your text might contain various factual mistakes, typos, and formatting mistakes.

Topic Selection

There is an enormous variety of topics and subjects you can choose from. Almost every process can be divided into a sequence of certain steps, and then described with an easy-to-understand language, so choosing a topic for a ‘how-to’ essay shouldn’t be a problem. Still, there is one important condition: the author should know what they are writing about.

Below are just a few examples of topics that one might choose when writing a process paper:

  • Writing admission essays
  • Drawing with watercolors
  • Tuning a guitar
  • Baking bread at home
  • Installing software on a PC
  • Cooking a certain exotic dish
  • Conducting a chemical experiment

Key Points to Consider

  1. Choose a practical, easily-manageable topic.
  2. Do some additional research if needed. Even well-known actions tend to change.
  3. Fill the steps with details—readers will appreciate such careful explanations for sure. It is also useful to specify materials and/or equipment needed to accomplish the goal.
  4. To check if your paper is clear, imagine you know nothing about the subject you are writing about. Try to follow your own instructions and recommendations.

Dos and Don’ts


  • Use transitional words, which are necessary to guide readers from one step to another. There are lots of useful signal words, such as initially, at first, before, while, when, at last, meanwhile, then, during, finally, and so on.
  • It is better to describe every step of the process to avoid your reader not understanding you.
  • Add some interesting examples into your ‘how-to’ essay. This will make it more intriguing and interesting to read.
  • Be precise with formulations and terminology.
  • Highlight really important steps.

  • Don’t be afraid to be emotional—a process paper does not mean that its author is an academic. When you are truly passionate about your topic, your enthusiasm can be exciting.
  • Avoid starting each of your steps with the words: “then” or “after that.” It makes your essay boring.
  • Write an introduction—don’t just start your process paper from the first step. You want to describe the situation so that a reader can see what the text is about.
  • Don’t be lazy about checking details you are not quite sure about.

Common Mistakes When Writing a Process Paper

– Choosing too easy or too complex subjects may affect your paper’s length, reducing it to a simple recipe or, on the contrary, extending it to a size of a manual.

– The lack of details. Keep in mind that someone may be trying to perform the process for the first time.

– An order of steps that don’t make sense. Double-check your essay after it is ready to see if you can improve the order and to make sure you have not caused confusion.

– Poor language skills and inappropriate word usage. In this case, your readers may misunderstand you.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic process paper writing tips and rules, you can check out our  process paper samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Process Paper

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You might have noticed, but when we hit the sack, as they say, there are many periods that we go through. Some people think we enter a half-dream state and subsequently go to sleep, and then finally have a deep rest. However, this is not entirely the case....

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Cooking rice does not seem that complicated. However, there are so many different ways to prepare it. Each culinary tradition has varying methods on how to cook rice to perfection. For this process essay, we will focus on three ways of preparing the best ...


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