How to Decode a Process Diagram (Task One)


In part 1 of the writing task for the Academic module you may be asked to describe a diagram. The diagram usually shows a process or how something works.

While this task is not as common as describing charts and tables, you still need to practise how to describe a process. Study the diagram carefully until you understand what it is describing.

 Look out for the following features:

  • The main features of the diagram
  • The relationship between the different parts of the diagram
  • The sequence of stages in the diagram
  • Any vocabulary that is presented with the diagram and helps explain it

Before starting to write, visualise how the process develops or the object works. Think about the result of each stage and what purpose each part serves.

Remember to include an overview in your introduction and to paraphrase when you can.

Look at this example of a process diagram:

Writing Task 1

The diagram below shows how the sun can be used to heat water in the home.
Write a report for a university lecturer describing the information in the diagram.

Write at least 150 words

(Sample Answer: Introduction)

The diagram shows how the sun’s energy can be captured and used to heat water for home use. The system is quite simple and consists of a panel to collect the heat from the sun, a pump to help the water circulate in a pipe, which operates in a loop, and a tank to heat the water in.

(Sample Answer: Main body)

In the first stage a solar panel, placed on the roof of the house, collects the sun’s rays and uses this energy to heat cold water that has been pumped up in a pipe to the solar collector from a hot water cylinder.

In the next stage the heated water flows back down to the cylinder, which is filled with water, via the pipe and this in turn heats the rest of the water in the tank before being pumped back up to the solar collector.

The hot water from the tank can then be used for showers or other household needs. If there is not enough sunshine, the water can be heated using a back-up system, for instance, gas.

(Sample Answer: Conclusion)

Using the sun’s energy to heat water at home is an efficient use of renewable resources that also helps lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and thus reduce pollution.

Notes on Structure

  • The introduction has two parts – the first part tells the reader what is being described and the second part gives an overview of the process.
  • The main body describes the different stages involved in the process. Linking words and phrases, such as “In the first stage”, “In the next stage”, “this in turn”, “before” and “then” are used to show the sequence of events.
  • The conclusion sums up the process – in this case the writer points to the benefits of using solar power compared with non-renewable resources.


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