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Causal Analysis Essay Structure

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay on any Topic

Published 5/9/2013

What is a Cause and Effect Essay?

A Cause and Effect essay essay is concerned with why things happen and what happens as a result (effects). Cause and effect is a common method of organizing and discussing ideas.

When writing your essay, remember your purpose. Decide if your are writing to persuade or inform. Focus on immediate and direct effects. Limit yourself to causes that are close in time and related, as opposed to remote and indirect causes, which occur later and are related indirectly.

Choosing a Topic for Cause and Effect Essay

In order to write a good Cause and Effect essay, you need to find a good topic for it, i.e. a topic that lets you easily demonstrate your writing skills and finally get a high grade without thinking too much.

Althrough choosing the essay topic for cause and effect essay type is not difficult, It’s important you choose the essay topic that is really important for you. Choosing the correct essay topic makes your essay more interesting and successful.

Here are some examples of pretty good Cause and Effect essay topics:

The Civil Rights Movement and the Effects

Causes and Effects of the Popularity of Fast Food Restaurants

Popularity of Sports in US Internet Influence on kids

Effects of Pollution

The Changes in the Ocean

Using the following links, you can find a lot of good topics for your Cause and Effect essay:

100 Cause and Effect Essay Topics

40 Good Cause and Effect Essay Topics – Students’ Choice

Cause Effect Essay Sample Topics

40 Writing Topics: Causes and Effects

Cause and Effect essay structure

Considering the right structure for your essay is one of the key points of success. Sticking to a recommended essay structure is the only way to properly outline and write it, paragraph by paragraph from the introduction to conclusion, without mistakes.

Depending on the kind of relation between causes and effects, your essay can be organized by one of the three patterns: "Multiple Causes, One Effect" pattern, "One Cause, Multiple Effects" pattern and "Causal Chain (Domino)" pattern

Multiple Causes One Effect pattern

This pattern deals with the situation when one effect is a result of multiple causes.

It contains five paragraphs: introduction, conclusion, and three paragraphs, each one describing one of the causes, leading to the effect.

One Cause Multiple Effects

This pattern should be used when one cause leads to multiple effects.

It contains five paragraphs: introduction, conclusion, and three paragraphs, each one describing one of the effects, the cause is leading to.

Causal Chain (Domino)

Sometimes a cause leads to a situation and that situation leads to another situation and so on.

This is called a causal chain or domino effect.

Causal chain pattern contains seven paragraphs: introduction, conclusion, and five paragraphs, each one describing one causal link.

After choosing an essay pattern, now all you need is to write your cause and effect essay, on any topic, according to your pattern’s structure. Also, be sure to read the A+ writing tips for a cause and effect essay on any topic below. Follow these instructions and you will write a high grading cause and effect essay.

Writing an A+ Cause and Effect Essay

Introduction

In a Cause and Effect essay, the introduction is very important. It gives the reader his/her first impression of the text.

First of all, provide background information. Than state your essay’s thesis.

In "Multiple Causes, One Effect" pattern, enumerate the causes / causes groups leading to this effect. For example:

Hunger is a result of many reasons such as poverty, models of development and consumption, violence and militarism.

In "One Cause, Multiple Effects" pattern, enumerate the effects / effect groups of the cause. For example:

TV was also invented with positive thoughts in mind – there would be no national borders, education and communication would be worldwide, etc. However, we are now trying to overcome its physiological and psychological adverse effects on human beings.

In "Causal Chain (Domino)" pattern, state that the first cause in the chain leads to the final effect. For example:

Let’s see how the use of popular deodorants can bring the end of world.

Multiple Causes, One Effect – Cause Paragraph

Clearly state the cause

One of the main causes of hunger is poverty – lack of purchasing power and access to resources.

Support the cause by two supports – major and minor

Poverty is linked not only with poor national economic performance but also with an unequal distribution of income and a political structure that renders poor people powerless, whether in a democracy or a dictatorship.

While writing, these supporting ideas should be adequately explained and exemplified as well.

Globally, incomes and consumption differ starkly. Twenty percent of the world’s population – mostly in industrial countries – receives 85 percent of the world’s income and accounts for 80 percent of consumption, producing two-thirds of all greenhouse gases and 90 percent of ozone - depleting chlorofluorocarbons. This level of consumption is not sustainable at the global level.

Use appropriate transitions

To blend details smoothly, use the transitional words and phrases listed below:

because, due to, on cause is, another is, since, for, first, second

One Cause, Multiple Effects – Effect Paragraph

Clearly state the effect

One of the physiological effects of watching TV in excessive amounts is eye-strain.

Explain it in details

It is true that there are specifications for watching TV; TV should be 5 m. away from the eye, the room should be adequately lit, TV should be placed at the same height with our eyes, etc. However, these do not prevent our eyes from getting tired if we keep watching TV for a long time.

