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Core 110: Effective Writing

Cause and Effect Analysis

  When we examine causes, we look at why an event occurred.  When we examine effects, we look at what resulted from an event or action.  Cause and effect analysis can look at causes, effects, or a combination of both causes and effects.

  Cause and effect analysis is something you already do in your daily life.  Whenever you consider the effects of a decision before you make it, you are using cause and effect analysis.  For example, you might have considered the effects of living off campus before you decided to live in the dormitories.  We are also asked to use this development strategy in many of our college classes.  A history assignment might ask you to examine the causes of the Civil War or the results of the Battle of Gettysburg.  A science class might ask you to examine the results of a crucial scientific discovery.  A literature class might ask you to look at the effects of point of view in a particular short story.  You are already very familiar with this type of writing!

  Cause and effect analysis, like the other modes of development that we’ve discussed, does not exist in a pure form.  We often combine other strategies with cause and effect such as narration, illustration, and process analysis.

  As with every essay you write, your essay must have a purpose and must keep in mind a target audience.  Your purpose might be to persuade, to entertain, to inform, or to express feelings or relay experiences.  Your introduction will often call attention to this purpose by explaining why the cause and effect relationship is important to understand.  If we are working to explain the causes of the high divorce rate, we might tell our reader that is important to understand these causes so that he/she can have a healthy marriage.

  Your essay must be 3 to 5 pages of double spaced text.  Use no larger than a 12-point font and use 1-inch margins on all sides.  Choose an appropriate title.

  Topic Ideas:

1.      Think of something you do particularly well or particularly badly.  Then consider why you do that thing well or badly and how your ability or lack of it has affected you.

2.      Identify something about your personality, environment, or circumstances and assess how this factor has affected you.

3.      Pick an important decision you made sometime in your life.  Make a list of the causes and effects of that decision.

4.      Identify a problem on campus.  Make a list of causes and effects of that problem.

(Material adapted from The Student Writer by Barbara Fine Clouse.  Topic ideas taken directly from text.)

To read a sample student essay, select the following link:

   cause and effect essay 1