Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

Types of Papers: Cause & Effect

To write a cause and effect essay, you’ll need to determine a scenario in which one action or event caused certain effects to occur.  Then, explain what took place and why! This essay allows us to identify patterns and explain why things turned out the way that they did.

How do I choose a topic and get started?  Try choosing a major event, either in your own life or an event of historical significance.  For example, The Great Depression.

Cause of The Great Depression: stock market crash

How would we elaborate?  We'd discuss the behaviors, carelessness, errors, and even cultural attitudes that led to the crash—explaining why it was devastating.

Effects of the Great Depression: joblessness & poverty

What should we say about the effects?

Narrowing a Large Topic

In a short essay, it might be difficult to tackle the cause and all of the many effects of a big event like the Great Depression. To narrow a cause and effect topic down to a manageable size, ask yourself… 

  1. What's the main (most important) cause?  Most people attribute it to the stock market crash, so that's a good place to start.   
  2. Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.  (example below)
  3. Which category interests me the most? "Practical effects" is the most interesting. I'll narrow the topic of my paper down so that my essay will now be about how the stock market crash affected the practical ways that people lived their lives during the Great Depression.    

Can that category be broken down even further to make the topic more manageable?  I'm actually interested in the ways that the Great Depression affected the farming industry.  I want to talk about the new skills and methods that farmers were forced to learn and implement, as a result of their difficult situation.

Narrowing a Large Topic - Example

Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.

Economic

Social

Employment

Practical

Morale

money loses value

poverty increases

jobs eliminated

public resourcefulness increases

low self-esteem

companies lose value

homelessness increases

employers pay lower wages

farming techniques change

men emasculated by job loss

banks lose the public's trust

orphanages fill up

forced to work longer hours

public wastes less, finds creative ways to save

patriotism declines

Example Paper

Student Sample: The Desired Look: Nothing But Bones