How to Write an Illustration Essay: Common Problems You May Face

To write an illustration essay, you must first completely understand what it is. It is not an essay with a bunch of pictures. An illustration essay, illustrates in words how to do something.

Your illustration paper could explain how to make a sandwich, how to set up your smart phone, how to change a flat tire, or how to milk a cow. The hard part is finding the precise words that will explain this process to your readers. You cannot rely upon diagrams or pictures to help you with this task. You can only use your words to explain the process.

Illustration essays are used often in science classes to explain a lab process or result. They are also used in classes such as mechanics, medicine, or electronics. They are not assigned exclusively to these classes; and could be the part of any academic curriculum.

Use a few tried and true tips to help you with the illustration paper:

  • Write the process in fragments first (use bullet steps)
  • Go in chronological order
  • Do not use the word “you”
  • Follow all grammar and writing rules
  • Make an outline
  • Have a thesis statement
  • Check your spelling
  • Write a rough draft
  • Try to complete the process using your rough draft
  • Write another rough draft
  • Try to complete the process using your second rough draft
  • Write as many rough drafts as you might need to refine the steps
  • Use bullet points, numbers, and short paragraphs
  • Using the latest draft try the process again
  • Have a friend try the process using your most polished rough draft as his or her guide
  • Now write the final draft
  • Include any references and in text citations if necessary
  • Follow all APA and MLA rules
  • Have a friend proofread it
  • Correct any mistakes
  • Retype it if necessary
  • Turn it in (along with the outline and Works Cited or bibliography page) by the due date


An illustration essay can be fun. They are not too difficult to write. Hopefully the class will present them. Write it on making an ice cream sundae and then make a few for the class, after you present the paper. You can select a topic you do not know about or if you are not so adventurous, you can write about something you are knowledgeable. Whatever you do, follow the tips and have fun!

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