Contrary to its name, a cause and effect essay is not an essay about causes and effects. More often, it is an essay about the causes or the effects of an event or a phenomenon. In less often cases, such as when you are asked to write a 20-page cause and effect essay, there is lots of room for you to discuss both the causes and effects. In most cases, though, you will have to decide whether you will focus on the causes or the effects.
A cause and effect essay is usually one of the first essays that high school students encounter in their composition class. It is also one of the most interesting compositions to write because it allows you to dig deeper into the history of one thing for its causes or to analyze how one thing has led to another, and another, and another.
There are three ways to go about a cause and effect essay. You can write a:
- Multiple Causes Essay
- Multiple Effects Essay
- Causal Chain/Domino Effect Essay
Multiple Causes and Multiple Effects Essay
Planning plays a crucial role in writing a multiple causes essay, as it is in all other types of writing. Let’s say you want to write an essay on the causes of environmental pollution. There are several factors that lead to this phenomena (too many to list down in this article!) and you have to choose which among these factors should be discussed in your essay. Do not attempt on writing about all of the causes of pollution because you might end up with an entire book on it. Instead, use organizing techniques such as clustering and outlining to help you decide the contents of your essay.
Clustering is a form of brainstorming where you jot down your ideas in a manner that is more organized, but not too organize as to totally block the free flow of ideas. You can use different colored pens to group your ideas into categories or use print for major ideas and longhand for supporting ideas. Establish connections between your ideas by connecting them with arrows or broken lines and encircle ideas that fall together under one category. At the end of your brainstorming session, take a look at your ideas and see if you have formed a pattern.
If nothing works for you just yet, try to organize your ideas into a more specific form, such as a chart where you divide all the causes or effects into separate categories. Let’s say you would like to write about the effects of World War II, but there are just too many effects to cram into a single essay. It helps if you create umbrella effect categories and list down all the individual effects under these categories. For example, under the economic effects, you can say that the war caused the growth of the aircraft and munitions industry, worker shortage and worker strikes, rationing of supplies, destruction of factories, massive government debts and huge money losses. Under social effects, you could say the war caused women to join the workforce and gain a taste of independence outside of the home and African Americans and Native Americans who joined the army started to openly battle racial discrimination, which was rampant in America at that time. And so on.
Standard practice applies to writing a cause and effect essay. Start out with an introduction that includes the thesis statement and go on to identify and explain the causes or effects in a logical fashion. The conclusion of your essay should go round back to your thesis statement and close the essay in an orderly fashion.
Causal Chain/Domino Effect Essay
The difference between a causal chain or domino effect essay and a multiple causes or multiple effects essay is that the former attempts to go back to the primary cause of a phenomenon. Here, you hold discretion as to how far back the causal chain you wish to go. For example, if you wish to attempt to explain the causes of poverty, you may say that it is caused by inadequate education and employment, which may be the cause of lack of support from the government because of deep-seated corruption that is the result of human greed. It rests upon you to decide a cutoff point from which you will start a causal chain essay. The deeper back into the chain you go, the longer and more comprehensive your essay will be, but it will also be more challenging because you will need to explain why you chose that certain point to start your essay.