If it’s a group of effects consequently explain each effect:

Another effect is obesity, which is widely observed in people who like watching TV and eating snacks everyday (there is even a term “TV snacks” to refer to fast food that is suitable for eating in front of the TV). TV is such a powerful machine that people cannot get away from it – it is addictive.

Use appropriate transitions

To blend details smoothly, use the transitional words and phrases listed below:

consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, one result is, another is, therefore

Causal Chain (Domino) – Causal Link Paragraph

Keep in mind the causal chain

deodorants contain chlorofluorocarbon gases ->
this gas destroys the ozone layer ->
unfiltered ultraviolet rays melt icebergs ->
the sea-level rises -> sea covers the land -> end of the world.

In each paragraph you deal with one cause / effect entry

Clearly state the cause and the effect

Chlorofluorocarbon gases cause the ozone layer to become thinner and finally disappear in patches

Explain the link in details

Years of deforestation and pollution have slowly but steadily damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer. Refrigerators and air conditioners, for example, emit harmful Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) which cause the depletion of the ozone layer, which results in Global warming.

Use appropriate transition terms

To blend details smoothly, use transitional terms, such as those listed below:

because, due to, on cause is, another is, since, for, first, second, consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, one result is, another is, therefore

Conclusion

The conclusion of a cause and effect essay is one of the more important essay components. Without a solid ending, the earlier analysis could fall flat, no matter how well written the ideas were.

Restate (do not repeat) the thesis

Global warming is the result of human negligence. Years of deforestation and pollution have slowly but steadily damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer.

Consider the implications

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and ask yourself what needs to be said to finish things up in a clear, concise way. What things need to be addressed in order to wrap things up?

You may explain how your conclusion should be practically used; express your hopes as you look to the future; issue a call for action, etc.:

To reduce Global warming we need to control the air pollution, the emission of the harmful gases and factory smoke. We need to respect and protect our environment so that we have safe and healthy air to breathe and we can live in a clean atmosphere.

Finalizing your Work

Pay attention that even though your essay is fully written, it still isn’t ready to submission.

There are some common and annoying mistakes which may significantly harm your grade. However, you can avoid those grade lowering mistakes by completing the following checklist:

  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Ensure that your essay is fully compliant with the required formatting standard
  • Properly organize all the citations and the References / Works Cited page
  • Ensure that your title page is done as required
  • Take a final look at your paper to be certain that everything is indeed fine

There is nothing Casual about Causal-Analysis!


Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin. . .

–Orson Welles  

Guidelines for Writing the Cause/Effect Essay

  • Typed MLA formatted Cause/Effect essay, 4 Pages of text
  • Plus typed MLA formatted Works Cited page
  • Must include in-text citations that identifies when you use the sources in the Works Cited page, at least one per body paragraph
  • 3 - 4 Sources (two database), no wikis or blogs
  • Provide copies of the sources used in the paper: web pages and web sites; scanned pages from printed sources, copies of sources from databases, etc.
  • Papers will not be accepted without these minimal requirements.

Taboo Topics

        • Death Penalty
        • Gun Control
        • School Uniforms
        • Gay Marriage
Why a Causal Analysis or Cause/Effect essay?

With the Causal Analysis essay, students are introduced to source-based writing. If 90% of the papers students will write in college are in third person, 98% of the papers will be source-based. With the causal analysis, students will be expected to identify three to four credible sources for their papers. They will read and assimilate the information, then incorporate it in their work as evidence and support.

While students will probably not write a cause/effect essay in their professional life, being able to recognize and incorporate cause/effect data is important. When studying accidents or plane crashes, investigators attempt to determine the sequence of events that led to the crash. What caused it? When deciding to spend all of that taxpayer money to build the train system in the valley, supporters first gathered data showing the current effects of all of the traffic on the city. Then they provided the probable effects of the train system on the valley based upon similar results from other cities. These are just a couple of ways that causal analysis is utilized in society, so it is important to be able to understand it.

Choosing a topic

Many students find the cause/effect essay hard to write. They struggle with a few aspects. First, they struggle to identify an appropriate topic. The topic needs to cover a true cause/effect relationship. Here are some examples:

          • Effects of bullying
          • Effects of air pollution on inner-city children
          • Effects of divorce on children
          • Causes of childhood diabetes
          • Causes of  bullying
          • Three main causes of global warming

These topics identify clear cause/effect relationships. In other words, x most definitely causes y, or y is a direct result of x. These topics are focused enough to provide sufficient information to complete a three to four page essay with in-depth analysis of the topic and support from outside sources.

