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
Cause and effect essays are another common essay type, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs examining causes and effects. This page gives information on what a cause and effect essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use cause and effect structure words (transition signals) for this type of essay. There is also an example cause and effect essay on the topic of women at work.
What are cause & effect essays?
A cause and effect essay looks at the reasons (or causes) for something, then discusses the results (or effects). For this reason, cause and effect essays are sometimes referred to as reason and result essays. They are one of the most common forms of organisation in academic writing. Sometimes the whole essay will be cause and effect, though sometimes this may be only part of the whole essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the causes or the effects, not both, are discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a cause & effect essay. These are similar to the ways to structure problem-solution essays, namely using a block or a chain structure. For the block structure, all of the causes are listed first, and all of the effects are listed afterwards. For the chain structure, each cause is followed immediately by the effect. Usually that effect will then be the cause of the next effect, which is why this structure is called 'chain'. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is generally clearer, especially for shorter essays, while the latter ensures that any effects you present relate directly to the causes you have given.
The two types of structure, block and chain, are shown in the diagram below.
Cause and Effect Structure Words
Cause and effect structure words are transition signals which show the cause and effect relationships. It is important to be clear which is the cause (or reason) and which is the effect (or result), and to use the correct transition word or phrase. Remember that a cause happens first, and the effect happens later.
Below are some common cause and effect structure words. X is used to indicate a cause, while Y is used to indicate the effect.
Below is a cause and effect essay. This essay uses the block structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. Causes, Effects, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the causes and effects contained in the main body.
Title: More and more women are now going out to work and some women are now the major salary earner in the family. What are the causes of this, and what effect is this having on families and society?
In the past, most women stayed at home to take care of domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. Women's liberation and feminismhave meant that this situation has been transformed and in contemporary society women are playing an almost equal role to men in terms of work. This has had significant consequences, both in terms of the family, for example by improving quality of life and increasing children's sense of independence, and also for society itself with greater gender equality.
The main reasons behind the increase of women in the workplace are women's liberation and feminism. The women's liberation movement originated in the 1960s and was popularised by authors such as Simone de Beauvoir. As a consequence of this, new legislation emerged, granting women equal rights to men in many fields, in particular employment. Because of feminist ideas, men have taken up roles which were previously seen as being for women only, most importantly those related to child rearing. As a result of this, women have more time to pursue their own careers and interests.
These have led to some significant effects, both to family life and to society as a whole.
Although the earning capacity of a woman in her lifetime is generally much less than that of a man, she can nevertheless make a significant contribution to the family income. The most important consequence of this is an improved quality of life. By helping to maintain a steady income for the family, the pressure on the husband is considerably reduced, hence improving both the husband's and the wife's emotional wellbeing. Additionally, the purchasing power of the family will also be raised. This means that the family can afford more luxuries such as foreign travel and a family car.
A further effect on the family is the promotion of independence in the children. Some might argue that having both parents working might be damaging to the children because of a lack of parental attention. However, such children have to learn to look after themselves at an earlier age, and their parents often rely on them to help with the housework. This therefore teaches them important life skills.
As regards society, the most significant impact of women going to work is greater gender equality. There are an increasing number of women who are becoming politicians, lawyers, and even CEOs and company managers. This in turn has led to greater equality for women in all areas of life, not just employment. For example, women today have much stronger legal rights to protect themselves against domestic violence and sexual discrimination in the workplace.
In conclusion, the increasing number of women at work has brought about some important changes to family life, including improved quality of life and increased independence for children, as well as affecting society itself. It is clear that the sexes are still a long way from being equal in all areas of life, however, and perhaps the challenge for the present century is to ensure that this takes place.
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Below is a checklist for the main body of an essay. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.