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Probably the easiest process essays have as their subject some physical process: recipes for baking cookies, directions on how to build a go-cart, etc. (“how to” essays). But more interesting and more conducive to a good grade are essays involving a mental process: how to reason, how to make a deduction, how to analyze an idea, etc. This type of process essay is more impressive because it discusses concrete steps toward an abstract conclusion, and therefore demonstrates the student’s ability to organize his/her thoughts. Some topics of this kind might be: What is the process by which a visual artist chooses his/her medium: watercolor, oils, guache, etc.? What are the factors that must be taken into consideration.? Another topic: Given the wide range of English literature, what is the anthology-editing process? How are pieces chosen? What are the criteria? How does the anthologizer determine his/her goals? etc. A third process essay topic might be: In this electronic society, what is the process for selecting which social media one will participate in, and what criteria must be met by the site-owner to ensure commercial success? (An interesting corollary: What is the process for a marketer to choose where to advertise on the Internet?) These kinds of process essays will engage the writer in original thinking and orderly taxonomies.
When writing an essay that is about a process, choose something that you can describe it step-by-step. For younger students I use the example of making a peanut and butter sandwich. Tell about the things you would need and then describe how it will be done in steps. Some suggestions could be: describe how to do a particular dance step, how to play a video game, how to get somewhere, how to make an A on a paper, etc. Good luck!
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