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Which Step In The Process Of Writing A Cause And Effect Essay Comes Before Outlining

TIP Sheet
WRITING A PROCESS PAPER

A process paper describes to a reader how to do something or how something occurs. Stages in psychological development, steps in installing software or carrying out a marketing plan, or processes in science or historical change, for example, could all be described in a process paper.

How-to's and explanations
There are two kinds of process papers. The author of a how-to paper intends that, after reading it, the reader will be able to carry out the steps in order to accomplish something. For example, the writer of software installation instructions intends the reader to follow the steps to successfully install a program. Here is an example:

How-to
There are several steps you can take to get better help on your papers from an English tutor. First, make sure you spell check and proofread your own paper, making as many corrections and improvements as you can. That way, you won't waste time discussing diction "problems" that are really just typing errors. Next, read your paper again, and underline two or three sentences that you are uncomfortable with and would like to improve. At the same time, formulate two or three specific questions to ask the tutor, such as, "What is a comma splice, and how do I fix it?" or "How can I make my writing less choppy?" That way, you are taking responsibility for your own learning and giving the tutor a head start in helping you. Similarly, if you have already received feedback from your instructor on this or earlier papers, bring in the instructor's written comments if possible. Finally, don't ask the tutor for proofreading or editing; the tutor's job is to help you master the skills necessary to do your own proofreading and editing. Instead, try asking for "feedback." Feedback might range from an explanation of your comma errors to recommendations to improve your organization or thesis statement.

The second kind of process paper is an explanation. The writer of an explanation describes in narrative form how something occurs, without actually expecting the reader to carry out steps. The author of a paper describing how a nuclear fission power plant works, for example, probably does not expect readers to be able to manage one based on his explanation. To illustrate, the following explanation describes the development of insecticide resistance in the garden:

Explanation
Even non-organic gardeners should avoid broad-spectrum pesticides as much as possible. Broad-spectrum pesticides immediately kill the most vulnerable members of an insect population, giving the short-term impression that the infestation has been successfully overcome. However, a few stronger and more resistant insects always remain or recover. Poison-resistant insects breed with each other, producing offspring that are themselves more resistant than the previous generation. After a few cycles, the local insect population has become largely resistant to the insecticide. Meanwhile, the poison has also spread to the local bird population through the birds' feeding on insecticide-drenched insects. Birds that would have helped naturally control the insects die or fail to reproduce. And if the gardener switches to a new broad-spectrum pesticide, the development of pesticide resistance widens to accommodate the new product as well.

Identifying and organizing steps
Prewriting for process papers should focus on identifying the steps or stages in the process and putting them in logical order. The organization for process papers is sequential; the steps of the process are set forth in chronological order. (An explanation process paper may end up looking a lot like a cause and effect paper, since cause-effect relationships are by nature sequential. There is room for overlap among various modes of writing, and seldom does a piece of writing "purely" represent one mode only.) Once you have identified the steps, list them in sequential order.

If there is a trick to writing a process paper, it is to take the time to look at the steps you have listed as if you had never seen them before. Imagine you know nothing of the process you plan to describe. Read over your steps critically to see whether you have omitted anything. Sometimes the most ordinary processes are the most difficult to describe, as any writer of the "how to tie a shoelace" exercise knows! If you can, try following your own steps to the letter to see if they do, in fact, bring about the desired result. No cheating-if you must do something not already on your list of steps, add it.

Forming transitions
Listing and numbering steps for prewriting is relatively easy. Describing steps in prose is a little different. The use of "first," "second," and "third" is little more than listing; there are a whole array of signal words, or transitions, to help you shed light on processes. (Most of the following transitions are also suitable for narratives, which, like process papers, usually use chronological, or time, order.)

  • at first
  • initially
  • begin by
  • later
  • before
  • while
  • then
  • during
  • as soon as
  • meanwhile
  • when
  • until
  • at last
  • finally

Notice the signal words and phrases in the following student paper telling how to get to class on time (this paper combines how-to, explanation, and narrative elements):