Students make a few mistakes when choosing a topic. One mistake students make is to pick a topic that is too broad; for example, students choose topics like the causes of WWI or the effects of the Great Depression. Books have been written about topics like this. These topics provide too much information to cover in  a short paper. Instead of an in-depth analysis, the essay is shallow and rushed. Students need to avoid broad topics like these.

The second mistake students make is confusing causes and reasons. A cause has a direct effect. It explains how it occurred. For example, let's say that I put a glass of water in a freezer that is cold enough to freeze water, what will the outcome be? I get ice.  There are laws of physics that operate in this world, and water must obey them. That is how the world works. However, a reason explains why it occurred. The focus of a reason is why something happens. Let's say that I don't study for a test the night before I take it,  what will the outcome be? We don't know. This time the outcome is not automatic. While not studying is a bad idea, it does not mean I will fail the test. It is not an inevitable outcome. The reason I may fail the test is because I chose not to study, but I might be confident about this particular information and feel it is unnecessary to study. Thus, students need to pick topics where the relationship between the cause and effect can be clearly established.

Finally, the third mistake students make is confusing causation and correlation. Things can happen at the same time without there being a direct cause/effect relationship. Let's say that there is a five year study that covered an increase in inflation in the United States. At the same time, the study noted that sales in flat-screen televisions had increased. Does that mean that the increase in inflation caused an increase in TV sales? Probably not. There maybe a relationship between the two, but one does not directly cause the other.

Thus, choosing a topic that shows a clear causal relationship is extremely important.

Writing the Causal Analysis/Cause Effect Essay

The cause/effect essay can be split into four basic sections: introduction, body, conclusion and Works Cited page. There are also three basic formats for writing a cause/effect:

  1. Single effect with multiple causes–air pollution is the effect, and students would identify several causes;
  2. Single cause with multiple effects–bullying is the cause, and students would establish several effects it has on children;
  3. Causal Chain–this is complicated, and I try to steer students away from this format. Causal chains show a series of causes and effects. For example. dust storms between Tucson and Phoenix can be deadly causing a chain reaction of accidents. The dust is the initial catalyst. It causes car A to stop. Car B crashes into Car A. Car C crashes into Car B., etc. Global Warming is a good example of a causal chain topic. Population increase is causing an increase in traffic and greenhouse gases. It is also causing an increase in deforestation for housing, roads and farming.  Deforestation means less plants to take up the CO2 and release O2 into the environment.  Each item causes an effect. That effect causes another effect. All of this contributes to global warming.

The  Introduction

The introduction introduces the reader to the topic. We've all heard that first impressions are important. This is very true in writing as well. The goal is to engage the readers, hook them so they want to read on. One way is to write a narrative. Topics like bullying or divorce hit home.  Beginning with a real case study highlights the issue for readers. This becomes an example that you can refer to throughout the paper. The final sentence in the introduction is usually the thesis statement.

Another way to introduce the topic is to ask a question or questions. What are the main causes of schizophrenia? Who is susceptible? The student would then begin a brief discussion defining schizophrenia and explaining its significance. Once again, the final sentence would be a thesis statement introducing the main points that will be covered in the paper.

The Body

The body  of the essay is separated into paragraphs.  Each paragraph covers a single cause or effect. For example, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the two main causes of schizophrenia are genetic and environmental. Thus, if I was writing about the causes of schizophrenia, then I would have a body paragraph on genetic causes of schizophrenia and a body paragraph on the environmental causes. The global warming example would have separate paragraphs that explain each cause/effect relationship: population increases, increases in air pollution due to traffic exhaust and manufacturing,  increases in food production and agriculture, deforestation, all causes for global warming and all intricately linked.

A body paragraph should include the following:

          • Topic sentence that identifies the topic for the paragraph,
          • Several sentences that describes the causal relationship,
          • Evidence from outside sources that corroborates your claim that the causal relationship exists,
          • MLA formatted in-text citations indicating which source listed on the Works Cited page has provided the evidence,
          • Quotation marks placed around any information taken verbatim (word for word) from the source,
          • Summary sentence(s) that draws conclusions from the evidence,
          • Remember: information from outside sources should be placed in the middle of the paragraph and not at the beginning or the end of the paragraph;
          • Be sure and use transitions or bridge sentences between paragraphs.

Conclusions

          • Draw final conclusions from the key points and evidence provided in the paper;
          • Tie in the introduction. If you began with a story, draw final conclusions from that story;
          • If you began with a question(s), refer back to the question(s) and be sure to provide the answer(s).

Works Cited page

          • A Works Cited page is a type of bibliography that is formatted according to the Modern Language Association's (MLA) guidelines;
          • Citations are double spaced and placed in alphabetical order by the author's last name;
          • If there is no author, then the title is used;
          • The first line of each entry is placed on the left margin with subsequent lines of that entry indented a half inch.

More Resources


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by Lynn McClelland.

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