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Definition Of Cause And Effect Essay

cause and effect (composition)


cause and effect (composition)

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Transitional expressions that may signify cause or effect.
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Richard Nordquist
Updated March 20, 2017


In composition , cause and effect is a method of paragraph or essay development in which a writer analyzes the reasons for—and/or the consequences of—an action, event, or decision.

A cause-and-effect paragraph or essay can be organized in various ways. For instance, causes and/or effects can be arranged in either chronological order or reverse chronological order. Alternatively, points can be presented in terms of emphasis , from least important to most important, or vice versa.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

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Examples of Cause & Effect Paragraphs and Essays

  • Cause and Effect in “The Dream Animal” by Loren Eiseley
  • Cause and Effect in Stephen King’s “Horror Movies”
  • “Changes” by Peter Matthiessen
  • “Corn-Pone Opinions” by Mark Twain
  • “The Decay of Friendship” by Samuel Johnson
  • “The Hurricane” by John James Audubon
  • Learning to Hate Mathematics: A Cause & Effect Essay

Examples and Observations

  • “If you prove the cause, you at once prove the effect; and conversely nothing can exist without its cause.”
    (Aristotle, Rhetoric)
  • Immediate Causes and Ultimate Causes
    “Determining causes and effects is usually thought-provoking and quite complex. One reason for this is that there are two types of causes: immediate causes, which are readily apparent because they are closest to the effect, and ultimate causes, which, being somewhat removed, are not so apparent and may perhaps even be hidden. Furthermore, ultimate causes may bring about effects which themselves become immediate causes, thus creating a causal chain. For example, consider the following causal chain: Sally, a computer salesperson, prepared extensively for a meeting with a client (ultimate cause), impressed the client (immediate cause), and made a very large sale (effect). The chain did not stop there: the large sale caused her to be promoted by her employer (effect).”
    (Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, Models for Writers, 6th ed. St. Martin’s Press, 1998)
  • Composing a Cause/Effect Essay
    “For all its conceptual complexity, a cause/effect essay can be organized quite simply. The introduction generally presents the subject(s) and states the purpose of the analysis in a clear thesis . The body of the paper then explores all relevant causes and/or effects, typically progressing from least to most influential or from most to least influential. Finally, the concluding section summarizes the various cause/effect relationships established in the body of the paper and clearly states the conclusions that can be drawn from those relationships.”
    (Kim Flachmann, Michael Flachmann, Kathryn Benander, and Cheryl Smith, The Brief Prose Reader. Prentice Hall, 2003)
  • Causes of Child Obesity
    “Many of today’s kids are engaged in sedentary pursuits made possible by a level of technology unthinkable as recently as 25 to 30 years ago. Computer, video, and other virtual games, the ready availability of feature films and games on DVD, plus high-tech advancements in music-listening technology have come down into the range of affordability for parents and even for the kids themselves. These passive pursuits have produced a downside of reduced physical activity for the kids, often with the explicit or implicit consent of the parents. . . .

    “Other fairly recent developments have also contributed to the alarming rise in child obesity rates. Fast food outlets offering consumables that are both low in price and low in nutritional content have exploded all over the American landscape since the 1960s, especially in suburban areas close to major highway interchanges. Kids on their lunch breaks or after school often congregate in these fast food outlets, consuming food and soft drinks that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat. Many parents, themselves, frequently take their children to these fast food places, thus setting an example the kids can find justification to emulate.”
    (MacKie Shilstone, Mackie Shilstone’s Body Plan for Kids. Basic Health Publications, 2009)