Your success as a student begins with getting yourself to class, and getting yourself to class beginsnight before. Choose and lay out your clothes. That way in the morning, when you change your mind (and you know you will) you will have already started the process of elimination in searching for something to wear. This will save you time. Set up the coffee pot the night before, too. That way, even if you're not fully awake in the morning, you won't risk filling the coffee filter with something inappropriate, like Lucky Charms. In the morning, get up, start the coffee, shower, toss aside the clothes you laid out the night before (don't blame yourself; really there was no way to know then what you would feel like wearing today), rummage through your closet, choose something, and dress. Next, dash to the kitchen, spread peanut butter on a tortilla, roll it up, and take it with you out the door, for, in the wee hours the night before, you poured the last of the Lucky Charms into the coffee filter and they are irredeemably soggy now. Don't waste time blaming yourself. Just start the car and go, because 10,000 fellow students are vying for your parking place, and that's just on the freeway off-ramp. Follow the stream of cars into the parking lot and circle once or twice to make sure a close spot has not been overlooked by earlier, sleepier arrivals. Settle at last for a distant spot. Jog, don't walk, to the coffee vendor and put your money down. Inhale. Isn't that a great aroma? Nothing like the percolated Lucky Charms! Exhale. It's still only five minutes to eight. Finally, stroll to class nonchalantly. You are so ready to succeed. the

Once you have transformed your numbered list into prose as in the above example, read what you have written to make sure you have not omitted anything. Revise by moving or removing sentences if necessary, or by adding the steps or transitions needed to clarify the process.

Process writing has very practical applications. A business writer outlining a marketing plan uses process writing. Developmental psychologists study and describe cognitive development as a process. Hazardous-materials handlers write and follow strict processes for the safe handling of many substances. Any application of process writing requires attention to detail, sensible organization, and clarity of expression.

The Basics of Effective Essay Writing

by Becton Loveless

As you progress through school, you'll be required to write essays. And the farther along in school you get, the more complex and demanding the essays will become. It's important that you learn early on how to write effective essays that communicate clearly and accomplish specific objectives.

An essay is a written composition where you express a specific idea and then support it with facts, statements, analysis and explanations. The basic format for an essay is known as the five paragraph essay – but an essay may have as many paragraphs as needed. A five paragraph essay contains five paragraphs. However, the essay itself consists of three sections: an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

Below we'll explore the basics of writing an essay.

Select a Topic

When you first start writing essays in school, it's not uncommon to have a topic assigned to you. However, as you progress in grade level, you'll increasingly be given the opportunity to choose the topic of your essays. When selecting a topic for your essay, you'll want to make sure your topic supports the type of paper you're expected to write. If you're expected to produce a paper that is a general overview, then a general topic will suffice. However, if you're expected to write a specific analysis, then you're topic should be fairly specific.

For example, lets assume the objective of your essay is to write an overview. Then the topic "RUSSIA" would be suitable. However, if the objective or your essay is to write a specific analysis, then "RUSSIA" would be far too general a topic. You'll need to narrow down your topic to something like "Russian Politics: Past, Present and Future" or "Racial Diversity in the Former USSR".

If you're expected to choose your own topic, then the first step is to define the purpose of your essay. Is your purpose to persuade? To explain how to accomplish something? Or to education about a person, place, thing or idea? The topic you choose needs to support the purpose of your essay.

The purpose of your essay is defined by the type of paper you're writing. There are three basic types of essay papers:

  • Analytical - An analytical essay paper breaks down an idea or issue into its its key components. It evaluates the issue or idea by presenting analysis of the breakdown and/or components to the the reader.

  • Expository - Also known as explanatory essays, expositories provide explanations of something.

  • Argumentative - These type of essays, also known as persuasive essays, make a specific claim about a topic and then provide evidence and arguments to support the claim. The claim set forth in argumentative (persuasive) essays may be an opinion, an evaluation, an interpretation, cause-effect statement or a policy proposal. The purpose of argumentative essays is to convince or persuade the reader that a claim is valid.

Once you have defined the purpose of your essay, it's time to brainstorm. Don't choose just one topic right of the bat. Take some time to consider, contrast and weight your options. Get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the different topics that fit the purpose of your essay. Once they're all down on paper, start by eliminating those topics that are difficult or not as relevant as others topics. Also, get rid of those topics that are too challenging or that you're just not that interested in. Pretty soon you will have whittled your list down to just a few topics and then you can make a final choice.

Organize Your Ideas Using a Diagram or Outline

Some students get scared to start writing. They want to make sure they have all their thoughts organized in their head before they put anything down on paper. Creating a diagram or outline allows you to put pen to paper and start organizing your ideas. Don't worry or agonize over organization at this point, just create a moderately organized format for your information.

Whether you use a diagram or outline doesn't really matter. Some people prefer and work better with the flowing structure of a diagram. Others like the rigid and logical structure of an outline. Don't fret, once you get started, you can always change formats if the format you chose isn't working out for you.

