essay writing prompts

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay: Beginner's Guide

In your academic career you will be asked to write many types of papers, but you will find the cause and effect essay in every subject. While the concept of the cause and effect essay may seem complex, the truth is, we use this construction every day. “There was traffic so I was late,” is a common example of a cause and effect statement. Follow these easy steps and the you will have a successful cause and effect essay.

Select a Topic

  • Choose an event. The best cause and effect essays stem from one event. Whether it’s a war, an invention, a personal tragedy or chemical reaction, find a significant event to base your paper on. If you are allowed to choose your own topic, pick something you have a personal interest in or previous knowledge.
  • Brainstorm causes and effects. For any significant event, there are smaller events that led to its occurrence and there are results of its happenings. Make a list of every cause and effect you can think of and don’t worry if they seem unrelated. Obscure connections are usually the most interesting to write about and make the best papers.

Pick Your Angle

  • Choose cause, effect or both. In a cause and effect essay, you have the option of writing about the cause of something like, “The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand resulted in World War I.” You can write about the effect, “World War I changed the face of Europe forever.” Or you can combine them and create a true cause AND effect essay.
  • Stay on topic. Once you’ve decided on how you want to approach your topic, be sure to stay focused. Consider a limited scope of direct effects rather than coming up with a chain reaction of indirect effects “Going to college results in a better paying job” is direct. “Not going to college will result in your early death” is indirect.

Organize Your Thoughts

  • Show the process. With a cause and effect essay the best way to organize your argument is chronologically. Show how one event leads to the next. However, you can also present your argument in order of importance, building from one effect to the next. 
  • Backup your claims. Help your reader follow your thought process and come to the same conclusions by providing evidence. If you have statistics or testimonials, include them so your reader can see how these facts are related.