Cause and Effect Essay Guide

A cause-and-effect essay is a crucial part of writing assignments. A writer must follow specific instructions to make a cause-and-effect essay compelling and informative. In this article, you will find answers about how to write a cause-and-effect essay. Additionally, you will learn the purpose of cause-effect essay writing, types of cause-and-effect papers, typical essay writing approaches, and other practical tips.

What is a Cause and Effect Essay?

A cause-and-effect essay is a type of essay that analyzes the connection between the rational motive and its consequences. It can focus on either exploring the situation and its beginnings or the outcomes of the combination of circumstances that occurred at a given time. A cause-and-effect essay can also touch upon both attempts. 

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Sub-types of Cause and Effect Essays 

A cause-and-effect essay can typically be of four subtypes. They are synthesis, analysis, interpretation, and valuation. Let’s look at each of them closer. 


Cause-and-effect essays that fall under a synthesis category discover the relationship of events and subjects within the broader setting. You can choose this type when writing an essay about large-scale events. Here is a thesis statement example for this type:

The United States’ decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan not only had an impact on America’s worldwide image and foreign policy but also negatively influenced countries adjacent to Afghanistan. 

Note: You can learn more about synthesis essays in general by reading our guide: How to Write a Synthesis Essay.


Cause-and-effect essays of the analysis type may work with the primary causes that lead to some effects or the major outcomes of one particular cause. They can also investigate the reasons for and results of a certain event or occurrence on a broader scope. Here’s a sample thesis for this sub-type:

World War II had grave and unexplainable upshots on Germans and their culture, social life, and financial state.

Note: You can learn more about analysis essays in general by reading our guide: How to Write an Analytical Essay.


Such cause-and-effect essays are more hypothetical in that they work with unknown or less known topics. Usually, this subtype starts with a known effect and elaborates on potential causes or vice versa. An example of the interpretation thesis statement, in this case, might be this:

The negligence in reducing plastic consumption would result in the total extinction of marine life. 

Tip: Avoid engaging in speculation (claims that are not supported by any evidence). It is especially true for cause-and-effect arguments due to the complex nature of establishing connections between various events. Ensure that you provide solid evidence to back your claims.


Valuation essays are more common in business and finance fields, but they can be used within pretty much any context. Such type of essay determines the value or worth of particular consequences or results of an event or decision. Here’s an example of a possible thesis:

My father always told me to be critical and cool-headed and assess potential risks before taking any actions.

The Purpose of Cause-Effect Writing

People are called the smartest animals on Earth because they can think critically, ask how and why questions, and find answers to them. This can also be done by practicing cause-and-effect essay writing.

The purpose of a cause-and-effect essay is to identify the origins of a particular state or process and the consequences it leads to. In academia, students exercise cause-and-effect essay writing to sharpen their logic and critical thinking and remain unbiased regardless of the essay topic. This task might not be prevalent, but it is pivotal in developing good analytical and cognitive abilities.

Three Common Ways to Organize Causes and Effects in an Essay

Before writing a cause-and-effect essay, it is imperative to structure your causes and effects properly. The correct organization will help the audience get a good grasp of the causality. It may also help you make the writing comprehensive and smooth. Below are the three standard ways to organize causes and effects in such an essay.

One Cause ⇒ Multiple Effects

This writing strategy focuses on the number of effects a single cause produces.

Let’s say your topic is the sedentary lifestyle. Spending too much time sitting at the desk results in impaired metabolism, low blood pressure, and muscle atrophy. Here, you have one phenomenon (sitting for too long) that causes multiple effects.

One Effect ⇒ Multiple Causes

This approach concentrates on multiple causes that lead to one important effect. This is a good strategy when looking for causes from different areas that cultivate one reaction. 

For instance, writing about school failure would be an excellent example of this approach. You could mention family issues, social difficulties, and financial powerlessness of an individual that ultimately lead to being dropped out before graduation.

Chronological Chain of Causes and Effects

A chronological chain is the most challenging way of cause-and-effect organization. It brings up the cause that produces an effect that, in turn, nurtures another effect, and so on. The chain can comprise a list of unlimited but logical and connected causes and effects. 

For example, a causal chain might begin with you getting up late, which results in skipping a shower, then leading to burned toasts and spoiled breakfast, then noticing the flat tire, missing the speech, and, ultimately, not being chosen as the head of the class. 

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Writing a Cause and Effect Essay from Start to Finish

Before writing a cause-and-effect essay, remember to come up with a good essay topic (if you are not given one), determine causes and effects, choose an essay structure, and develop a thesis statement. Once you do that, writing the first draft will be much more manageable. 

1. Determine causes and effects within your topic 

Make sure to develop causes and effects your essay will revolve around. The following set of steps will help you do that.

Establishing causes

Begin with analyzing what you already know about the topic. Write a cause that might be connected to the subject and analyze it. Ask yourself:

  • Why did the event take place?
  • What results did it cause?
  • Were the outcomes known or realized beforehand? 

Then, use the Internet and look for new information. Browsing reliable sources (academic databases, articles, and journals) will provide you with numerous causes you can address in your essay. 

