Writing a Cause or Effect Essay Mrs. Wishart Senior Adjunct Instructor Burlington County College What is Cause & Effect? When writing about a cause, the writer looks at events that occurred and how they led up to something occurring: What were the causes that led up to the 9/11 attack? When writing about an effect, the writer looks at events that occurred
after an event to analyze what has occurred as a result: How has American society been effected by the 9/11 attack? Beyond Events A Cause or Effect Essay often examines more than events: The essay may give reasons or explanations for: Events Conditions Behaviors Remember the Timeline When writing this essay, writers
who decide to write from the perspective of a cause need to focus on what happened before a specific event. Writers who decide to write from the perspective of an effect need to focus on what happened after a Causes Effects specific event. EVENT Make Sure to Avoid Correlation Correlation is different from causation: Correlation: there is a connection between two or more things While there may be a correlation between children receiving vaccines and autism, that does not mean that the vaccine causes autism
Think carefully about various types of fallacies is this cause a hasty generalization? Is it non sequitur? Is it post hoc? If it is any of these, its a correlation and not a cause. Causation: something makes something else happen or exist. A loud noise may be a causation for a baby crying. Neelds Heuristic Questions for Cause/Effect: These questions will help guide the writer on how to look at the specific topic deeply: What causes females to perform better in school than males? What causes people to choose to go to college/to choose not to go to college? What are the effects of people earning a liberal arts degree
instead of a more specialized degree? What are the effects of colleges prejudging students who are considered street smart? What is the purpose of attending college in the 21st century? Why does increased job growth in college graduates happen? What is the consequence of colleges maintaining traditional instructional methods? What comes before deciding whether or not to go to college? What comes after going into debt to earn a college degree? Adapted from: Lindeman, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford U P, 1987. 82-3. Print. Playing the Why Game When writing a Cause/Effect Essay, the writer is often answering why something occurred. After asking why the first time, the writer should
continue to ask why in order to drill deeper into the subject: Malcolm X said, Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. WHY? Malcolm X noticed that life takes preparation. WHY? More than likely, in their family lives, some people were taught that they would go to college and some were taught that college was not in their future WHY? Some parents were unfulfilled in their educational pursuits, so they have become cynical about the need for further education. WHY? The writer continues to play this game until he/she can go no further. The game reveals how certain events may be related and reveals deeper thought instead of surface thought. Organizing Thoughts with a Modified Venn Diagram
Causes Topic Effects Record what happened BEFORE the topic. The writer should make certain the list contains at least 6 items so the best 3 can be chosen for the essay. Record the THESIS STATEMENT here. The writer needs to keep his/her eye on
the topic, so recording the thesis statement will help assure the lists are on point. Record what happened AFTER the topic. The writer should make certain the list contains at least 6 items so the best 3 can be chosen for the essay. Once the lists above are recorded, review each list carefully. Which list has the most potential to intrigue the audience?
Which list interests the writer most? Choose the list, and then writer either a Cause OR an Effect Essay. A 5 paragraph essay will not give the writer enough Characteristics to Include in the Essay Present the event or issue. The audience needs to understand the problem or issue. Without this explanation, the analysis will fall apart. Use strong, assertive language that does not reflect negativity or bias. Use factual evidence and direct quotes from They Say, I Say articles.
Treat the writing scientifically make a hypothesis and then prove it through direct information from the sources. Other Questions to Consider: Does the essay have an effective introduction? Hook, transition, interesting thesis Is the thesis clear, effective? Does it preview the main points? What are the causes/effects discussed? Does the writer focus on cause or effect?
Is there a good conclusion? Avoiding Bias and Negativity Biased or negative statements steal the authority of the writer. Which of the following feels more convincing and has more authority? The American public has long been blind to the horrible effects of student debt on our childrens futures. Student debt must be avoided or the consequences will be dire In order for students to succeed in their lives, student debt needs to be studied and considered. Managing the amount of debt taken on will help to assure a college education has the desired effect on ones
life. 3rd Person REQUIRED For this essay, ALL paragraphs, including the introduction and conclusion, must be in 3rd person. 3rd person adds a sense of authority and makes the writing more forceful. I believe college should be made affordable for all Americans. By passing policies and instituting that make college more affordable for todays college student, America will be better equipped to compete in a global economy. Types of Causal Relationships
Material cause: a material determines its behaviors a rock falls because of its heaviness. Formal cause: an items form determines its nature a human differs from the statue of a human. Efficient cause: the event that begins the first notable change a human lifts a rock. Final cause: the ultimate end often difficult or impossible to predict, especially if all events have not completely played out. Wikipedia. Other Types of Causal Relationships Necessary
Cause: If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y implies the presence of x. The presence of x does not imply that y will occur. Sufficient Cause: If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x implies the presence of y. However, z may also cause y. The presence of y does not imply the presence of x. Contributory Cause: If the presumed cause precedes the effect, and altering the cause alters the effect, it is contributory. Wikipedia. Double Check The writer should not state
something that is obvious. The writer should make sure to demonstrate the significance between the causes or the effects in the paper. Surface thought is boring; deep thought is informative and interesting. The Pattern For effect: Many causes might lead to one effect: Cool kids didnt study Few kids went to college from neighborhood College tuition rose faster than inflation Effect: College not deemed plausible
For cause: One cause might lead to many effects: Cause: More jobs require college Effect: More students attend community college Effect: More students carry massive student debt Effect: More students consider which major has best chance of leading to a job. Sources: Maldonado, Christina. Writing Cause and Effect Essays. Roxbury, MA: Roxbury Community College Writing Center, Fall 2008. Web. 20 March 2013.
Lindeman, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 2nd ed. NY: Oxford UP, 1987. 82-3. Print. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality #Necessary_and_sufficient_causes
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