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
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.