Critically evaluate the information you retrieve before you write a cause, as causality might sometimes be absent. That is, a sobbing student leaving the classroom doesn’t imply that they received an F; the student could have gotten the news about the accident that occurred to their parents, about the grandparent that passed away, or about the rejected scholarship application. 

Establishing effects

If your cause-and-effect essay has one cause and several ramifications, start with jotting down all the effects that pop up in your head. Building a list of such outcomes will allow you to direct your research and find the information you might have missed when generating thoughts. Asking the following questions might come in handy:

  • What are the effects?
  • Why are they important?
  • What impact do they have?

If you decide to write a cause-and-effect essay and describe many results, consider including several outcomes. Otherwise, you will make your cause-and-effect essay basic. You would be better off mentioning that many consequences exist and developing only the most critical ones. 

Making predictions

Predictions are standard in cause-and-effect essays and fall under the subtype we discussed earlier. They provide reasoning about the future and consider what’s known and feasible. You may need to answer the following questions to shed light on possible results and their implications:

  • What are the potential outcomes?
  • Will they impact human existence?
  • Can we anticipate the change of political, social, or historical order based on such results?

If you make assumptions, ensure to back up your claims with authoritative evidence. They will prove you have carried out research and verified the information before taking a stance. 

2. Choose one of the cause-effect structures

After you determine causes and effects within your essay topic, select the cause-effect structure. As was mentioned, the three standard structures are:

  • One Cause ⇒ Multiple Effects
  • One Effect ⇒ Multiple Causes
  • Chronological Chain of Causes and Effects

3. Develop the thesis statement

Developing a thesis for a good cause-and-effect essay might be challenging. To simplify and speed up the writing process, determine whether you focus on causes, effects, or both. You don’t have to develop your causes and effects in the thesis thoroughly. Just provide the main points and proceed to the body paragraphs. We have provided a couple of examples earlier, under the subtypes section.

Take advantage of the complex nature of causality. Sometimes, it’s not essential, or feasible, to determine the precise cause of an event or even to pinpoint its exact impact. When you are developing your thesis, you may choose one of the effects or causes to be primary. Once you do so, that main cause or effect essentially becomes your thesis statement.

4. (Optional) Make an outline

A cause-and-effect essay outline is an effective tool that points you in the right direction and wards off any additional information you may want to include in the essay. Provided that the requirements don’t expect you to attach the outline along with the essay, you are free to write a cause-and-effect essay outline in any way.

Note: You can find out more about creating outlines for essays by reading our article: How to Write an Outline.

5. Write the introduction

Once you settle on the structure and create the most crucial element of your essay, the thesis statement, you can finish the introduction. The section comprises three parts: a background for the topic, an explanation of the issues, and a thesis. 

Note: You can learn about essay introductions in our dedicated guide here: How to Start an Essay.

6. Write the body

The structure of your body paragraphs depends entirely on the essay writing strategy you have chosen earlier.

So, suppose you want to write about a single cause and several repercussions. In that case, your first body section would describe the cause, providing enough detail for the reader to understand the state of affairs. 

After that, your following 2nd, 3rd, and 4th paragraphs will focus on describing effects, walking the readers through logical steps so that they understand the connection between the cause and its effects. You can have more than the standard five paragraphs because you will typically need to explain why the effects are important in another paragraph or two.

In contrast, if you chose to write about one effect and many causes, you would have to begin your body paragraph by describing the effect and then moving to enumerate the causes and their connection with the outcome. 

Note:We have an extensive guide on writing essays in general that you can check out here: How to Write an Essay.

7. Write the conclusion

The conclusion should reiterate the thesis statement and reinforce the key information presented in the essay. Explain the importance of your cause-and-effect essay, ending with a statement that motivates the readers to explore the topic more broadly.

Note:You can find detailed guidelines on writing an conclusion (with examples) here: How to End an Essay.

8. Proofread

Remember to edit and proofread the work after completing the draft. Make sure to restore your attention by stepping away from the essay for a while. Once you take a break, read the essay again slowly. Find and fix any grammar and punctuation errors. Then, check if the body corresponds with the main idea and sounds natural. 

Final Tips on Writing Cause and Effect Essays

Below are practical tips to help you write a good cause-and-effect essay from the ground up. Consider using them to write a well-organized and coherent essay promptly.

  1. When writing about one effect and many causes, keep in mind that the first cause is the main, and the rest are contributory.
  2. Remember to brainstorm and think outside the box; the most apparent cause doesn’t have to be the most important one.
  3. Your thesis must address the issues you will develop, the standpoint you will take, and the structure you will follow.
  4. Make use of transitions. They will improve your essay’s readability. For cause, examples are: first, second, additionally, because, due to, since, for, etc. For effect, examples are: as a result, thus, consequently, therefore, result in, lead to, etc.
  5. Focus more on direct causes, as they usually provide a better connection with effects. Don’t dedicate too much space for remote causes.
  6. Don’t forget to qualify your statements and provide credible evidence when taking a stance. Stay away from qualifiers like obviously. Replace them with evidence suggests, it appears, it is likely that, etc.
  7. Don’t include multiple effects and causes if you can’t discover them in depth. Instead, choose two to three units and explain them exhaustively.

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