Diagram

The following are useful steps for developing a diagram to organize ideas for your essay.

  • Get started by drawing a circle in the middle of a paper just big enough to write in.
  • Inside your circle, write your essay topic.
  • Now draw three or four lines out from your circle.
  • At the end of each of lines, draw another circle just slightly smaller than the circle in the middle of the page.
  • In each smaller circle, write a main idea about your topic, or point you want to make. If this is persuasive (argumentative) essay, then write down your arguments. If the object of the essay is to explain a process (expository), then write down a step in each circle. If your essay is intended to be informative or explain (analytical), write the major categories into which information can be divided.
  • Now draw three more lines out from each circle containing a main idea.
  • At the end of each of these lines, draw another circle.
  • Finally, in each of these circles write down facts or information that help support the main idea.

Outline

The following are useful steps for developing an outline to organize ideas for your essay.

  • Take a page of paper and write your topic at the top.
  • Now, down the left side of the page, under the topic, write Roman numerals I, II, and III, sequentially.
  • Next to each Roman numeral, write the main points, or ideas, about your essay topic. If this is persuasive essay, write your arguments. If this an essay to inform, write the major categories into which information will be divided. If the purpose of your essay is to explain a process, write down each step of the process.
  • Next, under each Roman numeral, write A, B, and C down the left hand side of the page.
  • Finally, next to each letter, under each Roman numeral, write the information and/or facts that support the main point or idea.

Develop a Thesis Statement

Once you have an idea for the basic structure of your essay, and what information you're going to present in your essay, it's time to develop your thesis statement. A thesis statement states or outlines what you intend to prove in your essay. A good thesis statement should be clear, concise, specific, and takes a position.

The word "thesis" just sounds intimidating to most students, but a thesis is actually quite simple. A thesis statement (1) tells the reader what the essay is about and (2) what points you'll be making. If you've already selected an essay topic, and developed an outline or diagram, you now can decide what points you want to communicate through your essay.

A thesis statement has two key components. The first component is the topic, and the second is the point(s) of the essay. The following is an example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

The life of a child raised in Pena Blanca is characterized by little playing, a lot of hard work and extreme poverty.

An example of an analytical thesis statement:

An analysis of the loan application process for citizens of third world countries reveals one major obstacle: applicants must already have money in order to qualify for a loan.

An example of an argumentative (persuasive) thesis statement:

Instead of sending tax money overseas to buoy struggling governments and economies, U.S. residents should be offered tax incentives for donating to companies that provide micro loans directly to the citizens of third world countries.

Once you're done developing a thesis statement that supports the type of essay your writing and the purpose of the essay, you're ready to get started on your introduction.

Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of the essay. It introduces the reader to the idea that the essay will address. It is also intended to capture the reader's attention and interest. The first sentence of the introduction paragraph should be as captivating and interesting as possible. The sentences that follow should clarify your opening statement. Conclude the introduction paragraph with your thesis statement.

Body

The body of your essay is where you explain, describe or argue the topic you've chosen. Each of the main ideas you included in your outline or diagram will become of the body paragraphs. If you wrote down four main ideas in your outline or diagram, then you'll have four body paragraphs.

Each paragraph will address one main idea that supports the thesis statement. The first paragraph of the body should put forth your strongest argument to support your thesis. Start the paragraph out by stating the supporting idea. Then follow up with additional sentences that contain supporting information, facts, evidence or examples – as shown in your diagram or outline. The concluding sentence should sum up what you've discussed in the paragraph.

The second body paragraph will follow the same format as the first body paragraph. This paragraph should put forth your second strongest argument supporting your thesis statement. Likewise, the third and fourth body paragraphs, like the first and second, will contain your third and fourth strongest arguments supporting your thesis statement. Again, the last sentence of both the third and fourth paragraphs should sum up what you've discussed in each paragraph and indicate to the reader that the paragraph contains the final supporting argument.

Conclusion

The final paragraph of the essay provides the conclusion. This paragraph should should restate your thesis statement using slightly different wording than employed in your introduction. The paragraph should summarize the arguments presented in the body of the essay. The last sentence in the conclusion paragraph should communicate that your essay has come to and end. Your concluding paragraph should communicate to the reader that you're confident that you've proven the idea as set forth in your thesis statement.

Having the ability to write effective essays will become increasingly important as you progress through high school and into college. If you'll internalize the format presented above, you'll develop the ability to write clear and compelling essays.

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