Write a one- to two-page, type-written, double-spaced cause and effect essay on one of the following topics or one that you choose. Your essay may consider causes, effects, or both. Your audience consists of your classmates or members of the community in which you live.
1. The popularity (or lack of popularity) of a particular sport in China
2. The popularity (or lack of popularity) of a public figure
3. A miscommunication or misunderstanding between two people or two groups
4. Cheating on college exams
5. Rising cost of living
6. A current trend or fad
7. A major change or decision in your life
8. A problem on campus or in the community
As you develop your causal analysis essay, consider how you can use one or more other patterns of development. For example, you might use narration to help explain the effects of a particular community problem. In an essay about the causes of a current fad, you might compare the fad to one that is obsolete. Or you might classify rising college costs in an essay covering the causes and effects of that phenomenon.
Consider Your Purpose, Audience, and Point of View
Once you choose a topic, your next step is to decide whether you want your essay to be informative, persuasive, or a mixture of both. Depending on your purpose, you may decide to explain why an event, problem, or phenomenon occurred (causes), or what happened as a result (effects), or both. Keep the length of your essay in mind as you think about these issues. It would be unrealistic, for example, to try to discuss both the causes and effects of the Chinese Revolution in a five-page paper.
The level of technical detail you include should also be determined by your audience. The point of view you choose should suit your audience and purpose. Although the third person is most often used in academic writing, the first person may be used to relate relevant personal experiences.
Discovering Causes and Effects
After considering your purpose, audience, and point of view, use one or more of the following suggestions to help you discover causes, effects, or both.
1. Write your topic in the middle of the page or at the top of your computer screen. Brainstorm all possible causes and effects, writing causes to the left and effects to the right.
2. Replay the event in your mind. Focus on one or both of these questions: "Why did the event happen?" and "What happened as a result of it?" Make notes on the answers.
3. Try asking questions and writing assertions about the problem or phenomenon. Did a chain of events cause the phenomenon? What effects are not so obvious?
4. Discuss your topic with a classmate or friend. Ask his or her opinion on the topic’s causes, effects, or both.
5. Research your topic in the library or on the Internet.
6. Ask a friend or classmate to interview you about your topic. Assume you are an expert on the topic; try to explain causes, effects, or both as clearly as possible. Tape-record the interview and play it back to get ideas for your essay.
Identifying Primary Causes and Effects
Once you have a list of causes or effects (or both), your next task is to sort through them and decide which causes or effects are primary, or most important.
Use the following questions to help you decide which causes and effects are most important:
What are the most obvious and immediate causes?
What causes(s), if eliminated, would drastically change the event, problem, or phenomenon?
What are the obvious effects of the event, problem, or phenomenon?
Which effects have the most serious consequences? For whom?
Checking for Hidden Causes and Effects and Errors in Reasoning
Once you identify primary and secondary causes and effects, examine them to be sure you have not overlooked any causes and effects and have avoided common reasoning errors.
Hidden Causes and Effects. Be on the alert for the hidden causes or effects that may underlie a causal relationship. To avoid overlooking hidden causes or effects, be sure to examine a causal relationship closely. Do not assume the most obvious or simplest explanation is the only one.
Mistaking Chronology for Causation. Avoid the "after this, therefore because of this" fallacy: the assumption that because event B followed event A in time, A caused B to occur. To avoid this fallacy, look for evidence that one event did indeed cause the other. Plausible evidence might include testimony from others who experienced the same sequence of events or documentation proving a causal relationship between the events.
Mistaking Correlation for Causation. Just because two events occur at about the same time does not mean they are causally related. Again, remember that evidence is needed to verify that the two events are related and that a causal relationship exists.
Unsupported Assumptions. Assumptions are ides or generalizations that you or your readers accept as truths without questioning their validity. Although assumptions can be true, in many cases people make sweeping generalizations that are untrue and unfair. Many assumptions are based on stereotypes иC unfair generalizations about the characteristics or behaviors of an entire group or class of people or things. Because unsupported assumptions can interfere with your reasoning and lead to erroneous statements of cause and effect, examine your ideas carefully to be sure you avoid making this error in reasoning.
A convincing cause and effect essay does more than merely list causes, effects. Or both and avoid errors in reasoning. Your readers expect a complete explanation of each primary cause or effect that you include. In order to explain your causes and effects, youбпll probably use one or more other patterns of development. For example, you may need to narrate events; present descriptive details about the event, problem, or phenomena; define important terms; explain processes unfamiliar to the reader; include examples that illustrate a cause or an effect; or make comparisons to explain unfamiliar concepts.
Developing Your Thesis
Once you are satisfied with your causes and effects and the evidence you have generated to support them, your next step is to develop a working thesis. The thesis for a causal analysis identifies the topic, makes and assertion about the topic, and tells whether the essay focuses on causes, effects, or both.
Use the following tips to write a clear thesis statement.
1. State the cause and effect relationship. Do not leave it to your reader to figure out the causal relationship. Example: Breathing paint fumes in a closed environment can be dangerous for people suffering from asthma and emphysema because their lungs are especially sensitive to irritants.
2. Avoid overly broad or absolute assertions. They are difficult or impossible to support. Example: (original) Drugs are the root cause of inner-city crime. (revised) Drugs are a major cause of inner-city crime.
3. Use qualifying words. Unless a cause and effect relationship is well established and accepted, qualify your thesis statement. For example, use may be instead of the verb is. Changing the verb from is to may be qualifies the statement, allowing room for doubt.
4. Avoid an overly assertive or a dogmatic tone. The tone of your essay, including your thesis, should be confident but not overbearing. You want your readers to accept your ideas but not to be put off by arrogant tone.
Evaluating Your Ideas and Thesis
Take a few minutes to evaluate the causal relationship you have chosen and determine whether your analysis of it is meaningful, worthwhile, and relevant to your audience. Highlight causes, effects, and evidence that seem usable; cross out items that are unnecessary or repetitious or that donбпt support your thesis. If you find that your evidence is skimpy, do additional research or prewriting to generate more information. Also think about how you can use other patterns of development (such as comparison or illustration) to further support your thesis.
Drafting the Cause and Effect Essay
Choose a method of organization that is that will help you present your ideas effectively. Chronological order works well when there is a clear sequence of events. After deciding how to organize the essay, your next step is to write a first draft. Us the following guidelines to draft your essay.
1. Provide well-developed explanations. Be sure that you provide sufficient evidence that the causal relationship exists. Offer a number of reasons and choose a variety of types of evidence (examples, statistics, expert opinion, and so on) to demonstrate that you correctly perceived the relationship between causes and effects. Try to develop each cause or effect into a detailed paragraph with a clear sentence.
2. Use strong transitions. Use a transition each time you move from an explanation of one cause or effect to an explanation of another. When you move from discussing causes to discussing effects (or vice versa) or when you shift to a different pattern of development, use strong transitional sentences to alert your reader to the shift. Regardless of the organization you follow, you need to use clear transitions to guide your reader throughout the essay. Transitional words and phrases that are useful in cause and effect essays include because, since, as a result, and therefore.
3. Avoid overstating causal relationships. When writing about causes and effects, avoid words and phrases that overstate the causal relationship, such as it is obvious, without doubt, always, and never. These words and phrases wrongly suggest that a causal relationship is absolute and without exception. Instead, use words and phrases that qualify, such as it is possible, it is likely, and most likely.
4. Write an effective introduction. Your introduction should identify the topic and causal relationship as well as draw your reader into the essay.
5. Write a satisfying conclusion. Your conclusion may remind readers of your thesis and should draw your essay to a satisfying close.
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