A process paper is a brief and practical essay that demonstrates to a reader how to do something or how a particular process works. Process papers are published by people in many diverse professions, including scientific or historical research, developmental psychology, business and marketing strategy, or software installation.
Although process papers come in many varieties, there are two commonly accepted types: how-to papers and explanatory papers.
A how-to paper is used by historians to explain to fellow academics how to duplicate their research methodology, or by children's authors to explain to preschoolers how to tie their shoes in a step-by-step manner. An explanatory paper differs from a how-to paper in that the author does not necessarily expect the reader to be able to accomplish or fully understand the task that the paper is describing. Explanatory papers are used by scientists trying to describe complex research techniques or by workers in specialized fields, such as nuclear fusion or software engineering. All excellent process papers utilize transition words like "first," "second," "next" or "after" to guide readers through a sequence of chronological steps or stages.
Writers of any type of process paper are encouraged to be direct, highly organized and attentive to detail.