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How to Write Cause and Effect Essays

A suitable way to define a cause and effect essay is to think of it as “how one particular event can lead to another or a number of other events.” This one single event may be considered to be a “cause” while the other event may be considered the “effect.” Sometimes, a single cause may have numerous effects.

In the event a tutor asks you to write an essay of the cause and effect variety, you will first need to establish the relationship(s) between the two things i.e. why a particular event or situation happens and what the result of this event or situation is i.e. its effect. For the purpose of your essay, it will be necessary to show that a particular situation or issue exists, and the explanation you give is your analysis of that situation or issue.  

There are a few questions you can ask of yourself to determine how effective or otherwise your work is. For example:    

  • Can you see the cause(s) clearly?
  • Can you see the effect(s) clearly?
  • In terms of causes and effects, how many are there? Is there one or several?
  • Can the effect(s) be described as being of the “chain reaction” variety?

A good way to generate topics for an essay like this and to identify a variety of causes and effects is to hold a brainstorming session. Determine whether you will cover a single topic or a number of points in your essay. You should continue asking these types of questions until you are sure every possibility has been explored. Check all the relationships to ensure these are logical and valid.      

Organizing Your Cause Effect Essay

When your brainstorming efforts are complete, give some thought to your topic and what the best way to organize it is. You may present this type of essay by:

  • Category
  • Level of importance
  • Chronology of events.

If your chosen method is category, you should begin by splitting your points or items into the required number of parts and organize them accordingly. If importance is your chosen method, you should begin by organizing your points or items from those of the greatest importance to those of the least or vice versa. If you choose chronological order, your points, items or events will need to be arranged by order of occurrence.    

Key Features of a Cause Effect Essay

The following are the primary elements of a properly-written cause and effect essay:

  • Choice of language should be impartial and positive-sounding.
  • Reliable and solid evidence to illustrate the relationships that exist between each cause and each effect.
  • Transitional words or phrases are used to separate similarities from differences.
  • Both primary source materials and secondary source materials should be used to show that main points and/or arguments are credible.  

A Cause and Effect Essay’s Framework

The framework of an effective cause and effect essay is made up of the following components:

  • An interesting topic that focuses exclusively on analyzing and providing readers with information.
  • A strongly-developed opening paragraph (i.e. introduction) containing a clear and concisely-written thesis sentence or statement.
  • Three body paragraphs for the main portion of your essay (at least). These should contain credible evidence that fully supports the thesis statement.
  • A closing paragraph (conclusion) that seamlessly brings together each point, idea, and paragraph.

How to Structure a Cause and Effect Essay

The functions of an introduction paragraph are:

  • Provides an overview of the topic and main points for discussion. 
  • Establishes the central thesis statement and its purpose.
  • Provides information to support and strengthen the essay’s thesis statement and main points including examples, facts, and descriptions.
  • Uses transitions to move readers seamlessly to the main body of your essay.

The paragraphs in the main body of your essay can be used to construct cause and effect relationships and to demonstrate why and how particular events or things occur and what the results of these are. You should bear the points below in mind when creating the main body of your essay:     

  • Devote one body paragraph to describing the cause or causes in detail.  
  • Allocate another body paragraph to describing the effect or effects.
  • Explain how the cause(s) and effect(s) are related and why analyzing these are important.
  • Use sources to show your position is credible and make sure these are cited correctly.
  • Use signal words and/or phrases to indicate causes and effects, e.g., what causes something, what its consequences are, etc.  

Instead of summarizing the points, you made in the body of your essay, the closing paragraph or conclusion should be used to synthesize all such information. Since this is the last opportunity, you will have to persuade readers that your position is valid, make sure your argument(s) are very convincing and logical.  

Include a list of references at the end of your cause and effect essay. All sources should be formatted as per any style instructions you were given, which may mean using the APA, Chicago, or MLA referencing style.    

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