The Process Paper
A process paper is a kind of how-to or explanation paper that details a particular process by giving step-by-step directions or by describing certain changes or operations. Remember that you must write a process paper in chronological order; if you write it out of sequence, you defeat the purpose of your paper.
When you begin a process paper, you should be able to define your audience because they'll determine what kind of language you'll use and how much detail you'll go into. For instance, in a process paper about how to change a tire, you'd write in a less detailed manner if your readers are mechanics than if they're a group of beginning drivers.
If you're writing for a general audience, you need to explain anything that might be confusing or unfamiliar. Think about how you would explain the process to children. Then reread your material and add a simple explanation of any words or concepts with which children wouldn't be familiar (without being patronizing, of course). In addition, be precise when you give measurements. While you may be comfortable in writing “Use a little composting the mixture,” your readers may think that “a little” is a tablespoon, when you actually meant a gallon.
Your readers will have an easier time following your directions if you explain the “whys” behind the directions. So, instead of writing:
Elaborate by giving the reason:
Remember that transition words and phrases help your reader see the chronological flow of the steps
Instead of just picturing the activity as they're writing about it, many writers actually perform the activity and tape-record the various steps of what they're doing. Doing this helps them gather all the steps correctly, completely, and chronologically.
Be sure to check with your instructor, publisher, or company about any mandates regarding:
point of view (usually a process paper is written in second person)
use of bulleted lists (for instance, in listing the materials to have on hand before beginning)
use of illustrations, diagrams, or photos (if they're allowed, be sure to include any that enhance the written part of your work — and therefore make your instructions easier to understand)