How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay

Table of contents

How to Write a Cause And Effect Essay

First, let’s answer a quick question. What do we mean when we talk about cause and effect?

The car accident was caused by a combination of reduced visibility due to sun glare, a distracted driver attempting to use his cell phone, faulty brakes, and excessive speed.

The effects of the car accident were that the driver suffered a broken femur, received two citations from driving infractions, and totalled his car.

Every why hath a wherefore.

- William Shakespeare

What is a Cause And Effect Essay?

A student writes an essay to explore the events that caused something to happen, or to study the effect of an event or collection of events. In some instances the writer focuses only the cause or only on the effect. Sometimes, they focus on both. 

That seems simple enough, but the ‘devil is in the details’. There are ways to approach the structure of a cause and effect essay that allow you to write a paper that is more likely to be successful.

Here, we are going to dig into the cause and effect essay. We’ll cover topic selection, topic ideas, research and note taking, and writing. When you’re done reading this, bookmark this page. This guide makes a great writing reference!

As always, if you still need help we are available online 24/7. Our specialists are happy to answer your questions about cause and effect essays, and more.

Cause And Effect Topics

One of the goals of higher education is to improve students’ critical thinking skills. It’s important that students do more than simply understand that important events happen. They should understand how and what happened to cause those events, and understand the lasting effects of those events. This is something that applies to every academic discipline. It’s really the difference between memorizing and understanding.

One of the good things about cause and effect is that nothing happens in a vacuum.

That means you can choose nearly any problem or event, and it will work for a cause and effect essay. Your job is to pick something, and dig into the topic. Get the background information, and you will have what you need for your paper.

Working on a cause and effect essay infographic

Cause And Effect Essay Topic Ideas

Here are some topic ideas that you could explore for your paper.

  • What are the effects of reducing funding for public education?

  • What are the effects of adopting a community policing model?

  • What caused a sharp decrease in violent crime in a particular city?

  • Why have enrollment rates in Liberal Arts programs dropped in the past 5 years?

  • What were the effects of World War I on Northern Europe?

  • How are diminishing relationships between the United States and Iran impacting stability in the Middle East?

  • What are the effects of introducing a native species of plant into an ecosystem?

  • What events led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

  • What caused President Nixon to be impeached?

  • What were the results of the anti vaccination movement in the southern states?

  • What caused the failure of the St. Louis Rams to establish a profitable enterprise?

  • What were the effects of the first moon landing?

Hopefully this list helps you to come up with some great topic ideas of your own. Feel free to send us some of your own ideas as well!

Cause And Effect Essay Research

Remember how the whole purpose of this was to dig deep into a subject, to truly understand what leads up to important events, and what the results of those events may be? The first step is topic selection. Now you have to research your topic, take notes, and begin to understand things.

Start your research by identifying resources that you can use. These sources should be up to date, accurate, and at an appropriate academic level. For example, a very simplistic, non fiction book on the civil war might be appropriate for a high school paper. As a university student, you will be expected to choose a source that is more detailed, and that explores the Civil War in a more advanced way. 

Be sure to pick sources from well-respected, academic sources. Choose enough sources to write your paper, and cover all the details you need to.

Finally, taking good notes is key to good resource. Don’t simply write things down, remember the sources, use quotes, and organize your notes so that you have the evidence you  need for any points you make later. Fortunately, there are plenty of great note taking apps. You can even color code your notes to keep them organized.

Cause And Effect Essay Outline

Your outline is the backbone of your essay. It helps you to create your structure, decide the order of your essay, define your thesis, and lay out your supporting arguments. If your create a successful outline, that should help you to create your rough and final drafts later on.

To start your outline, get your notes together. There are a few different ways to approach this. We’ll explore each of these using an example of employees leaving the workplace.

