How to Write Cause and Effect Essays
Cause essays answer: "Why? What caused this?"
Effect essays answer : "What happened afterwards?"
Cause and Effect essays answer: "What is the chain of events?"
Cause vs. Effect
Cause essays argue how things that happened in the past created:
- An important one-time event (e.g., causes of Donald Trump's success as the presidential candidate).
- An increasing trend (e.g., causes of the trend of addiction to cell phones).
These types of papers might also explain the effects of that event, trend, or phenomenon.
Effect Essays explain what happened after a particular event, or the situations which stem from a particular decision, event, or cause (e.g., the effect of Trump candidacy on the Republican party or effect of Prince on music).
Cause and Effect essays explain the order and links between events, situations, decisions, or trends.
4 Types of Essays
Cause Essay: This essay explains the different causes and either presents your view or asks the reader to decide at the end. The introduction describes the effects and ends with the question: "What has caused...?" The body paragraphs describe one or more possible causes and the evidence for this. Generally, you will argue strongly for the most important cause in this type of essay. You may argue against some of the other reasonings. The conclusion either restates the cause you think is most important and argues for why the reader should believe it, or it asks the reader to decide.
Speculating About Causes Essay: This essay presents all of the views on the issue. The introduction starts with the effects and asks "What has caused...?" The body then describes three or more different causes with the reasons why some people may believe them. The conclusion either asks the reader to decide or presents your own belief.
Cause Argument Essay: This essay argues for your own idea. The introduction presents effects and ends with the question "What has caused...?" The second paragraph presents the causes that other people argue for (e.g., "some people believe..." or "other people say the cause is..."). The body then presents your belief of the cause and argues why it is the best explanation. The body also refutes the other ideas. Conclude with why the reader should adopt your point of view.
Effect Essay: This essay focuses on the results of a certain cause. The introduction talks about one important event (such as the bombing of the World Trade Center or the introduction of chocolate to the Europeans). Then it asks the question: What are the effects of....? The body of the essay describes the different effects and gives evidence to support them. The conclusion can speculate on effects in the future, or give your personal opinion of the most important effect.
Writing the Introduction
Grab reader's attention
Vividly describe effect
End with your question: "What causes...?" or "What is the effect of...?"
series of questions
describe movie plot
what everyone believes
Writing the Body of the Paper
The question you ended your introduction with should be answered in the first sentence of your body paragraph. This will be your thesis (if your instructor insists that you have your thesis in the introduction, you can move that answer to the last sentence of the introduction).
- Why are men so competitive? The reasons men are competitive stem from...
- Why did Trump win the Presidency? The cause of Trump winning the presidency was....
- What effect did the North winning the Civil War have on American Political life? The effect of the North winning the Civil War was...
- What are the effects of divorce on children's mental health? The effect of divorce on children is...
The body is the heart of the paper where you argue that your ideas about the cause or effects are better than other ideas. You want to convince the reader that you are right by presenting arguments and evidence that your reasons are the best explanation for the trend or phenomenon. In presenting and explaining your causes, be sure to:
- Present in a logical order. There are two ways to do this:
- Present in climactic order (minor causes first and then the most important one).
- Present the most important cause first and then backtrack to more minor, underlying ones.
- Surprise reader. Mention but don’t spend a lot of time on obvious or predictable causes. (One tip for an effective introduction is to mention reasons that are expected and say why these are not the main causes).
- Don’t mistake effects for causes. A cause happens before; an effect happens after.
- Add good evidence. Provide support by using statistics, anecdotes, case histories, historical evidence, examples, description, expert opinion, quotes, and scenarios.
In this type of essay you do not have to be dogmatic, so you can admit that it is possible to view the issue in a different light. However, you should use the conclusion to persuade your reader that your way of thinking about this issue is better. Here are some ideas:
- Present your idea on the subject. Explain why you reject the other ideas.
- Ask the reader to decide what they think is the best.
- Speculate on why the most popular cause is believed and then tell why you think this is wrong or right.
- Speculate on whether there is a cause not yet discovered.
- Imagine what would happen in the future in a similar situation.
- Anticipate the reader’s objections or preferred reasons and show how your ideas are better.
Why are Color Runs Popular?
Introduction: Start with a conversation with your roommate about doing a color run. The roommate tries to convince you but you aren't excited to get so messy and wonder why anyone would want to do this anyway. End with the question: Why are color runs so popular?
Thesis: Color runs have exploded in popularity because they tap into our childhood, promote healthy activity, bring family and friends together, and make for great social media photos.
Topic Sentences of Body Paragraphs:
- Fingerpainting is usually taboo after we get out of kindergarten but in a color run people get to go back to childhood and break all the rules about painting on paper.
- While most people focus on the "color," these events are also about running and many people could be convinced to do a color run even though they wouldn't be interested in a regular 5K.
- These sorts of events are fun for families and groups of friends because they are built more around fun than on competitiveness.
- However, the primary reason for the popularity of these events has to be the fact that a color run makes for great pictures to post on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or your social media of choice.
Tell the story of finally agreeing to go on a color run and describe vividly what the experience was like and how much fun you had. Challenge the reader to try out a color run for themselves so that they can make up their mind about what is the main reason they are so popular.
- Titles: Use the title to present your point of view or use the cause question.
- Audience: Think about your audience — what aspects of this issue would most interest or convince them?
- Topic Sentences: Each cause you suggest should be stated in a single sentence. These will be the topic sentences for each of body paragraphs. Usually, you will have three or more reasons why the reader should accept your cause. These will be your piece of evidence or support for that topic sentence.
- Thesis: If your instructor wants you to have a thesis sentence, then you can state all of these briefly in one sentence at the beginning. (Example: The main causes of the Civil War were: cultural differences between the industrialized North and agricultural South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin).
- Choosing Unique Ideas: Don’t have your causes (or effects) be too obvious. Your paper should have interesting ones that the reader would not automatically think of when they hear about your subject. However, if your causes are more familiar, you can make them interesting by giving some unique supporting examples or evidence. You do not have to prove your causes conclusively.
- How to Support: Support each of these reasons with argument, examples, statistics, authorities, or anecdote. To make your reasons seem plausible, connect them back to your position by using “if…then” reasoning.
- Speculating About Causes: For this paper, the job is to guess the possible causes for something and to make your guesses seem plausible. You don't have to prove them absolutely, but give enough evidence to make them seem possible.
Questions & Answers
In a cause and effect essay, should I write the solution?
Cause and effect essays are often written before problem solution essays. We can't figure out a solution until we know the cause of the problem. Concurrently, when you figure out the cause, the solution often seems the next step. However, a cause and effect essay does not really require you to tell the solution. What I tell students is that if the discussion of the cause makes telling the solution the most logical next step, they should use that in the conclusion. You can even start the conclusion with a question like: What should we do about this?Helpful 1