Informative Process Analysis

(SW 208-226)

Process analysis involves breaking down a process into the stages or steps necessary to performing some task.

In Informative Process Analysis, the process being described is "not intended to be—or cannot be—duplicated by the individual reader" (SW 209). It is not a set of instructions.

In the introduction, we identify the task and explain why it is important to know how to perform it properly. There is no plan for development in this particular paradigm.

Topic Test: Do the discussion paragraphs describe a set of steps or stages that MUST occur in a certain order?

Topic Sentence Test: Do the topic sentences reveal a complete skeleton of the process?




Thesis statement about why it is important for the audience to know about this process.

Discussion Paragraphs:

The discussion includes as many paragraphs as there are steps or stages in the process.

Topic sentence identifies the step or stage to be discussed in this paragraph, usually with a number.

Paragraph explains how the step or stage is accomplished, as well as explaining why it's important to perform the step correctly and offering any necessary cautions.

Paragraph defines terms and describes equipment as necessary.


Restates thesis about the importance of this process.


Some cautions for this assignment:

  1. Be sure you have a defensible thesis. Why would anyone need to know how this process works? Your goal is to convince the audience of the importance of knowing about the process, so your thesis must give them a reason to care about it.
  2. Do not give directions. There are two kinds of process analysis essays: directional and informative. In some academic situations, you will be asked to give directions, in which case you would use the imperative voice, but for this assignment, please use only the informative approach.
  3. Do not simply list steps. Explain each step or stage in the process fully. Choose a topic that will allow for some depth of discussion.

Sample Process Analysis Outline


Opener: One of the most common assignments in college classes is to write in response to something the student has read.

Background: Instructors expect students to be able to read critically and both understand the material and to be able to comment intelligently on it. Further, the assignment may ask the student to relate the reading to other material from the course or to her/his own experience with the subject.

Thesis: In order to earn good grades in college, students need to know how to write an academic essay that shows the instructor that they know what the instructor wants them to know.

Discussion Paragraphs: Note that each topic sentences tells what the step or stage is.

Step One: The first step in the process is to clearly understand the assignment. This paragraph goes on to explain that assignments vary and that students need to be very clear about instructions, because the whole point is to give the instructor what s/he wants.

Step Two: Next comes critical reading. This paragraph explains how to read and annotate so that the student will understand what the writer’s purpose and main points are. It also points out that it’s important to have the assignment in mind while reading.

Step Three: The third step is deciding which parts of the reading to respond to, given the specific assignment. This paragraph explains some of the possible ways to approach writing about a reading assignment.

Step Four: At long last, it’s time to begin constructing the introduction of the essay. First of all, an opener is needed. This paragraph explains the parts of the introduction of an academic essay, including opener, background, plan for development, and thesis. Special emphasis should be placed on the importance of introducing the writer of the reading assignment along with her/his purpose, as well as the student’s thesis for this essay.

Step Five: The next step is to write the discussion paragraphs. This paragraph explains how topic sentences work and details what should go into discussion paragraphs to support the student’s thesis.

Step Six: Finally, the essay ends with a conclusion. This paragraph explains the parts of a conclusion (restating the thesis—in different words—and providing an effective closing).


Restates the thesis