Chapter 55. PROCESS/INSTRUCTIONS
Process Description & Instructions
This introductory page offers a simple, brief summary. For more, go to "Basics" and
to "Sample Papers" by
students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it in
more depth, you might prefer to read "Advanced
Methods." All five web pages of this chapter are listed in the
right-hand column--simply click on the page you want to see.
A "process description" and a set of "instructions" are
two types of papers that, though similar, are slightly different.
A "process description" is defined as a general description
of how a process happens, step by step. It does not tell the reader
what to do; rather, it describes how something happens. Examples of
process descriptions are any kind of manual, pamphlet, or sheet describing how a
type of machine works, how a human process works, or how a type of event
works. Process descriptions avoid giving commands, avoid using the pronoun
"you," and make use of the present tense (as in "First,
the driver inserts the key in the lock") and avoid giving
A set of "instructions,"
however, are defined as commands to readers telling them to do something, step by
step. A set of instructions does not simply describe general events but
rather gives directions to readers for making something specific happen.
Examples of instructions are any kind of directions, such as those that come
with furniture that must be assembled, those that are provided for starting to
use a new electronic device, or those that tell you how to prepare a form.
Instructions use commands (as in either "1. Open the box" or "1.
First, you must open the box").
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Writer's Goal or Assignment
The goal of writing a process
description is to provide a
general introduction to how something works. Any good technical,
professional, or business training program--whether in school, at work, or in a
manual--must acquaint people with how the machines, technology, and/or processes
around them work. A process description provides this general
information. It does so, usually, in the framework of an introduction, a
series of sections describing the steps of the process, and a conclusion.
You need to add sufficient details that your readers will have a clear
understanding of the process.
The goal of writing a set of
instructions is to provide
step-by-step directions to someone who is doing a task. Such instructions
are necessary for consumers, clients, and employees to be able to operate
machines, technologies, and activities. Instructions provide the actual
details of how one person--the reader--may perform something on a specific
machine or in a specific activity. You need to offer sufficient details
that your reader will be able, confidently and with as little confusion as
possible, to perform the commands.
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Here is a typical structure or organization for a
process description or set of instructions. More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics"
Organization of a Process Description or Set of
SPECIFIC PURPOSE, &
Background Definition/Description, if Needed)
Step 5, etc.
CONCLUDING SUMMARY with
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A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment
to concentrate on writing. Here are several helpful, important focuses
people use to develop a process description or a set of instructions.
SUBJECT: If helpful, brainstorm a list of
steps in your process or directions. Choose the most helpful steps.
(You may include sub-steps within major steps.) Are the steps
appropriate for the outcome or goal of your paper? Do you have enough
details or examples to clearly explain what happens or what should be done?
Have you clarified the overall subject fully and logically? What is
the problem and solution your paper represents? Will your audience
find your paper and its steps appropriate and interesting?
& SECOND DRAFTS:
Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the
others in later drafts.
Free write: write as much as you
can quickly on what you know or have collected about your subject or
Gather details: write descriptions
or a list of the proofs you have for your materials--facts in the form
of charts, lists, or diagrams; as quotations,
and/or from reports of people's experiences that can be validated
Write for your audience: visualize
it. What facts and/or ideas is it willing to consider, in what
style or tone, and with what kind of organizational presentation?
Organize: make an outline using the
above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.
if required, mix
your paper with the above methods to develop a first draft before, during,
or after your
research. Be sure to use proper citation and documentation for every
source, even for charts and diagrams, illustrations/images, and
TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: Develop (in early or late drafts) a
professional style and tone of efficient, interested, reasoned, fair logic.
In your role as a writer, you should sound business like and positive, and
present potential or real problems constructively, discussing how they will
AUTHENTICITY: It may be useful, even good, to mention at
least one or two minor difficulties and how they are resolved; this is
authentic in that it allows your readers to see that you have considered
problems rather than avoided them.
Otherwise, present your material with the clear
intent to inform fully, realistically, and logically. Consider your
audience's needs and interests in order to serve them properly. In
addition, if possible, develop an interest in the project (if you have not
already done so), such that it is a meaningful event to you, even as you maintain a
professional attitude about it.
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