Product- vs. Process-Based Writing

decorative imagedecorative imageHow do you develop an essay? The first and most important concept to understand is this: essays do not happen all at once. An essay writer rarely creates an essay (the product) in one sitting, due to the nature of essay writing. Essay writing is a process and, like any process, there are overall stages or steps that you’ll learn about and apply. You’ll eventually develop your own process or processes for writing, going through these stages.

The chart below offers a fuller comparison of process vs. product writing.

Product-Based Writing

Example: writing a news story under a deadline for a blog post

Process-Based Writing

Example: writing a college essay

  • assumes that writers produce texts in “one sitting,” without revising or taking pauses in their work
  • assumes that the meaning of the writing is created and evolves during composing and revision
  • forces the writer to “think before writing.” Product-oriented writers must have a clear plan for writing in their heads before composing
  • multiple drafts are necessary as writing… is a means of making knowledge, learning, and critical thinking
  • one draft forces the writer to settle for what came first, which may or may not be his/her best work
  • writing happens in stages that include but are not limited to prewriting, writing, and revising
  • writing is a non-linear process, and its stages often overlap
  • little or no opportunity for feedback from others


  • writers actively seek feedback from readers and judiciously use that feedback in their revisions
  • The product model is a “make it or break it” model. The very first reader who sees the writing, be it a boss at work or a teacher at school, is its judge and jury. This very first reader of a piece grades it or evaluates it in some other way, returning the verdict to the writer.


  • The process model empowers writers by encouraging them to understand and refine their writing strategies and techniques.