Cause and Effect Essay

Updated: Dec 6, 2016

Cause-and-effect writing gives reasons and explanations for events, conditions, or behavior. It answers the need most of us have to understand the world around us. When planning a cause-and-effect essay, begin by listing the event or condition you want to address. Then brainstorm to generate ideas about either its causes or its effects. Do additional research on your topic if necessary.

Cause and effect essay writing

Cause-and-effect writing gives reasons and explanations for events, conditions, or behavior. It answers the need most of us have to understand the world around us.

Cause and effect essays are popular ways of helping students understand the relationship between various events. They’re extremely popular in history classes, although students are certainly going to encounter them in English and writing classes as well. English and writing classes are often geared towards helping students be better at critical thinking in general, and cause and effect essays can serve as excellent critical thinking exercises in general.

Cause and effect essays are starting to become more popular than the five-paragraph essays that many people have had to learn over the years, for various reasons. The traditional five paragraph essay format is highly formulaic. It doesn’t truly prepare students for the sort of advanced writing skills that they are really going to need. It encourages people to write in a manner that is highly artificial. In many cases, students do not provide enough evidence for their points. The cause and effect essay is much better when it comes to promoting critical thinking skills in the minds of students, which has helped make it the new star of academic writing today.

Remember, that Cause-and-Effect Writing is a highly demanding genre, requiring, first of all, much time for preparation. Save you time and entrust the writing process to professionals!

A cause-effect essay can play one of the following roles:

1) It can examine the ways in which many effects can arise from a particular cause ("Center on Effects" approach)

Sample Topic Sentence: One major reason youths use drugs is due to lack of employment opportunities. 

2) Or it can evaluate the ways in which numerous causes result to a particular effect ("Emphasize on Causes" approach) 

Sample Topic Sentence: One of the major effects of deforestation on the ecosystem is global warming.

Cause and Effect Essay Structure

Far too many students internalize the structure of the five paragraph essay so much that they will end up writing all of their papers in that exact same format. The five paragraph essay is just one specific type of essay, and it was never intended to serve as the model for all other essays. A cause and effect essay should emphatically not be written in the form of a five paragraph essay, although it should have around five parts.

The five parts of a cause and effect essay could very easily take up several paragraphs each, depending upon the complexity of the topic. Of course, if the essay is going on for too long, it might be wise to start to narrow down the fundamental topic of the essay in the first place.

When planning a cause-and-effect essay, begin by listing the event or condition you want to address. Then brainstorm to generate ideas about either its causes or its effects. Do additional research on your topic if necessary.

During a cause and effect essay, people start with some general background information on the topic at hand. This introduction should then end with the thesis statement that is all about the purpose of the essay.

The next section is about the cause. The next section is about the effects themselves. The fourth section is a more extensive discussion about the relationship between the cause and the effects. Finally, the fifth section is just going to serve to summarize everything that came before. Only the concluding section of a cause and effect essay is going to have much in common with the traditional five-paragraph essay, which has received plenty of criticism as of late.

The sections concerning the cause and effects, respectively, should be general in the beginning, and then they should gradually get more specific. Students need to be able to properly elaborate on the causes and the effects that they have identified. However, the other three sections can be far more general. The sections concerning the cause and effects are going to be the sections where students and writers present their evidence and facts. The other three sections are going to be about interpreting that evidence and those facts. The essay is still going to need to prove the thesis statement, but the thesis statement is going to be drawing people into the rest of the essay. The essay itself is still delving more into the cause and effect relationship itself, making it broader than the thesis statement.

Think carefully about the causes and effects you have listed. As part of prewriting, you may find it helpful to diagram or demonstrate these relationships graphically. Check to be sure you have not drawn any faulty conclusions. Your conclusions are faulty if the cause and effect relationship does not exist or if it is unreasonable or not clearly established.

Writing a Cause and Effect Essay

Often times, a cause and effect essay is going to involve people selecting an event that had a given list of defined consequences. Certain events are going to make for richer essays than others. The cause and effect relationship between the events and the consequences needs to be strong enough, or the essay is going to feel unfocused and vague.

One popular example of an event to write about in a cause and effect essay in classrooms in the United States is the American Civil War. Students will then list the causes of the American Civil War when they are in the planning stages of the cause and effect essay. From there, they will formulate thesis statements and build the rest of their essays.

Another popular essay topic for students who can write about more recent history might be the crime wave that lasted between 1975 and 1995. Students might look at what caused this crime wave. They also might look at what eventually led to the end of the crime wave. This sort of cause and effect relationship is ripe for analysis, especially since there are a lot of specific trends that have helped mark the beginning and end of the infamous period in late-twentieth-century American history.

