Process Paragraphs

A process paragraph is a series of steps that explain how something happens. Or it explains how to make something. It can explain anything from the growth of a malignancy to parallel parking to baking sourdough bread. It gives tips for conquering insomnia or for removing nose hair. Because such explanations must be clear, the process paragraph must be written in chronological order, and it must include a topic sentence that clearly states the paragraph’s purpose. It must also include transition words and phrases—“first,” “next,” “finally,” for example—that connect each of the steps.

There are two kinds of process paragraphs: a process explanation and a set of instructions. A process explanation explains a process without assuming that the reader will afterwards know how to carry out that process. A set of instructions gives the reader step-by-step guidance.

The following is an example of a process explanation paragraph:

How I Deal With My Nephew’s Obsessions.

Some years ago, my nephew was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), meaning he often becomes fixated on making something happen that is impractical or impossible. Over the years I have learned, through trial and error, that by taking the following steps I can calm him when he gets into one of his OCD jags. First, I calm myself. I have to stay calm because at first sign of trouble—that, for instance, he has become stuck on buying a cat we have seen in an animal shelter—I become irritated, even enraged. So I tell myself, This is not the end of the world. I tell myself, His fixation might go on for an hour, but no longer. After I am calm, I listen with a sympathetic ear to the problem. I ask him to tell me what he wants, and I let him talk as long as he wants. I also make a mental note to give the conversation at least ten minutes, even checking my watch to make sure that I do not interrupt (unless asked) until a full ten minutes has passed. Ten minutes might not seem like a long time, but when I anticipate ten hours devoted to one, apparently-trivial problem, ten hours that could be devoted to his sister’s needs (I sometimes baby-sit both of them), I am bound to be impatient. Sometimes, ten to fifteen minutes of active listening will solve the problem. And while he talks, I make sure to maintain eye contact, which reinforces the idea that my listening is sincere. If this doesn’t work, I try to distract him by changing the subject. “Before I forget,” I might say, “did you hear the Mets are thinking of trading Reyes?” Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, and he is about to suffer an atomic meltdown, I have one more weapon: candy.

1. In the above paragraph, what is the topic sentence?

2. Is this an explanation paragraph or a set of instructions or a combination of both?

3. Below, list each of the steps in the process:
a. _________________________________________

b. _________________________________________

c. _________________________________________

d. _________________________________________

c. _________________________________________

Choose one of the following topics and write a process paragraph

How to choose a gift for a new boyfriend or girlfriend
How to use a word-processing program to insert footnotes
How to develop a powerful tennis serve.
How to clean a bathroom
How to make friends
How to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend
How to make the perfect tunafish sandwich
How to change an o-ring on a leaky faucet
How to make turkey stuffing
Choose your own topic


Writing tip:
A great author said that the last thing he writes in a novel is the beginning. He meant that we do not know what we want to say until we have finished saying it. When writing a paragraph, you might have to change your thesis sentence to fit the thesis. If, for example, you are a diabetic writing a process paragraph about testing your blood for insulin levels, your original thesis might be about using the testing apparatus. But, after writing the paragraph, you might discover that the thesis you’ve written is more about the pain of having to prick your finger every few hours than about the apparatus. So, you might change “The Accu-Chek kit is an economical, easy-to-use blood-testing kit” to “At first, most of us are squeamish about pricking our fingers, but in a surprisingly short period of time, we get used to it.”


16 comments so far

  1. xiomara on

    very good , but I nedd ideas with irony porcess paragrapfh

  2. Mecca on

    Thank you for the sample. This is a great start for me to start my refresher in writing. I needed this kick start to help me out. Its been a while for since I wrote a process paragraph

  3. abuzar rehmat on

    hi….i was assign to write on process paragraph…i found this web very helped me how to develop a peocess paragarph..thanx..but this was quiet diffult,plz make it easy as much as possible,so that evey body can get benefit…

  4. jerry on

    hello…. i was also assign to write about the process paragraph.your material about it is quiet helpfull and easy.i think i will help all those students who will browse to this is definitely helpfull for me.thank you for this.

  5. Ahmed Ebrahim on

    I would like to thank you for doing this.and I want you to send me a sample process paragraphs on different topics through my email address as soon as possible. Thank You!!!

  6. Wong Soontorn on

    Thank you so much for this kit. It help me to get more comprehension about writing a better paragraph. It’s possible to send me more samples of process paragraph through my email address.

  7. Holly on

    This was really helpful! Thanks!!

  8. johaimar_05 on

    …thank you so much for this information!!

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  14. ha hichy on

    A process paragraph describes the steps necessary to perform a process or task.
    thanks a lot for 🙂

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