Process Description

Please cite in Journal of Animal Science.


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Developed from: Ballentine, Brian. Technical Communication. West Virginia U. Spring 2009. Web. 3 Mar 2013.


Purpose: This assignment asks you to explain to both a non-technical or novice audience and a specialized audience “how something works.” The purpose of description is not simply to help your audiences understand what something is or does (which is the province of definition), but to help them see–literally–how something functions. To this end, descriptions use visual detail, both in pictures and in words, to describe both the process and how it works.



Assignment: Choose a process with which you are reasonably familiar and describe it to two audiences, one non-technical and one technical (specialized). The process must be one that is not accomplished through direct human action (that would be instructions). In other words, you can describe how blood circulates; you cannot describe how to make a free throw. You may choose something from your chosen major/profession, or you may choose something from a hobby or interest. As always, please cite your sources.


Since there are two descriptions of the same process it will be up to you to decide which audience to write for first. However, please do indicate at the top of each paper which audience is which. The specialized audience could be people who share with you a very specific area of specialization within a field, or it could be a broader audience within that field. The non-technical audience has little to no background knowledge of your subject.


Your descriptions should answer the following questions:

What is it?
What does it do?
How does it work?
How has it been put together?
Why should your reader use it?

You will not necessarily answer these questions in an orderly manner, but each of them should be addressed if they are relevant to your description.


Your descriptions should have the following elements:

Sense of the overall process, including why it is significant for the audience
Clear explanation of each part’s function
Details appropriate to the audience’s interest and level of knowledge
Clear and appropriate organization, which will likely be one of the following types:
Spatial organization, when you want readers to visualize the mechanism or process as a static object (e.g., house interior, document, disk box)
Functional organization, when you want the reader to see a mechanism or a process in action (e.g., camera, smoke detector)
Chronological organization, when you want the reader to see a mechanism or a process according to how it was put together (e.g., tent, piece of furniture

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