ENGL 101
English Composition I
Home Page >> Writing Assignments >> Cause/Effect

This is the actual essay assignment. The information sheet explaining the type of essay is here.

Cause/Effect is any argument that uses the term because in it. If you argue "I got a bad grade because..." then you are emphasizing the Causes. If you argue "Because I got a bad grade, these things happened" then you are emphasizing the effects. Most cause/effect essays will reflect one side or the other of the equation, not both. Trying to explain both causes AND effects for an argument can become quite lengthy, quite quickly.

To produce an acceptable cause/effect essay, the writer should:
-- use grammatically appropriate sentence structures
-- Organize the essay around a cause/effect argument utilizing direct evidence
-- Use appropriate paragraph breaks to control the flow of information
-- Use transitions both within and between the paragraphs
-- Develop and explain the essay content completely
-- Communicate a clear and specific purpose to an audience
-- Incorporate evidence from outside sources ethically, effectively, and appropriately

Option 1: Traditional

Pick a subject from current events and explain the causes and/or effects associated with that event. For example, with the fighting in the Balkans, a student could write an essay trying to explain what caused the fighting, with those causes being immediate past, or ranging back into long-term history. An effect based essay could discuss the potential effects on European stability, or the damages caused by left-over landmines or children growing up underneath sniper fire.

Typically, the best way to find this type of subject is to sit down with a month or two of your favorite news magazine or several weeks' worth of your favorite newspaper and look for a subject that is discussed in several articles during that timeframe. As long as it is discussed in several articles, it should be a complex enough subject to support a paper. If you do not have personal access to back issues of newsmagazines or newspapers, your local library or the websites of the publications will help you do this part of the research.

Option 2: Business

Review the literature for your career field. At the very least, look at Fortune, Forbes, Barron's, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, or their websites, to see what issues they are discussing. Choose one that seems especially interesting to you and then prepare a report for your boss (your current boss or your potential boss) indicating either where this issue has come from, or how it's going to affect your particular field/organization.

For Example, you might see several articles dealing with unisex bathrooms as the wave of the future. You might explain in your report to your boss why this is becoming such an issue now so that s/he is prepared when the issue arises at your organization. Or you might use your report to show how this trend is going to affect your organization in terms of cost of remodelling, training, etc. Or you might deal with both aspects, but that would probably make for too long of a report. Better to be as specific as possible.

Option 3: Fun

Find something that has either currently become popular or just lost its popularity: Pokemon, horror movies, Latin music, Beanie Babies, gameshows, etc. Explain your theory on either what made that particular subject popular in the first place or what caused it to fall out of favor. Or you can explain what the effects of this trend might be or have been on American culture.

For example: you could explain the sudden rise in the popularity of country music in the early 90's, or its fall back into a less-popular form of music. Or you explain how that sudden rise allowed artists like Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain become considered regular Pop singers, not specifically country singers. Whether or not people claim to be country fans, music like Lonestar that would have never been heard outside of country radio years ago is now heard everywhere. There's been a change. You can explain its effects to us.


Remember that you are writing this essay to explain WHY something happened, or WHAT has or will happen because of the original situation. Your subject itself is either the end point of the causes or the starting point of the effects. The reader needs to know how this information will help them understand things better. You are NOT just proving that these situations or circumstances are connected. Somehow knowing that connection has to be usable by the audience. Even if it's just understanding the subject as more complex than the reader originally thought, there needs to be some value added to the subject.

Always remember that you are presenting us with A cause or An effect, the THE cause or THE effect. There are always more ways to interpret the situation. You are simply presenting us with your best understanding/interpretation of the situation.


Be aware of the difference between immediate and remote causes and effects. The farther away from the subject you get with remote causes and/or effects, the more carefully you have to explain the connections or links between your subject and the cause/effect.

You can choose to emphasize one cause or effect if you wish, but realize that it will require much more development and explanation. If you choose to deal with several causes or effects, make sure that you indicate which ones are the most significant, and organize accordingly.


Try to remember that your audience does not know as much as you do. Even if they know more facts about the subject, they don't know YOUR understanding as well as you do. Your job is to explain to the reader how YOU interpret the information and how YOU see things fitting together.


Be careful of what is called a faulty cause/effect argument. You MUST have evidence that there is a connection. Simply indicating that the factory is by the river, and the river is polluted, therefore the factory caused the pollution is not good enough. Just because things happen in the right time sequence doesn't mean that they are connected. You MUST have direct evidence showing the cause/effect relationship, not just circumstantial geographic or chronological connections.

This is why it is necessary to have at LEAST two sources for this paper. These sources can come from anywhere, but should be the most trustworthy sources that you can find. You are writing a college level paper; make sure that you are using college level sources. For this assignment, cite your sources using the "according to John Smith, " method of citation. If you are familiar with MLA or APA citation style, you can use it, but it is not required at this time.