standard “ lab ” processes whose instructions H u m a n i t i e s
Instruction Guide Article
Create an instructional guide explaining a process to a nonexpert. Use paragraph structure and include graphic aids as needed. Images (photos or graphics) are not required but can help your audience understand the instructions more fully.
Instructional manuals are one of the most common forms of writing in business and industry. These manuals have many purposes: they are often used to train new employees; they can function as operational policies and procedures; they help to ensure that workers follow safety procedures; and they can be used to document the expertise of a group of workers.
Beyond the workplace, instructional, how-to articles and blog posts can be found for nearly any activity you can think of. Video instructions are popular on YouTube.
Obviously, there is not much point in writing a set of instructions for what most people know how to do (brushing your teeth), for a process whose steps can be illustrated pictorially (defrosting a refrigerator), or for standard “lab” processes whose instructions can be found in discipline-specific lab manuals or procedures. Use the guidelines below to select a topic and build your article.
- SELECT A TOPIC ABOUT WHICH YOU HAVE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE, FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE, OR ASPIRATIONAL INCLANATIONS.
Successful topics can come from an internship in your major, from some hobby intensely pursued (e.g., rock climbing, cooking Indian food), or from a concentrated and unique experience (e.g., “How to Succeed on a First Date” or build a house for Habitat for Humanity).
You must choose a process that you know about FIRST-HAND. Don’t choose a process that you only know about from textbooks or lectures. However, you may choose something that you hope to be able to do (like kick a bad habit, even if you haven’t actually done so yourself).
You also have the option of choosing a topic about an established procedure that you know so well that you can imagine how it can be improved.
- SELECT A SIGNIFICANT TOPIC
Do not choose a topic that is too simple or obvious, like greeting customers in a restaurant if you are the host. Such simplistic topics may not be that interesting, no matter how well they are done, because they generally do not hold the listener or readers’ interest.
- THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE
The audience for a set of instructions is always a person who is not as expert as you are, or he or she would not need to read the instructions. So, be sure to fill in all the gaps in the process, gaps that you might take for granted.
2. CHOOSE A PROCESS THAT HAS ASSUMPTIONS OR IMPLICATIONS THAT ARE USUALLY OVERLOOKED.
For instance, you might write about a process in which computer programmers pursue a more efficient method to use calculate climate models to predict global warming events. You may want to develop a better process for doing something that you (or someone else) may have failed at (like applying to a job, breaking a bad habit, or preparing a speech to give at a funeral).
Additional suggestions: Be creative in your topics.
- trapping gypsy moths
- making maple syrup
- coping with early-onset diabetes
- learning to play chords on the guitar
- how to come out about your sexual orientation to your family
- how to change the oil of your car
- how to make it through the 2020 election
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR INSTRUCTIONS
Your final document should be 2-4 pages (single-spaced, with headings) and should include the following:
- COVER PAGE–Title, your name, university name, date.
- INTRODUCTION (or abstract). Describe the importance of the process and capture your readers’ interest.
- STEPS AND EXPLANATIONS—Give the STEP in the command form of the verb (the “imperative mood”) and then give an EXPLANATION following the step. The steps should be numbered and should be written in the “command” form. Use block paragraph form (rather than bullet points) even when the steps are numbered.
- PICTURES – these are optional, but helpful and enhance the instructions. Embed these as you go or at the end, depending on the process and images.
- CONCLUSION (one or two paragraphs). Nonexpert readers need a conclusion to explain the process as a whole, its context, its implications, its advantages or limitations. This section might be a good place to incorporate your outside source(s).
- REFERENCE LIST: Your instructions should be in your own words. To enrich your explanations, you can consult a book or other reference material in the field. Cite all outside sources in MLA or APA format. Do not plagiarize.