Definitive Guide to Writing a Cause and Effect Essay

In the literary world, a cause and effect essay is often used by authors attempting to determine the cause and effect of various actions, phenomena or situations. This type of essay requires that the writer deploy their analytical writing skill, as well as cognitive reasoning ability with the overall intent of taking a more in depth look at a specific event, occurrence, situation or element and determining what effects that might have on something. For example, what are the socio-economic effects of unaffordable housing or what effect does social media have on the way people communicate.

Cause and effect essays have many different sub-types. Continue reading to learn how exactly to write a cause and effect essay.

What is a cause and effect essay

Also commonly known as the reason and result essays, a cause and effect essay explores the underlying reason for a specific event, occurrence, or situation and then discusses the effects or results of such. This particular type of essay is one of the most commonly used essays in the academic world. Often times, the entire essay will explore cause and effect, however, there are also occasions where only part of the essay might consist of a cause and effect requirement. It is also possible that a smaller and more concise essay might only explore the cause of something, or alternatively the effect of something.

For example, a medical student might be asked to explain the high mortality rate in areas where certain vaccines are unavailable; otherwise this example of assignment is known as a cause only essay.

Cause and effect essay structure

For all intents and purposes, there are two primary methods that one might choose to deploy in order to structure a cause and effect essay; The Block Structure or the Chain Structure. In the case of the block structure, each of the causes will be outlined first, and the subsequent effects will follow. In the chain structure, each cause will have the corresponding effect following it and so on.

There are advantages to each method. The block structure is most often used when attempting to organize a shorter or less detailed essay, whereas the chain structure is beneficial when there is a need to relate the effect directly to the cause.

Typically, a block structure cause and effect essay would look like this:

Introduction > Cause 1 > Cause 2 > Transition paragraph > Effect 1 > Effect 2 > Conclusion

A chain structured cause and effect essay, on the other hand, would look like this:

Introduction > Cause 1 & Effect 1 > Cause 2 & Effect 2 > Conclusion

When authoring a cause and effect paper, there are a number of structure words, known as ‘transition signals’ that are used to assign the relationship between cause and effect. With this type of writing, particularly when it is used in an academic setting, it is important to clearly distinguish cause from effect, or reason from result. This can be done with the inclusion of transition signals. Remember, the cause always occurs prior to the effect.

Here are some of the most commonly used transition signals. A will be used to signify cause and B will be used to signify effect.

The initial cause of B is AThe initial effect of A is B
The secondary reason is AA secondary result of A is B
Because of A, B isAs a result, B
As a result of A, B isTherefore A is related to B
Consequently, A isHence, A can be attributed to B
Given that AA causes B
To result from BA has an effect on B
A results in BA affects B
B is directly related to A 
B is the effect of A 

Cause and effect essay outline

For college students, writing a cause and effect essay does require a great deal of thought and a certain degree of research skill, however, it does not need to be a difficult task.

Here are the steps to follow when writing a cause and effect essay

  1. Understand the difference between cause (reason) and effect (result). In order to determine the cause of something, ask yourself “Why has this happened?” When determining the effect, you will ask “What was the result of this?”. Outlined below is an example of a single cause resulting in a single effect.

Cause: Your car is out of gasoline.
Effect: The ignition will not start.

Read also: How can a cheap reliable essay writing service help your academic performance.

Occasionally, several causes might contribute to a lone effect, or multiple effects might result from a lone cause.

  1. Draft the thesis statement. This will be done by clearly stating whether you intend to discuss effects, causes or both. You will introduce your primary concept or idea by using the terms cause or effect.
  2. Research and organize your ideas, provide proof or details to support your claims. It is essential to back up your thesis statement with enough relevant details to verify facts. You may choose to organize your supporting facts in the following manners:
    1. Chronological order. IE information is presented from least to most relevant
    2. Based on level of importance. IE information is presented from least to most important
    3. Based on category. IE Information is organized based on category.
  3. Utilize the most appropriate transitional phrases. To seamlessly flow between cause and effect, rely upon transitional verbiage such as ‘because of’, ‘as a result’, ‘consequently’, ‘therefore’, etc.

The following step by step chart will help you to determine whether or not you are properly organizing your essay.

