What Is a Prescriptive Essay?

Updated March 07, 2017

The term "prescriptive essay" refers to a specific type of process analysis paper that explains how to complete a task rather than how something occurs. Also termed a directional process, the prescriptive essay gives the reader steps to follow to complete a task. Prescriptive process essays differ from descriptive, which instead examine how something happens, such as how a volcano erupts.

Required Elements of Prescriptive Essays

The prescriptive essay topic involves a process and explains to readers how to complete a task, such as creating an art project, bathing a baby or training a dog. The introduction may include a list of tools or other items needed to complete the process, such as ingredients for a recipe, and some terms may need definition there or in the body of the essay, such as what you mean by a "fine-bristled comb." Organize the essay in chronological order, using transitions such as "next" and "after" to clarify the steps.

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About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.