A student might say: the late-twentieth century crime wave ended as a result of improved forensic techniques, improved social welfare programs, increases in surveillance, and increased awareness. With regards to the Civil War, and student might say: the Civil War was caused by increasing tensions between the Northern and Southern regions of the United States and the South’s desire to expand slavery throughout the country, as well as the South’s fear that slavery would eventually be eliminated if the spread was curtailed.

Compose a thesis statement that clearly states your topic. Because cause-and-effect essays need a readily identifiable structure, you will almost always write the essay in chronological order. Sometimes, however, you will use reverse chronological order. For example, you might begin with an effect or a series of effects and trace them back to their original cause. Whatever organization you use, write paragraphs with strong, clear topic sentences and relevant supporting details. The thesis statement for an essay that was about the American Civil War could be more general, with something along the lines of two halves of a nation that have very different economies and ideas of how to run a society are going to face strong conflicts with one another. A student would then go into detail about how the conflicts between the North and the South had been brewing for a long time before the Civil War finally erupted, and the Civil War was the culmination of all of those tensions. Different pieces of evidence are going to belong in the cause section, and different pieces of evidence are going to belong in the effects section.

Naturally, it is also important to illustrate the effects in question. The American Civil War was so substantial in terms of its consequences for the American people that some of the effects are still being felt today since the South never truly reconstructed and both halves of the United States still face political conflicts with one another to this day. The reader should walk away with that impression, at least after reading the effects section and the section of the essay that describes the cause and effect relationship.

 Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I assumed a cause-effect relationship when there is none? 

Causal Relation: 

 - Necessary Cause - one that must be present for the effect to occur.

Ex. Combustion is necessary to drive a gasoline engine.

 - Sufficient Cause - one that can produce an effect unaided, though there may be more than one sufficient cause of a given effect.

Ex. A dead battery is enough to keep a car from starting - but faulty spark plugs or an empty gas tank will have the same effect.

 - Contributory Cause - one that helps to produce an effect but cannot do so by itself.

Ex. Running a red light might help to cause an accident....though other facts -- pedestrians or other cars in the intersection -- must also be present.

  • Have I assumed only one cause when many causes may be appropriate?
  • Have I incorrectly assumed a causal relationship between two events that immediately follow each other?
  • Did I distinguish between long-term and short-term causes and effects? A short-term cause or effect is a single, immediately identifiable event; a long-term cause or effect may be less easy to pinpoint but in the long run more important?
  • Did I distinguish between primary (most important) and secondary (ancillary) effects?

When you begin drafting your essay, you may want to use your cause-and-effect diagram as the basis for an outline. Review your notes and identify the most significant causes or effects. It may help to ask yourself the following questions: Who was responsible? Who was affected? Did the event have economic or social ramifications?

Cause and Effect Writing Tips

  • People who are having a hard time identifying a clear consequence of the given events should choose a new topic, if possible. There are lots of examples out there, and no one needs to waste any time trying to argue in favor of a point that is going to be too difficult to properly state in an essay that is really about logical understanding more than anything else.
  • It is a good idea to have at least two or three pieces of evidence in support of why a given effect logically followed from the cause in question. The entire essay should not hinge on a few data points.
  • Smooth transitions between paragraphs are just as important in cause and effect essays as they are in five paragraph essays, even though the ideas between them are not going to be anywhere near as clear cut.
  • There are no hard and solid rules on the length of cause and effect essays, which is not the case with the five-paragraph essays that people will either love or loathe. Those essays will usually have to be one page long. Unless there are any specific requirements, cause and effect essays can be a couple of pages long or longer than that, and they are still going to be just as good.
  • It is important not to include a lot of meandering details in cause and effect essays that do not specifically relate to the point or reinforce the point. Cause and effect essays can be longer than five-paragraph essays, but they are not the sorts of essays that are going to need filler content. Being clear and straightforward is going to matter more. The details are going to need to relate to reinforcing the cause and effect relationship that is at the heart of the cause and effect essay.

A five sentence cause and effects essay sample

Today, cities have continually emerged to be metropolitans in which approximately half of mankind inhabits. This can be attributed to the rapid industrial revolution that occurred in the 19th century; resulting in massive job creation in the cities' environs. Moreover, many learning institutions have been set up to educate factory laborers' children. Better education in metropolitans has encouraged rural communities to invade the City. Finally, the growth of cities has evolved new lifestyles that appear more interesting compared to rural life.

Signal Words in Cause-and-Effect Writing

Cause and Effect

Degrees of Certainty

Levels of Importance

as a result

certainly

above all

because

may

equally important

consequently

necessarily

finally

due to

perhaps

first

if....then

possibly

initially

leads to

probably

last

therefore

undoubtedly

primarily

thus

unquestionably

second

 

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