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Lesson Plan: How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Why am I failing? Why do I have to go to the Dean's office? How come I got suspended? How can I avoid getting slapped by the brunette in the third row? Why do we have to do this? Avoid these and other stupid questions by teaching students how to write a cause and effect essay.

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    Exploring cause and effect is critical to understanding literature and life. Knowing how to write a cause and effect essay is crucial for communicating ideas. A successful cause and effect essay does the following:

    1. clearly identifies the relationship between cause and effect.
    2. gives background information.
    3. organizes logically and includes transitions that clarify cause-and-effect relationships. Cause and effect essays can be organized as follows:
      • State a cause in the introduction with body paragraphs that discuss the effects. For a paragraph, state the cause in the topic sentence and write about its effects.
      • State an effect in the introduction with body paragraphs that discuss the causes. For a paragraph, state the effect in the topic sentence and write about its causes.
    4. uses appropriate language and supporting details suited to the intended audience.
    5. summarizes the cause and effect relationship in the conclusion.
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    Prewriting

    1. Before committing your thoughts to paper, analyze your assumptions about cause and effect. Are the events really linked by cause and effect or are you jumping to conclusions? Could there be multiple causes or multiple effects? Beware of the cause and effect fallacy -- the false assumption that one event caused another simply because it preceded it.
    2. The audience will determine what background information to include. For example, a cause and effect essay on World War II written for World War II veterans would require far less background information than the same essay written for 20-year old pacifists.
    3. Gather supporting information. Just because you think so, doesn't mean it is. Do the required fact checking. Some essays require actual research or interviews; others may just require personal observation, reflection, and common sense.
    4. Outline your ideas. The best way to organize cause and effect writing is a web diagram:
      • Draw a circle in the middle of your paper.
      • Write either the cause or the effect. Writing the exact thesis statement is best.
      • Draw lines from the center circle to at least three orbiting circles.
      • Write either the causes or the effects, depending on how the essay is organized.
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    Drafting and Revising

    A good outline and thorough research (if necessary) makes drafting the essay a breeze. Consider the following as you draft:

    1. Be sure to clearly state the cause and effect relationship that's being explored. This should be the thesis statement.
    2. Use facts, statistics, examples, quotations, logic, reasoning, analysis, and interpretation for support.
    3. When revising, answer the following questions:
      • How would you summarize the cause and effect relationship presented in the essay?
      • What evidence most strongly supports the thesis statement? What evidence is weakest?
      • Which parts could use clarification?
    4. Be sure to use cause and effect transitions: if...then, because, as a result, consequently, therefore, etc.

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