Cause and Effect Essay

Cause and Effect Essay

I’m trying to learn for my English class and I’m stuck. Can you help?

In a cause and effect analysis, you discover why something happened / changed (cause) and what results it produced (effects). In other words, “cause” refers to events that have occurred, and “effect” refers to consequences that will occur. Any subject, from why the stock market fell on a particular day to what can be learned from a set of statistics, will have multiple causes and effects. This interrelationship makes a particular subject interesting, but managing the subject effectively requires sorting minor or remote causes from the major causes and effects to be analyzed. Also, you need to decide which part of the process seems most significant – the causes or the effects. Do you want to explain why the stock market fell or analyze what happened when the statistics were studied?

Readers are generally curious about why something happens and what results it produces. But, they expect you to show them the connection of how the causal relationship works and not to simply list causes or points to effects. Consider, then, 1) what context readers need to help them see the significance of the subject and 2) how much and what kind of evidence they need to accept your assertion about the connection between the causes and effects you describe. Topics which are not acceptable are global warming and medical (or any type of) marijuana. Paper 4 must be written entirely in Objective 3rd Person using no First Person or Second Person.


A cause and effect analysis likely has one of three purposes. First, it is written to argue that a certain relationship exists between one set of events and another. Arguing that the consumption of alcohol causes heart disease requires acknowledging the possibility of other causal relationships before presenting your best evidence for the relationship you consider the most probable. Second, it is written to explain how and why things happen. Trying to explain how to establish the price of a product or how a budget was exceeded is an attempt to isolate specific causes and effects, but must acknowledge possible outside influences. Third, it is written to speculate about the possible causes or potential effects of a certain chain of events. If speculating about a new style in fashion, the purpose is to theorize, to expand the range of possible causes and consequences.

Likewise, a cause and effect essay can be organized in three ways: 1) state a cause and then discuss its effects, 2) state an effect and then discuss its causes, or 3) identify a chain of causes and events. Regardless of organizational pattern, be sure to state your claim early, clearly explain the connection you are attempting to demonstrate, and clearly present the evidence for connections you intend to analyze. Whether you decide to emphasize causes or effects, you will discover that the motion of life makes your starting point somewhat arbitrary. All causes have effects, which, in turn, become causes.


Following “The Elements of Argument” in Practical Argument Chapter 1 (pp. 24 – 27), an outline along these lines could be used for this assignment.

I) Introduction – explicitly state what your cause and effect topic is, give any brief and relevant

background information, and explicitly state the argument that you intend to make about it;

show readers how your discussion will be structured by stating the main points found in your

research (ideally 3) that support your position that you will develop in the Body

II) Body – explicate the three (3) main points listed in the Introduction that support your

position on the topic fully and clearly, adjusting your discussion for paper length (you may

use more than one paragraph for each main point); cite at least two (2) sources which

support your position; remember to adjust your discussion to the paper length

III) Refutation – remember that objections come in two forms: 1) most importantly, those

directed against the reasons in support of your thesis (e.g. your assumptions are implausible

or your logical reasoning is unsatisfactory) and 2) those directed against your conclusion

(e.g. reasons why the view you advocate is false); cite at least one (1) source which opposes

your position

IV) Conclusion – restate your thesis in different words so that it reinforces your interpretation

Additionally, an effective cause and effect essay avoids the following Logical Fallacies (PA pp. 147 – 159 and AWR pp. 79 – 86):

1) Exaggerated claim. Many plausible cause-and-effect relationships are complex situations

difficult to prove conclusively, so present your analysis as a possible explanation rather than the

only explanation.

2) Hasty generalization. Important events seldom result from one simple cause, and rarely

produce one simple effect. Thus, qualify your assertions with phrases such as “a major

cause,” “one result,” or “an immediate effect.”

3) Circular Reasoning. Do not chase your own tail by analyzing effects imbedded in the cause,

e.g., “There weren’t enough concert tickets because there were too many people in line.”

4) Mistaking Chronology for Causation. Do not assume that, just because one event followed

another, the first necessarily caused the second.

5) Slippery Slope. Be careful arguing that one event will automatically lead to a chain of other

events. Often, this type of analysis can be emotionally based (i.e. biased), and it requires all

available data for informed decisions.

Obviously, cause and effect analysis can be tricky. But, you should not avoid it until you are absolutely sure of your information, since you cannot always wait to analyze or forecast. The best you can do is observe carefully, speculate intelligently based on available data, and, when appropriate, qualify your analysis thoroughly.


For Paper 4, use at least three (3) sources, two supporting your position on the topic and one opposing it (no more than five [5] sources in any event); these sources may be accessed electronically or in print. You will need to document the sources just like you did in Paper 3. The two supporting articles could provide either main topics for you to discuss in the body of the paper or important information for the body paragraphs, while the opposing one will help you consider objections to your position by providing one example. Correctly cite each source parenthetically in the text, and include a correctly formatted MLA 8 Works Cited page. See PA Ch. 10 (pp. 345 – 367), AWR (pp. 427 – 468), and the MLA 8 Guide from Norton PDF on Canvas for correct in-text citation and bibliographic forms.

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