The causes and effects of the essay have been clearly researched
The appropriate block or chain structure has been used
Accurate cause and effect structure words have been used
There is a clear and well thought out thesis statement
Every paragraph has a clear topic sentence
There is evidence of strong supporting facts, reasoning, examples, etc.
The conclusion has evidence of a summary of the key points


Cause and effect essay ideas you may use

The beauty of a great cause and effect essay is that it can consist of nearly any topic, which can be considered a good topic, ranging from homelessness to social media or even pollution or rock music.

Here is a sample list of topics that you can draw from when deciding what to write your cause and effect essay about.

CategoryPotential Topic List
Family and RelationshipsWhat causes spouses to cheat?

What are the effects of cohabitation prior to marriage?

What are the lifelong effects of being raised by a single parent?

What effect does family vacations have on the quality of family life?

What are the causes of soured relationships between siblings?

EnvironmentWhat is the most destructive factor affecting climate change?

What is the effect of pollution on the planet?

What are the most significant causes of catastrophes on the earth?

How has global warming affected the world?

Social Justice and other issuesWhat impact does gang violence have on a community?

How have social media effected communication?

What effect does poverty have on education?

What are the effects of the social housing reform?

TechnologyHow has easy access to technology effected childhood?

What impact does the world wide web have on teenagers?

How has modern technology changed the classroom setting?

What are the causes of technological advancements in China?

EducationWhat is the cause and effect of returning to school at as an adult learner?

What makes someone a great student?

What is the cause and effect of switching a major half way through a degree?

What is the cause of failure in school?

What is the long term effect of cheating in an exam?

PsychologyWhat effect does social media have on rising rates of youth depression?What is the effect of stress on students who work full time while attending school?

Why is having good mental health as important as having good physical health?

What is the reason for and result of empathy?

HealthWhat effect does a poor diet have on personal health?

What are the causes and effects of vaccinations?

What is the effect of chicken pox in adulthood?

What are the long term effects of smoking?

What is the effect of poor sleep on quality of life?

Cause and effect essay topics

As the moniker cause and effect suggests that a cause and effect essay focuses specifically on exploring why something has happened and what the cause of such occurrence was.

In a college setting, it is likely that topics will be assigned – these are normally tied to course studies, or current events. In the event that you are not provided with an assigned topic, there are a number of things you can do to come up with a topic list for an A+ cause and effect essay.

  1. Turn to the local headlines. Is there a recent news article that might warrant further exploration? Ex: Are local businesses closing down because of an increase in operating costs? Why?
  2. Consider your hobbies and personal interests. Ex: Do you enjoy a particular sport, what effect does playing on a sports team have on your personal life?
  3. Consider the traditional family unit: Were you raised by a single mother? What are the long term effects of children raised without their fathers being present?
  4. Consider the effects of social media on teen suicide rates or the increase in bullying.
  5. Consider the social justice system: What effect does having an incarcerated parent have on a child and their potential for criminal behaviour in the future?

When you think about it, it is possible to create a cause and effect essay on nearly anything. The point is to take a specific event or occurrence, explore why is happens and determine the cause or effect.

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Cause and effect essay examples for college

When writing a cause and effect essay, particularly at the college level, it is important to follow a clear and concise format to ensure a finished product that not only flows from one sentence to the next, but also looks polished and does not confuse the reader.

Read also: Proper reflection essay format and structure.


The introductory paragraph should introduce the topic and inform the reader of what they should expect to find in the paper. This will take roughly five to seven paragraphs.

  • Topic sentence: Introduce the subject that will be explored
  • Thesis statement: The chief concept of the paper

Read also: How to choose proper words to start an essay introduction?

The three body paragraphs

In the body of the essay, you will illustrate the cause and effect. This is where you will explain your thesis statement in much greater detail. Remember to follow either a block or chain structure.

  • In order to strengthen your argument, you might choose to explain your topic, include a definition, or offer multiple viewpoints or facts
  • After the reader is presented with the information they need to understand the context of the topic being explored, you can transition to a secondary cause or effect.
  • Remember to demonstrate or support your claims by providing facts or examples

Conclusion or ending paragraph

This is your opportunity to not only back up your thesis statement, but also summarize your essay. This is where you will aid the reader in better understanding everything they have just read and maybe even offer a few additional examples or points to ponder.