How to Write a Process Paper

Step 1: Learn about the assignment

How long should this paper be? How detailed should it be? Are any subjects disallowed? Ask your teacher. He'll get pissed off that you weren't paying attention when he told everybody in class but that won't hurt your grade as much as a one paragraph paper titled "How to Cough" would.

Step 2: Getting an idea

Once you know the details of the assignment you can start trying to think up ideas that will fit in the guidelines. Think about what you know about or things you do often. If you can't think of anything then you're probably a pretty boring person and could use the excuse to go learn something interesting.

Remember: Obscurity is good. A paper on breaking and entering or getting free calls on a payphone is good. Illegal stuff is not only interesting but often quite funny too. But don't write about building explosives, particularly if you're in a high-school in Colorado. Trust me: I know.

Step 3: Avoid getting arthritis in your hands

Unless you were planning on writing this paper with pen and paper, you had better find a computer to type it out on. These are usually found in over-crowded computer labs or in dorm rooms of rich people whom you've never met.

Now, while I've never actually tried breaking into somebody's dorm room to use their computer, I suspect it would be awfully tough, and therefore should be ruled out unless this is what your paper is going to be on. (In that case, go right ahead: practice makes perfect!)

Step 4: Finding an empty terminal in the over-crowded computer lab

Okay, so the dorm room you broke into didn't have a computer, or it was an iMac, which you despise and will never use. So now you have to find a computer in the computer lab. Of course, they're all full of rich people who have their own computers in the dorm but don't want to use them because they're iMacs, which they despise and will never use. You have to free up one of the terminals. You may want a friend for this part.

Have your friend ask you where you got the pizza (if you stand out in the hall and talk loudly the people in the lab will be able to hear you but won't be able to see that you don't really have any pizza). "Tell" him that the Gideons have realized that nobody really wants their pocket Bibles so they've started giving out free pizza with them. With in 10 seconds half the people in the lab will have come streaming out the door and started racing outside like their lives depended on it. It's a good idea to stand off to the side so you don't get trampled in the stampede.

Once they've left, go take your pick of the computers.

Step 5: Write out the process

Write about what you do almost like you're writing a script. Describe each action distinctly but without going into too much detail. Once the basic outline is done you can go over it and try to find places where somebody who doesn't know how to do what you're describing would say "well, duh!" or "huh?" Try to eliminate obvious bits and expand the description of more complicated bits. Everybody knows that you should only break into houses at night, but not everybody knows exactly how to pick a lock. I've tried it and it's not as easy as it seems.

Step 6: Proof-read

Use a spell-checker, a grammar-checker, and a person who doesn't know how to do whatever the paper is on. Have them tell you what's wrong with it and what's right. Ask for suggestions and then implement the ones you feel are good.

Step 7: Turn in your paper

Walk into class for the first time in days and walk up to your teacher.

"And for what occasion do we have the rare privilege of your presence? If I may remind you, in this class, attendance is mandatory."

Hand him your paper and leave. You don't have to take his kind of attitude.