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Typical questions

“Describe how X is accomplished.”

“List the steps involved in X.”

“Explain what happened in X.”

“What is the procedure involved in X?” 

Process (sometimes called process analysis) involves giving directions or telling the reader how to do something. It may involve discussing some complex procedure as a series of discrete steps. The organisation is almost always chronological.


This kind of essay is rather less common in academic writing, but the following example is comparable:

Q:  What is meant by the term Rapid Rural Appraisal, and what steps and techniques are involved?
A:  Rapid Rural Appraisal or RRA is a research method by which ‘outsiders’ may come to understand local agricultural systems (particularly in the ‘developing’ world) as quickly and effectively as possible, given the many constraints of time and resources, access and opportunity.  It is an alternative to large-scale surveys, but designed to be more productive than brief visits by elitist professionals and ‘experts’.  It emphasizes the importance of situated knowledge, and the utility of ‘triangulation’ of data from a number of sources and methods.  In rough chronological order, key steps in an RRA are these:

  1. Review of secondary sources
  2. Direct observation of area, via foot transects, familiarization, participation in residents’ activities
  3. Interviews with key informants, focus groups, community interviews, workshops
  4. Mapping and diagramming
  5. Construction of biographies, local histories, case studies
  6. Ranking and scoring
  7. Construction of timelines
  8. Minisurveys or short simple questionnaires
  9. Rapid report writing whilst in the field

Each of these elements has its advantages and disadvantages.  It should be noted that RRA has been criticized but also further developed through the methods of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).