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?
A cause and effect essay is the type of paper that author is using to analyze the causes and effects of a particular action or event. A curriculum usually includes this type of exercise to test your ability to understand the logic of certain events or actions.
If you can see the logic behind cause and effect in the world around you, you will encounter fewer problems when writing. If not, writing this kind of paper will give you the chance to improve your skillset and your brain’s ability to reason.
“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
In this article, we’ll find out how to create an outline for your cause and effect essay – the key to successful essay writing.
Types of the Cause and Effect Essay
Before writing this kind of essay, you need to draft the structure. A good structure will result in a good paper, so it’s important to have a plan before you start. But remember, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel: just about every type of structure has already been formulated by someone.
If you are still unsure about the definition of the essay, find that out with our guide: What is an Essay?
Generally speaking, there are three types of cause and effect essays. We usually differentiate them by the number of and relationships between the causes and the effects. Let’s take a quick look at the various kinds:
Many causes, one effect
This kind of essay illustrates how different causes can lead to one effect. The idea here is to try and examine a variety of causes, preferably ones that come from different fields, and prove how they contributed to a particular effect. If you are writing about World War I, for example, mention the political, cultural, and historic factors that led to the great war.
By examining a range of fundamental causes, you will be able to demonstrate your mastery of the topic.
Here is how to structure this type of essay:
- Cause #1
- Cause #2
- Cause #3 (and so on…)
- The effect of the causes
One cause, many effects
This type of cause and effect essay is constructed to show the various effects of a particular event, problem, or decision. Once again, you will have to demonstrate your comprehensive knowledge and analytical mastery of the field. There is no need to persuade the reader or present your argument. When writing this kind of essay, an in-depth knowledge of the problem or event’s roots will be of great benefit. If you know why it happened, it will be much easier to write about the effects.
Here is the structure for this kind of essay:
- The Cause
- Effect #1
- Effect #2
- Effect #3 (and so on…)
Chain of causes and effects
This is the most challenging type. You need to maintain a chain of logic that demonstrates a sequence of actions and consequences, leading to the end of the chain. Although this is usually the most interesting kind of cause and effect essay, it can also be the most difficult to write.
Here is the outline structure:
- Cause #1
- Effect #1 = Cause #2
- Effect #2 = Cause #3
- Effect #3 = Cause #4 (and so on…)
Cause and Effect Essay Outline Example
Let’s take a look at an example. Below, you will find an outline for the topic “The causes of obesity” (Type 1):
- Introduction: Nowadays, people are overweight because of their increasing consumption of unhealthy food, a lack of physical activity, and their refusal to work with fitness trainers.
- People are eating a lot of unhealthy food that is cheap, easy-to-consume and contains a lot of calories. (Include statistics: how many people regularly consume unhealthy food.)
- People don’t move enough. Causes: inactive jobs, laziness, and not enough information about the consequences.
- People don’t want to visit a specialist. If they did, they would be informed about the causes of obesity and offered a plan to solve the problem.
- Effect: Until those problems are solved, people will become more and more obese. (Include a prognosis about obesity rates over the next decade.)
- Conclusion: Junk food, a lack of physical activity, and a refusal to visit a doctor are the three leading causes of obesity. We hope that the situation will change. (Include some examples of what each person can do about the problem)
As you can see, we used a blended strategy here. When writing about the ever-increasing consumption of unhealthy food, it is logical to talk about the marketing strategies that encourage people to buy fast foods. If you are discussing fitness trainers, it is important to mention that people need to be checked by a doctor more often, etc.
How do I start writing once I have drafted the structure?
If you start by structuring each paragraph and collecting suitable examples, the writing process will be much simpler. The final essay might not come up as a classic five paragraph essay – it all depends on the cause-effect chain and the number of statements of your essay.
In the Introduction, try to give the reader a general idea of what the cause and effect essay will contain. For an experienced reader, a thesis statement will be an indication that you know what you are writing about. It is also important to emphasize how and why this problem is relevant to modern life. If you ever need to write about the Caribbean crisis, for instance, state that the effects of the Cold War are still apparent in contemporary global politics.
In the Body, provide plenty of details about what causes led to the effects. Once again, if you have already assembled all the causes and effects with their relevant examples when writing your plan, you shouldn’t have any problems. But, there are some things to which you must pay particular attention. To begin with, try to make each paragraph the same length: it looks better visually. Then, try to avoid weak or unconvincing causes. This is a common mistake, and the reader will quickly realize that you are just trying to write enough characters to reach the required word count.
Moreover, you need to make sure that your causes are actually linked to their effects. This is particularly important when you write a “chained” cause and effect essay (type 3). You need to be able to demonstrate that each cause was actually relevant to the final result. As I mentioned before, writing the Body without preparing a thorough and logical outline is often an omission.
The Conclusion must be a summary of the thesis statement that you proposed in the Introduction. An effective Conclusion means that you have a well-developed understanding of the subject. Writing the Conclusion can be one of the most challenging parts of this kind of project. You typically write the Conclusion once you have finished the Body, but in practice, you will sometimes find that a well-written conclusion will reveal a few mistakes of logic in the Body!
Cause and Effect Essay Sample
Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own cause and effect essay. Link: cause and effect essay sample: advertising ethic issues.
Tips and Common Mistakes from Our Expert Writers