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. (example below)
- 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.
Narrowing a Large Topic - Example
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.
money loses value
public resourcefulness increases
companies lose value
employers pay lower wages
farming techniques change
men emasculated by job loss
banks lose the public's trust
orphanages fill up
forced to work longer hours
public wastes less, finds creative ways to save
Student Sample: The Desired Look: Nothing But Bones
What is a cause and effect essay?
Cause and effect essays are concerned with why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). Cause and effect is a common method of organizing and discussing ideas.
Follow these steps when writing a cause and effect essay
- Distinguish between cause and effect. To determine causes, ask, "Why did this happen?" To identify effects, ask, "What happened because of this?" The following is an example of one cause producing one effect:
- You are out of gas.
- Your car won't start.
- liked business in high school
- salaries in the field are high
- have an aunt who is an accountant
- am good with numbers
- choose to major in accounting
- reduce work hours
- less income
- employer is irritated
- more time to study
- more time for family and friends
Sometimes, many causes contribute to a single effect or many effects may result from a single cause. (Your instructor will specify which cause/effect method to use.) The following are examples:
However, most situations are more complicated. The following is an example of a chain reaction:
Thinking about friend…forgot to buy gas…car wouldn't start…missed math exam…failed math course.
- Develop your thesis statement. State clearly whether you are discussing causes, effects, or both. Introduce your main idea, using the terms "cause" and/or "effect."
- Find and organize supporting details. Back up your thesis with relevant and sufficient details that are organized. You can organize details in the following ways:
- Chronological. Details are arranged in the order in which the events occurred.
- Order of importance. Details are arranged from least to most important or vice versa.
- Categorical. Details are arranged by dividing the topic into parts or categories.
- Use appropriate transitions. To blend details smoothly in cause and effect essays, use the transitional words and phrases listed below.
- For causes
- because, due to, on cause is, another is, since, for, first, second
- For Effects
- consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, one result is, another is, therefore
When writing your essay, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Remember your purpose. Decide if your are writing to inform or persuade.
- Focus on immediate and direct causes (or effects.) Limit yourself to causes that are close in time and related, as opposed to remote and indirect causes, which occur later and are related indirectly.
- Strengthen your essay by using supporting evidence. Define terms, offer facts and statistics, or provide examples, anecdotes, or personal observations that support your ideas.
- Qualify or limit your statements about cause and effect. Unless there is clear evidence that one event is related to another, qualify your statements with phrases such as "It appears that the cause was" or "It seems likely" or "The evidence may indicate" or "Available evidence suggests."
To evaluate the effectiveness of a cause and effect essay, ask the following questions:
What are the causes? What are the effects? Which should be emphasized? Are there single or multiple causes? Single or multiple effects? Is a chain reaction involved?
Choosing the essay topic for cause and effect essay type is not difficult, here are some sample essay topics:
- Effects of Pollution
- The Changes in the Ocean
- The Civil Rights Movement and the Effects
Please, make sure you choose the essay topic that is really important for you. Choosing the correct essay topic makes your cause and effect essay more interesting and successful.