Writing Well

“How to” Essays: Process Analysis

Take the following snap quiz (it's easy—there's only one question):

What, in your opinion, is the most reasonable explanation for the fact that Moses led the Israelites all over the place for 40 years before they finally got to the Promised Land?

  • A. He was being tested.
  • B. He wanted them to really appreciate the Promised Land when they finally got there.
  • C. He refused to ask for directions.
Write Angles

If you're describing a circular process, such as the circulation of blood, break into the process at a logical point and follow it around to that point again. In the case of blood, for instance, it's reasonable to start and end with the heart.

Process analysis essays are directions. They explain how to do something, how something works, or how something happens. These essays present the steps in the process in chronological order, from first to last. Be sure to define any unfamiliar terms or concepts.

As you revise process analysis essays …

  1. Check the order of the steps to make sure you haven't skipped or repeated any.
  2. Add any necessary transitions, such as first, second, next, then, after, later, and finally.
  3. Try to sum up the results or benefits of the process.

The following process analysis essay explains how beer is made. What clues does the writer provide to make the steps easier to follow?

Bottom's Up

  • “Beer here! Get your ice-cold beer here!” You probably heard that shouted the last time you were at the ball park. At a ball game, a party, a barbecue, or a fishing trip, people enjoy an ice-cold beer. Throughout the world, people drink 22 billion gallons of beer annually. Americans alone consume 24 gallons of beer per person every year. Few people know how beer is produced, however. The basic brewing process has five steps.
  • The first step is mashing. Cereal grains, usually barley and hops, are mixed with water. The mixture, called “wort,” is heated to about 150 degrees and stirred constantly. When the mixture is allowed to settle, the solids settle and the liquid passes through it.
  • Then comes boiling and hopping. During these steps, dried flowers from the hop vine are added, about three quarters of a pound of hops for every 31 gallons of wort. The hops prevent spoiling and give the beverage flavor. The mixture is boiled for about two hours.
  • Next comes the fermenting stage in the process. The brewer uses yeast to cause fermenting, adding about one pound per 31 gallons of wort. Alcohol and carbon dioxide form during fermentation. The mixture is kept at 38 degrees Fahrenheit and completes fermentation in about a week or two.
  • The final step is called “finishing.” Here, the brewer compresses and stores carbon dioxide from the beer wort. Stored in huge metal vats for three to six weeks, the beer continues to settle and clear. Then the beer is carbonated and passes through a pressure filter to be packaged.
  • Perhaps the next time you have a beer, you'll appreciate it more. Even if you're not a beer drinker, you'll realize the work that went into producing one of the world's best-selling products.
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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