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Writing a Cause and Effect Essay

Writing a Cause and Effect Essay: How One Event Can Cause Another

One good way of defining an essay of the cause and effect variety is to say that “one event can cause another or several others.” That “one event” can be referred to as the “cause” while “the other” is the effect. Often one cause can have several effects.  

If you are asked to write a cause effect essay, the process involves selecting a topic and establishing the relationship between the cause – why something happens – and the effect – the result. You will need to demonstrate the existence of a particular issue, and your analysis is the explanation you provide.   

Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate how effective your essay is: 

  • Is it clear what the causes are?
  • Is it clear what the effects are?
  • How many causes and/or effects are there – one or multiple?
  • Is there a ‘chain reaction’ type of effect?

Do a little brainstorming to generate essay topics and to identify various causes and related effects. Decide whether your essay will discuss one topic or several points. Keep asking questions for as long as it takes to be confident you have explored all possibilities. Check that all relationships are valid and logical.    

How to Organize Your Essay

Once you have finished brainstorming, think about your chosen topic and the most effective way of organizing it.

An essay of this type can be presented using any one of these three methods:

  • By importance
  • By category
  • In chronological order

If you choose to present the points in your essay by their importance, you should organize items going from most important to least important or the other way around. If you decide to organize by category, you should divide your list into as many parts as required and arrange items accordingly. Using the chronological system, you should arrange items or events in the order they occurred.

Key Elements of a Cause and Effect Essay

The main components of a correctly written cause effect essay are:

  • Use language that is positive and/or impartial.
  • Provide reliable evidence to show the relationships between all cause and effect items.
  • Use transitions (words or phrases) to help distinguish between likenesses and differences.
  • Use primary and secondary sources to demonstrate the credibility of your points/arguments.

The Framework for Your Cause Effect Essay

The component parts outlined below form the framework for a good cause effect essay:

  • A topic that is interesting and solely focused on informing and analyzing.
  • A strong introductory paragraph with a concise and clearly written thesis statement.
  • A minimum of three main body paragraphs containing evidence that is plausible and fully supportive of your thesis.
  • A concluding paragraph that smoothly combines every point and paragraph.

The Structure of a Cause Effect Essay

An introductory paragraph should do the following:

  • Describe the essay’s topic along with the main discussion points.
  • Set out the thesis statement and the purpose it serves.
  • Offer supporting information such as descriptions, examples, and facts to make the essay stronger.
  • Make use of transitions to take readers into the body of the essay.

The main body paragraphs should be used to build relationships and show why certain things or events happen and what their results are. The following points should be borne in mind when you are writing body paragraphs:

  • Use one paragraph to provide detailed descriptions of the cause(s).
  • Use another paragraph to outline particular effects.
  • Explain the relationship(s) between the causes and effects and why it is important to analyze them.
  • Include correctly cited sources to lend credibility to your stance.
  • Make use of signal words or phrases to indicate causes (e.g. another point, because, why, results of, what the cause is, why, and so on).
  • Make use of signal words or phrases to indicate effects (e.g. another outcome, because, consequently, as a result of, one notable effect, and so on).

Rather than summing-up the points from the main body paragraphs, the concluding paragraph should synthesize this information. It is your final chance to convince readers about your stance so your argument should be logical and convincing.

Add a reference list at the end of your essay. Format your sources according to the instructions you have been given or according to the relevant style guide, e.g., in the APA or MLA style.