What is a Cause and Effect Essay?
You wrote these in high school, for sure. You understand the basic idea. But somehow all types of essays have just become harder in college. The reasons for this is that the topics have become more complex. “Effects” have multiple causes and are in turn causes of something else. A single cause has multiple effects, and each of those effects cause something else. It is all very confusing when you get into complex topics, and sometimes such topics can be controversial. For example: What have been the effects of the Iraq War? It depends on who you talk to, of course!
Topic Refinement is Often the Key
When such an essay has been assigned, there are usually two scenarios for assignment of cause and effect essays:
- Students may be given a broad, general area, such as crime, and are then allowed to pick a topic within that area. So, you might choose to write an essay on the major causes of crime in low-income urban areas; you could choose to write an essay on the effects of crime in urban neighborhoods. This is a large topic, and you may want to confine your essay to a single cause or a single effect.
- You may be given and essay assignment for which you may come up with your own topic. In this case, the choice are limitless, but the good thing I that you can select a topic that really interests you. You must then decide whether you will address only causes of an effect, only effect of certain causes, or both causes and effects and the ensuing chain reaction that occurs.
Be Certain You Understand the Assignment
You cannot determine your cause and effect essay format until you truly understand the assignment, because there are 4 possible structures from which to choose in order to tuin in a great writing:
- Will you only address the cause or causes of a certain event, condition or phenomenon
- Will you only address the effects of a certain event, condition, or phenomenon
- Will you address both causes and effects?
- Will you write a more complex and obviously lengthier piece that addresses causes and an effect and then the chain of that effect being a cause so something else? Let’s look, for example at crime in poor urban neighborhoods. What are possible causes?
- Lack of education
- Lack of social programs/support
- Lack of employment opportunities
- Substance abuse
Now, crime is the effect of these conditions. Crime then becomes a cause of other things in those same neighborhoods, such as:
- Businesses move out or do not move in
- People who can afford to, move out
And these two effects cause a further deterioration of those neighborhoods. This chain could go on and on and perhaps become circular. But you have to stop somewhere, or your essay becomes unmanageable.
Preparation for Your Essay
Most cause and effect essays will require some research. If, for example, you are going to speak to the causes of crime in poor urban neighborhoods, ten you will need some factual data and statistics to present your case. Research each cause and take notes.
Traditionally, students are taught to create outlines for their writing, and this may work well if you are addressing just the causes, just the effects and even perhaps for both causes and effects. However, once you get into the chain of causes and events, thought may be a bit more complex to organize. You may, for instance, wish to start with three lists – you causes and to the right of those another list with effects. Then a third list will allow you to match each of the effects (which now become causes) to a new list of effects. This organizer will give you a better “view” of where you are going with your essay and help it to be more coherent.
Parts of Your Essay
Often students ask, “What is a cause and effect essay? It looks more like a research paper to me!” And they are right. The real difference is the complexity of the topic and the amount of research required to gather the information you need. In either case, though, you will still conform to the basic parts of an essay:
- You introduction must have a thesis statement. You get this by asking questions, such as, “Why is crime in urban neighborhoods an important topic?” “How does crime in poor urban neighborhoods impact the rest of society?” The answers you come up with will provide you with a good thesis statement.
- Body: Follow your graphic organizer, with good paragraphs and transition sentences.
- You conclusion might suggest means by which we should address the crisis or predict the long-term consequences if the problem is not addressed.
Time Not On Your Side?
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