IELTS Writing

Writing task – Describing Diagrams – Process Description – Part 2

This week’s article will focus on giving advice for describing and explaining the main details in a process description. We will use the example of the greenhouse effect to illustrate some of the main points. To encourage you to think  about the kind of language you need to write, you are asked to do a task in connection with each sentence, before being shown a suggested model.

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Last week, we recognized that this diagram could be divided into the section with the yellow arrows and the section with the purple arrows, the former representing natural processes and the latter human actions.

First paragraph

  1. Our starting point could be the lines pointing down from the Sun. This could be written as follows

Energy from the Sun reaches the atmosphere.

Energy from the Sun is reflected back into the atmosphere

Energy from the Sun reaches the Earth as heat.

Task: These sentences contain the appropriate information but clearly they could be written in a better way. Without scrolling down, can you think of how you can combine them into one sentence?

Model answer

First of all, when energy from the Sun reaches the atmosphere, some of it is reflected back into the atmosphere, while the rest of it reaches the Earth as heat.

Comment – A complex sentence like this shows you can use:

  • time clauses: ‘when….”’,
  • while’ to indicate a contrast
  • the present simple passive form accurately and appropriately: ‘..is reflected’.
  • quantifiers and pronouns to avoid unnecessary repetition: ‘some of it’ and ‘’the rest of it’
  • a suitable opening sequencer, ‘First of all ‘, to make clear that you are going to describe a process.
  • topic specific vocabulary: ‘atmosphere’, ‘reflected’. .
  1. Next, we want to describe the two upward pointing arrows.

Task: How would you continue this sentence?

The energy that reaches the Earth is … 

Model answer

The energy that reaches the Earth is either radiated into space or trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reflected back to Earth.

Comment – this sentence shows you can use:

  • a ‘that’ clause as a complex subject for the main clause; The energy that reaches the Earth.
  • the either…or construction appropriately.
  • topic specific vocabulary +_the present simple passive form accurately and appropriately: radiated, trapped,
  1. We should point out that this is a natural process and contrast it with the man made global warming, which will be the topic of the second paragraph.

Human activity has added more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere so that it is not just a natural process now.’

Task: This contains the required information but it is a clumsy sentence and the information needs to be better ordered. |How would you re-write it|?

Model answer

This is a natural process but over the last few decades more greenhouse gases have been added to the atmosphere by human activity.

Comment – this sentence shows you can use:

  • the pronoun ‘this’ .This seems a simple point but the use of ‘this’ as a pronoun to refer to all or part of a preceding sentence is often overlooked, and instead students overuse ‘it’. In this regards it is similar to the construction there is /are, which tends to be neglected by learners (e.g. students often produce sentences like ‘I have four people in my family’ rather than the more natural ‘ There are four people in my family’).
  • Time/quantifier expressions like’ the last few decades’.
  • the perfect passive verb form ( note the difference between: ‘In the last week I have done… v ‘Last week I did…’)

 

  1. Next, we want to start a new paragraph that focuses on this human activity.

Task: Which of the following is preferable and why?

Humans have added to global warming in several ways. Factory emissions, the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, and exhaust gases from vehicles and air traffic all contribute to global warming by releasing greenhouse, most notably carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

Humans have added to global warming in several ways. Extra greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, have been released into the atmosphere by factory emissions, the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, and exhaust gases from vehicles and air traffic.

Both are actually acceptable but the second is to be preferred because of the ‘given – new ‘ principle of writing. By this is meant, to help the reader, given information, that is information already mentioned, should usually precede new information. In the above, the first part of the second sentence “Extra greenhouse gases………atmosphere” refers back to ‘global warming’ in the first sentence, while the following three examples of man-made global warming are the new information.

  1. We still need to refer to the ‘felling of trees’ drawing in the bottom left of the picture.

The key point here is that this is another example of man-made global warming. The information to be conveyed is that plant and trees absorb carbon dioxide so the felling of trees further increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Task : Given this, how would you order the following to express the above?

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A further way that humans contribute to global warming is by deforestation. Trees and plants serve to remove some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by absorbing it through their leaves. Therefore, the more we cut down trees, the more carbon dioxide there is that remains in the atmosphere.

Comment 

  • The first sentence is another clear example of the ‘given-new’ principle.
  • Note the use of the linking expressions ‘A further way’ to smoothly connect with the previous paragraph and ‘therefore’ to signal the causal relationship between the second and third sentences.
  • The use of the impersonal structure ‘ …serves to…’ and the comparative ‘the more… the more..’ would help with your mark for ‘grammatical range’
  • Similarly, ‘contribute’, ‘deforestation’ and ‘absorbing’ provide evidence of a wide vocabulary.

Full Version:

This diagram explains the role of greenhouse gases in blocking the escape of heat and thus increasing global temperatures. The picture also makes clear how human activity is contributing to this global warming.

First of all, when energy from the Sun reaches the atmosphere, some of it is reflected back into the atmosphere, while the rest of it reaches the Earth as heat. The energy that reaches the Earth is either radiated into space or trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reflected back to Earth. This is a natural process but over the last few decades more greenhouse gases have been added to the atmosphere by human activity.

Humans have added to global warming in several ways. Extra greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, have been released into the atmosphere by factory emissions, the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, and exhaust gases from vehicles and air traffic.

A further way that humans contribute to global warming is by deforestation. Trees and plants serve to remove some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by absorbing it through their leaves. Therefore, the more we cut down trees, the more carbon dioxide there is that remains in the atmosphere.

(201 words)


I hope the above and last week’s article has given you a good idea on how to approach a process description.

 

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