6 Simple Steps to Write a Better Process Essay (With Zombies)
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There’s an old adage that says writing is a process, not a product. And to help drive that point in, I’m going to show you how to write an awesome process essay. In fact, you can consider this whole blog post as a type of process essay.

But instead of just simply telling you the steps I took when writing this, I thought I’d really get the creative juices flowing by adding a couple zombies into the mix. Don’t worry, we’ll survive the apocalypse—and your process essay—together.

process essay

But First … What Is a Process Essay?

A process essay, like the name implies, describes a process. It’s usually described as a series of steps to be taken in order. This can be something as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to something as complex as a nuclear physics experiment. No matter what your topic is, you want to make sure it’s engaging to the reader.

There are two different ways to approach a process essay:

  1. Write in passive voice
  2. Write in second person

Both of these options are pet peeves for writing teachers, so ask your teacher about whether you can use second-person you in your essay before you do it. For my examples below, I’m going to use the second-person perspective (which also happens to be the preferred tone in blogging).

Unlike an argumentative or persuasive essay, you aren’t trying to prove that your way of doing this process is correct. In fact, there could be many ways to perform the same function—all you want to do is describe your process. Keep this in mind when you read my examples. And speaking of examples … let’s get into the good stuff.

6 Steps to Writing a Process Essay

There are tons of topics to choose from, but I’m going to go with something a little outside the box—one you probably won’t see in your writing class. My topic is How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

process essay

“Interesting” from martakat83 via Flickr.com (Creative Commons)

Step #1: BRAINstorm your steps

Get a sheet of scratch paper, and just do a mind dump. These steps do not have to be in order. In fact, it’s easier for a lot of people if they aren’t in order, at first, especially for more complex topics.

This is because your brain has to do too much if you just start writing your essay without the prep work, which can lead to a lot of forgotten steps. Getting your ideas all out on paper first allows you to clear your mind and see if you have included everything.

For my topic, here’s the important steps to surviving the zombie apocalypse, in no particular order:

  • Don’t get bitten
  • Have a lookout
  • Be wary of strangers
  • Gather the right group of people
  • Find essentials (food, water, shelter)
  • Know your escape routes
  • Learn essential skills (hunting, farming, basic first aid, weaponry)

Of course, there are many more steps to surviving the apocalypse, but this is just an example.

Step #2: Use an outline to put the steps in order

So now that you have all the steps down, you’ll want to put the steps in order. This will serve as a rough outline. You should never skip the outline process because it helps you decide the ideal flow of your essay, as well as what’s important to leave in and what can be left out.

My outline might look something like this:

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook
    2. Thesis statement
  2. Find essentials
    1. Food
    2. Water
    3. Shelter
  3. Learn survival skills
    1. Hunting and farming
    2. Basic first aid
    3. Weaponry
  4. Gather the right group of people
    1. People with other helpful skills
    2. Loyal
    3. Be wary of strangers
  5. Have a lookout
  6. Know your escape route
  7. Conclusion
    1. Summary/restatement of thesis

Step #3: Write your introduction

You’ll notice the introduction part of my outline above lists the hook and the thesis statement as subheadings. You can either fill these in on your outline or as you’re writing, whichever works better for your writing process.

In short, your hook is what draws your reader in, and your thesis statement explains what your essay is about and why the reader should keep reading.

For a process essay, your thesis statement will be less of a summary of your body paragraphs and more of an explanation as to why the topic is important or relevant.

My introduction might look like this:

In a world of constant danger from both the living and the dead, survival is harder— and more important than ever—during a zombie apocalypse. Creating and following a plan can be critical to saving the lives of you and your loved ones during this crisis.

Step #4: Fill in each step of the process

For your body paragraphs, you simply fill in the details of the steps on your outline. Be sure not to just list the steps, though. Instead, use transition words to connote sequence and improve the readability of your process essay.

Don’t make the mistake of using these words at the start of every sentence (first, second, third, fourth, etc.). That just makes it feel like a list. Variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for your process essay.

I’m not going to write out each point on my outline, but I’ll do one just to give you an idea.

First, you need to find access to essentials, such as  food, water, and shelter. Good shelter can be found almost anywhere, but try to avoid big cities or other previously populous places. Wherever you go, take extra precaution to create locks, barriers, and even traps, so zombies can’t come in. Your food supply depends on your location, but it can come from hunting or scavenging from the land or raiding abandoned homes and stores. If you get your water from a well or stream, use a purification method, such as boiling, to eliminate potential toxins.

Step #5: Write the conclusion

Although you want your conclusion to be a summary of your thesis statement, you also want to include some details that weren’t obvious when the reader was focused on the introduction.

Expand it to be a general overview of the entire process essay without just restating the steps of your process.

My conclusion would look something like this:

These steps can be the difference between being alive and being undead in the apocalypse. While finding basic living necessities and surrounding yourself with people who will watch your back are critical to your survival, perhaps the most important step throughout your survival process is to not get bitten.

process essay

“Zombie attack_DDC8696” from thierry ehrmann  via Flickr.com (Creative Commons)

As you can see, I took one of my points from the brainstorming step (don’t get bitten) and put it in the conclusion. This is perfectly acceptable because it’s not a step that comes before or after any of the other steps, and it adds a finishing touch to the essay.

Step #6: Proofread and edit

Hooray! You’ve finished writing your essay. But before you submit it, make sure you’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s. Proofreading and editing are pretty important last steps because you want to make sure your process essay flows logically from one step to the next.

There’s also nothing worse than getting points knocked off for errors you could’ve caught with just a couple minutes of checking your work.

If you need an extra pair of eyes on your process essay, you can always send it to one of our Kibin editors. They make sure that, unlike the legions of the undead, your process essay has some life in it.

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