Outline - Multiple Causes Leading to One Focus Effect

  1. Introduction (People Leave Jobs Out of Frustration)
    1. Their bosses don’t show appreciation.
    2. They don’t have the tools and training to do their jobs correctly.
    3. Customers treat them poorly.
    4. There’s poor communication.
    5. They have low wages and a poor work environment.

Outline - One Cause Leading to Multiple Effects

  1. Introduction: A boss refuses to compensate a good employee fairly.
  2. Effect: The employee begins looking for work elsewhere.
  3. Effect: They get  hired at a competitor.
  4. Effect: They use their talents to help the competitor make a better product.
  5. Effect: Other employees begin to apply at the new company.
  6. Conclusion: A competing company gets better employees and makes better products.

Outline - A Build Up Leading to an Ultimate Effect

  1. Introduction: An employee is told no after asking for a raise.
  2. Result 1: Employee begins looking for a job instead of working.
  3. Result 3: Employee no longer feels loyalty towards their employer.
  4. Result 3: Employee openly complains to other workers who are also unhappy.
  5. Result 4: Employee leaves.
  6. Result 5: Other employees leave.
  7. Conclusion: Failing to treat employees well causes poor performance and attrition.

Best cause and effect essay topics

  • What are the effects of reducing funding for public education?
  • What caused a sharp decrease in violent crime in a particular city?
  • What are the effects of introducing a native species of plant into an ecosystem?
  • What were the results of the anti vaccination movement in the southern states?
  • What caused the failure of the St. Louis Rams to establish a profitable enterprise?


Send topics by mail?

Cause And Effect Writing Process

Once you choose the path you are going to take with your outline, it’s time to turn it into the rough draft of your essay. To start, let’s break things down so that you can write a cause and effect essay step-by-step.

Writing The Introduction

Your introduction is one of the most important characteristics of a cause and effect essay. It’s an important part of your essay. Start with a hook that grabs the reader’s attention. You should also give them a bit of background. They should  understand the topic enough to follow you when you discuss the causes or effects.

What’s the best way to begin your cause and effect essay? The way that you write your introduction will depend largely on how you write your outline. Which of the three patterns did you choose? Let’s say you chose the first one. One focus effect with multiple causes.

It is often the employer who exhibits behavior that causes employees to quit. Poor pay, a depressing work environment, bad communication, and poor treatment from customers cause employees to look elsewhere. Ultimately, people quit their jobs because they become frustrated. 

Once they read the introduction, your audience will have the help they need in order to grasp the arguments you make in the rest of your essay. This is important for keeping them engaged.

Cause And Effect Essay Body Paragraphs

This is where you go into each cause or effect, explore it in depth, and explore the relationship between cause and effect. Here, you aren’t so much arguing a point as you are helping the reader to understand.

Here, the classic approach is usually the best. Start with a topic sentence. Use sources to support that topic sentence. For example, if you discuss the role of poor pay in employees leaving their jobs, you can cite a statistic on the number of employees who say that money was a primary consideration in their choice to quit.

Cause And Effect Essay Conclusion

Your conclusion helps you bring the patterns you have highlighted in your essay to a natural close. Be sure to state the thesis again as a reminder. Then, leave the reader with some closing remarks. Encourage them to think about something, maybe even take some action. Demonstrate the depth of the impact of the cause or effect you have chosen to highlight.

In a conclusion, state the thesis again as a reminder. Then, leave the reader with some closing remarks.

Cause And Effect Essay Tips

Remember these tips as you write your essay:

  • Give your audience a reason to care about the event.

  • Find a statistic, anecdote, or example to use as your hook.

  • Be clear and powerful with your thesis.

  • Know where to begin and end.

  • Use a spelling and grammar checking app so that you can focus on writing.


Still Need Help?

We have writers and other experts available to help you 24/7. Contact us about this or any other essay. We can answer your questions, even point you towards some cause and effect essay examples.

How ready is your essay? Choose the stage you are at right now
What’s next and what’s missing?

How ready is your essay?