  • Cause and Effect in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”
    “‘A Modest Proposal’ is a brilliant example of the use of non-argumentative devices of rhetorical persuasion . The whole essay, of course, rests broadly upon the argument of cause and effect: these causes have produced this situation in Ireland, and this proposal will result in these effects in Ireland. But Swift, within the general framework of this argument, does not employ specific argumentative forms in this essay. The projector chooses rather to assert his reasons and then to amass them by way of proof .”
    (Charles A. Beaumont, Swift’s Classical Rhetoric. Univ. of Georgia Press, 1961)
  • Effects of Automobiles
    “I worry about the private automobile. It is a dirty, noisy, wasteful, and lonely means of travel. It pollutes the air, ruins the safety and sociability of the street, and exercises upon the individual a discipline which takes away far more freedom than it gives him. It causes an enormous amount of land to be unnecessarily abstracted from nature and from plant life and to become devoid of any natural function. It explodes cities, grievously impairs the whole institution of neighborliness, fragmentizes and destroys communities. It has already spelled the end of our cities as real cultural and social communities, and has made impossible the construction of any others in their place. Together with the airplane, it has crowded out other, more civilized and more convenient means of transport, leaving older people, infirm people, poor people and children in a worse situation than they were a hundred years ago.”
    (George F. Kennan, Democracy and the Student Left, 1968)
  • Examples and Effects of Entropy
    “Because of its unnerving irreversibility, entropy has been called the arrow of time. We all understand this instinctively. Children’s rooms, left on their own, tend to get messy, not neat. Wood rots, metal rusts, people wrinkle and flowers wither. Even mountains wear down; even the nuclei of atoms decay. In the city we see entropy in the rundown subways and worn-out sidewalks and torn-down buildings, in the increasing disorder of our lives. We know, without asking, what is old. If we were suddenly to see the paint jump back on an old building, we would know that something was wrong. If we saw an egg unscramble itself and jump back into its shell, we would laugh in the same way we laugh as a movie run backward.”
    (K.C. Cole, “The Arrow of Time.” The New York Times, March 18, 1982)

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What is a Cause and Effect Essay?


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cause and effect essays

What is a Cause and Effect Essay?

A cause and effect essay can be defined as,

“ A paragraph or essay form which probes and analyzes into the causes (rationale, reasoning and background reasons) along with the effects (consequences, effects and outcome) for a particular event, happening, condition or behavior”.

Typically, students might confuse themselves between a cause and effect essay and a compare and contrast essay. A cause and effect essay concentrates on the ability of the writer to hook up the reasons why things happened and lead to the particular consequences. In addition, the writer approaches the sequence of events linearly, further analyzing the reasons and impact vigilantly.

The Domino Effect

At times, an event might trigger another event or  happening, which may lead to another event, and it causes another event to happen. This is known as the causal chain or domino effect.

Format and Outline of a Standard Cause and Effect Essay


The introduction consists of statement of thesis topic, thesis statement, background information and analysis and literature review, if required. The thesis statement is followed up with by the statement of the main issue by describing the cause in detail with explicit illustration of circumstances.

First Body Paragraph

The first paragraph of a cause and effect essay introduces and describes the first reason which renders the thesis statement or hypothesis true. It is followed up by a detailed description and explanation of the primary reason along with background information or examples and related material.

Second Body Paragraph

The second paragraph of a cause and effect essay brings in and describes the secondary reason which renders the thesis statement or hypothesis true. It is followed up by a detailed description and explanation of the second reason along with establishing a relationship between the primary and secondary reasons or causes.

Third Body Paragraph

The third paragraph of a cause and effect essay states the last and final  reason which effects the main thesis statement and the primary and secondary causes. It establishes a correlation and interdependence among the 3 reasons by means of implementing deductive analysis.


The conclusion recaps the whole essay in general and explicitly states the deductive reasoning, earlier established from the causes in a categorical order.

Types of Casual Relationships in Cause and Effect Essays

Necessary Causes

A necessary cause is one which needs to be essentially present for a particular event or happening to occur. A sufficient cause may or may not be accompanied by other causes.

Example: Scientific causes e.g. Global warming, natural causes and universal cause and effect relationships.

Sufficient Causes

A sufficient cause is one which has the ability to produce a certain type of effect independently but might not be the only source of inducing the designated cause and may or may not be accompanied by other causes.

Example: Social causes e.g. divorce, teenage violence, homosexuality etc.

Contributory Causes

A contributory cause is an impetus which aids in producing a specific effect or outcome but is not capable of inducing the effect in its independent capacity. A contributory cause is necessarily accompanied by other causes.

Example: Accidents and events like cars accident or a particular event.

Guide Tips for Drafting Cause and Effect Essays

Writing Style

The writing style for a cause and effect essay typically makes use of casual chains, logical flow of events, systematic order of events and happenings.  The writer should make use of deductive analysis of the existing data to reach provide a logical reasoning of the particular happening.


To organize your cause and effect essay, write down all the possible causes that come into your mind for the specific effect.

Next, narrow down and categorize the causes into parent causes. For example if your are working on the causes of divorce then you can make parent categories of internal, external, family specific and natural causes and then assign the sub-causes like lack of tolerance, financial issues,  work issues into each parent cause.

Format an outline map of your cause and direct inducements. Then, you can adjust the map into your essay structure by formatting transition words and sentences.

Words and Phrases for Sentence Development in Cause and Effect Essay Writing

as a result


above all



equally important



One reason why …

There are other reasons, too, …




due to





One of the most important reasons why …



leads to






The main reasons why


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