Writing a cause and effect essay is a task that will come up often during your academic life. In college, it’s often tied up to the topic you are studying at the moment or to the current events.
Cause and effect is a method of paragraph or essay writing that investigates the reasons for or the consequences of an event, situation, state of things, or other phenomena. For example, why some start-ups are successful while others fail, what are the ramification of a new law introduced by local authorities, etc.
Writing a cause-and-effect essay is a useful competency to have since it requires observation skills, analytical reasoning, ability to see patterns and find connections between events to prove they are more than just coincidental.
Read this guide full of actionable tips and learn how to write a cause-and-effect essay step by step. Also, don’t forget that one of the best ways to learn is from example, so check out our collections of free essays online.
What Is a Cause and Effect Essay
Defining what is cause and effect writing will be rather difficult because the entire literary tradition is all about various types of causes and effects. The myths tried to offer an explanation to the world order. The purpose of fables was to show how being good and kind or being wicked and mean is always followed by fitting retribution. Tragedies from the classical antiquity picture self-fulfilling prophecies, which explore the irony of cause and effect relationship. So how to identify this genre for academic purposes?
In the academic setting, cause and effect essay definition is the following: a piece of writing that analyzes the underlying reasons for an event, situation, or other specific occurrences, or explores its effects and repercussions. Therefore, such an essay is a serious work that should base its claims on research data, facts, and statistics.
Cause-and-Effect Essay Structure
When students ask how to do a cause and effect essay, what they usually mean is whether there are any particular features characteristic for this type of essay. One such feature is a specific cause and effect structure. When you write a cause and effect essay, you must decide on a type of structure you want to use: block structure or chain structure.
In block-structured essays, all the causes are listed first, and then all the effects are described. This structure is clear and static. It works well for shorter essays, where you do not have an opportunity to look deeper into the mechanisms of causality.
In chain-structured essays, each cause is immediately followed by an effect, which in its turn causes something else to happen, which causes another thing to happen, and so on – as links in the chain, hence the name. This structure also has its merits – it allows investigating the connections between the initial cause and a very distant effect that are not evident at once.
How to Write Cause and Effect Essay
An effective essay always starts with a suitable topic worth exploring. If you need an example, go and check out our awesome collection of cause and effect essay topics. If you want to come up with your own, here are some tips.
Let’s start with the simple ones – a subgenre named “causes only essay”. You will put an effect in the title and will look for the causes. For example, “What caused the 2008 financial crisis?” Here are the strategies to come up with a topic like that:
- Is there anything intriguing that happened unexpectedly? A seemingly prosperous company went down or a cultural phenomenon exploded out of the blue? That must have been caused by a key factor or a coincidence of small ones. Try to find them!
- Think of an issue that bothers you – something you wish you could eliminate. Say, teenage cyberbullying, homeless animals, depression in the elderly. Why not start by investigating what are the main causes of the thing? This will allow you to understand the issue better and know how to address the solution.
Another subgenre is “effects only”. You will take one major factor and will try to describe its effects. For example, “How deforestation influences Amazonian wildlife?” To come up with an “effects only” topic, do one of the following:
- Look at the headlines: it there something big going on? If it is in the news, it must have importance and, therefore, far-reaching consequence. Think what they might be.
- Thumb through the history books. Look for big historic events, important figures, inventions, turning points. What were the effects of all these? Can we still experience these effects today?
- Imaginary scenario: if X happened, what would be the consequences?
If you are in the mood for something more challenging you can come up with an all-rounder. For example, “What are the causes of global warming and its effects on agriculture?”
Read further to see how to write a cause and effect paper paragraph by paragraph.
How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay Outline
As with any other paper, you must start by researching it and picking the most relevant information. For example, the phenomenon you are describing might have multiple causes, but you must focus on the major ones with the biggest contribution – and vice versa with the effects.
When you’ve done researching and selecting material, start outlining your paper. How your cause and effect outline will look like depends on what will be the focus of your essay: causes or effects. In both cases, a 5-paragraph essay format works just fine:
Paragraph 1: Hook sentence, connecting information leading to the topic and the thesis statement.
Paragraph 2: Cause 1/Effect 1
Paragraph 3: Cause 2/Effect 2
Paragraph 4: Cause 3/Effect 3
The causes/effects can be explained in order of importance, chronologically, or by category (if one paragraph deals with a cluster of similar causes/effects).
Paragraph 5: Restate your thesis, suggest a solution, provide your opinion or prognosis.
Don’t forget to use cause-and-effect words to link the facts between each other and make navigating your essay easier for the reader:
- As a result
- Because of
- Due to
- And so
- For this reason
- One of the outcomes of X was
- Y often occurs because of X
- Prior to X, Y was never registered
- This often results in…
- X often leads to Y
- The main factors are…
- Among the major forces at play was…
The use of such phrases will make your essay more coherent and the relationships between causes and effects clear and straightforward.
How to Start a Cause and Effect Essay
As in any introduction, you will have to describe the background of your topic, concisely state the purpose of your paper, and provide a short overview of the issues you are going to address. However, a cause and effect essay introduction might be a bit more voluminous than average.
That is because the introduction is your first block that describes something big and significant, the effects of which you will detail in your second block, or something complex that was caused by many factors you will further list. Therefore, background information will take up more space.
That makes a good hook sentence even more important for the dynamic start of your essay. A great way to do it is to ask a provocative question, surprise your reader with a stark contrast (how it was vs. how it is now), or tell a relatable personal anecdote that has a connection to a topic. If you need some inspiration for great attention-grabbing first sentences, take a look at any of our free essay examples.
Cause and Effect Thesis Statement
Typically, you would begin working on a thesis statement for an essay right after you’ve selected a topic. However, writing a thesis statement for cause and effect essay is a bit trickier, because it should contain a short summary of cause-and-effect relationships between the topic and the issues you will explore in your essay.
For example, “Childhood obesity negatively affects the child’s physical health, emotional wellbeing, and social life”. This thesis loosely describes three main effects the essay will deal with. Therefore, take your time, do the research, select your main causes/effects, outline your essay, and only then figure out how to write a cause and effect thesis concisely. It should be evident from your thesis whether you intend to discuss the causes of your subject, the effects of it, or both.
Cause and Effect Essay Conclusion
Think of your conclusion as of the last chance to leave a lasting impression on your reader. Don’t just restate your thesis – make a point of showing why it was important to explore.
In the case of the cause and effect conclusion, you should also revisit and summarize all the main points from the essay. Recap all the causes (or effects) covered in the body of paragraphs and suggest a course of action to rectify the situation, a prognosis for further development, or reinforce the significance of the issue.
Cause and Effect Essay Format Seems Like a Hard Nut to Crack?
The cause and effect method can be a powerful analytical and problem-solving tool, so learning it through writing cause-and-effects essays at college helps you to develop valuable skills applicable in research and business settings. This is important for your future.
Therefore, if you are experiencing troubles with it, you must not hesitate and ask for help. Our essay writers can create an exemplary paper that will demonstrate the layout and basic principles of this cornerstone format.