To write a cause and effect essay, you’ll need to determine a scenario in which one action or event caused certain effects to occur. Then, explain what took place and why. This essay allows us to identify patterns and explain why things turned out the way that they did. How do I choose a topic and get started? Try choosing a major event, either in your own life or an event of historical significance. For example, The Great Depression. Cause of The Great Depression: stock market crash
How would we elaborate? We’d discuss the behaviors, carelessness, errors, and even cultural attitudes that led to the crash—explaining why it was devastating. Effects of the Great Depression: joblessness & poverty
What should we say about the effects?
•Businesses went under—explain HOW the crash caused this •Describe poverty in detail—explain how this could’ve been handled more efficiently or even avoided Narrowing a Large Topic
In a short essay, it might be difficult to tackle the cause and all of the many effects of a big event like the Great Depression. To narrow a cause and effect topic down to a manageable size, ask yourself… What’s the main (most important) cause? Most people attribute it to the stock market crash, so that’s a good place to start. Can I break the different types of effects down into categories? Yes! I’ll break my ideas down into categories like: economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects. Which category interests me the most? “Practical effects” is the most interesting. I’ll narrow the topic of my paper down so that my essay will now be about how the stock market crash affected the practical ways that people lived their lives during the Great Depression.
Can that category be broken down even further to make the topic more manageable? I’m actually interested in the ways that the Great Depression affected the farming industry. I want to talk about the new skills and methods that farmers were forced to learn and implement, as a result of their difficult situation. You will have to determine which causes or effects you’re going to write about. For instance, if there are too many causes for you to deal with in the scope of your essay, you’ll have to decide what are the main causes, the ones you have to treat, and then suggest to your reader that there are other, relatively minor, causes outside the scope of your essay. For example, in an essay on the effects of El Niño, the price you pay for orange juice might not belong in an essay alongside the devastating effects of tornadoes and ice-storms and mudslides and people’s fear of uncontrollable weather patterns.
How Do I Write a Cause-Effect Essay?
Establish a few cause-effect parameters.
1. What effect or effects will you be analyzing in the essay?
2. What causal chain leads to the effect?
3. What primary cause (also known as the main cause, or necessary cause, or first cause) is the basis for the causal chain, and thus, the basis for the effect? For this course, it is “global warming.” It’s imperative to establish a causal chain, but it’s not enough. There can be more than one chain; there can be more than one effect; but there should only be one primary cause.
4. What relationship will you be trying to establish between cause and effect (your topic), and why (your thesis)?
First, of course, there is the primary cause. This is the necessary cause without which the effect could not occur; it’s the first link in any causal chains that follows.
Say that your topic is the causes for the effect of roommate feuds. Contributing causes might be sloppiness, bad music, and staying up all night.
Not every cause-effect paper is about causes. Some may in fact center on the effects of a single cause.
Consider the topic of global warming: Several effects may be worth discussing, all leading to the point of the essay: that global warming is causing enough damaging effects in our world that it’s worth taking the steps necessary to eliminate the problem. Eliminating that problem, of course, would be another paper. In the case of global warming as a primary cause/effect, you might still want to briefly review what makes global warming —in other words, you’d be acknowledging that global warming doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Global warming thus temporarily becomes the effect caused by all sorts of environmental hazards, foremost among them air pollution.
Your conclusion, then, could move back to that original cause, our insensitivity to our own environment, which is the primary cause in the chain leading to global warming, and point to that cause as the culprit that needs to be addressed if we’re to see an end not only to global warming but to the environmental effects you’ve discussed in your essay.
Things to Watch
Don’t lose control of an essay by trying to cover something too broad. Focus your analysis.
Narrow your topic.
Part One: Introduction
Part one is the introduction which always includes two main functions. The introduction should (1) get the reader’s attention and (2) tell the reader what the essay is about. Telling the reader what the essay is going to be about is also called “Stating your Organization.” If your introduction is good, it will not only help your reader anticipate what your essay is about, but it will also help you organize the main points in your own mind, possibly even before sitting down and putting thoughts to paper.
Part Two: Body
The order in which you write about the causes or the effects of something is always up to the writer. Some writers like to put the most important cause or effect first to help grab the reader’s attention from the beginning. Others like to save the most important cause or effect until last to leave a powerful, longer lasting impression upon the reader. Whatever order you choose for your causes or effects, you should always have a rationale, at least in your own mind, for the order in which you present your ideas. Even before starting to write, try to structure the main causes and/or the main effects. If it is possible to do that, when you sit down to write, the most important parts will already be organized.
Part Three: Conclusion
Part three is the conclusion which like the introduction contains two parts. The conclusion should (1) summarize for your reader the main points of your essay and (2) leave the reader with a good impression by ending with a simple, restated version of your thesis. Try to make your points clear and crisp, for if your reader can walk away from your essay remembering the main points, you will have accomplished a lot. So make sure your summary makes sense. Additional Points to Remember when Writing a Cause or Effect Essay • State your organization. In all compositions for an academic audience, you should state your organization. Stating your organization means that you should (1) tell your audience what you are going to tell them, (2) then tell them, and (3) then tell them what you told them.
• List all of the causes or all of the effects, not necessarily in your essay, but in your own brainstorming session before you begin to write your essay. On a piece of paper before beginning to write your essay, list as many causes or effects you can think of. Using the issue of air pollution, for example, list all the causes of air pollution on one part of the paper, and on the other part, list all the effects of air pollution. (The link to the brainstorming sessions about air pollution is below.) • Support all causes or effects with supporting details. State your point clearly at the beginning of a paragraph, and then provide support to help your reader understand how or why it is true. • Have a rationale for the order in which you present your information. We discussed that point previously on this page. Experiment! Write at least ten drafts before deciding on the best, final draft, and develop your own rationale for the order in which you present your information. • Finally, maintain your focus. In a short cause or effect essay, limit the range of your topic to either the causes or effects of something. Maintain focus, and do not stray. Make it easy for your reader to know your point of view, and make it memorable.