Exposition Cause-and-Effect Essay



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Exposition Cause-and-Effect Essay

  • [adapted from Writing and Grammar: Communication in Action, Prentice-Hall, Publishers, 2001]

Cause-and-Effect Relationships in Everyday Life

  • Identifying causes and effects is a part of daily life.
  • Giving advice to a friend based on the effects you predict, fireproofing a potential fire hazard, and arguing about the best way to solve a problem—all these activities show an awareness of cause-and-effect relationships.

Cause-and-Effect Relationships in Everyday Life (2)

  • Cause-and-effect relationships are also explored in writing.
  • Feature articles in your daily newspaper often describe causes and effects related to politics, crime, or the environment.
  • History textbooks are primarily focused on causes and effects, as well.
  • Even something as common as a recipe may describe a cause-and-effect process.

What is a Cause-and-Effect Essay?

  • Exposition is writing that informs or explains.
  • A cause-and-effect essay is a piece of exposition that describes the relationship between an event or circumstance and its causes.

Ingredients in the Cause-and-Effect Essay

  • Good cause-and-effect essays contain:
    • A clearly stated topic that explains what cause-and-effect relationships will be explored.
    • An effective and logical method of organization
    • Details and examples that elaborate upon the writer’s statements
    • Transitions that smoothly and clearly connect the writer’s ideas

Types of Cause-and-Effect Essays

  • Cause-and-effect relationships are explored in many types of writing, including the ones listed below:
    • Historical articles explain how events in history contributed to or resulted in other events
    • Process explanations take readers step by step through a process, such as a math formula or a scientific technique.
    • Predictions make educated guesses about future events based on knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships

Prewriting— Choosing Your Topic

  • Choose a topic for your cause-and-effect essay that you find interesting and that centers around a cause-and-effect relationship.
  • Use the following strategies for choosing a topic:

Choosing Your Topic

  • Sketch a Scene—Draw a scene from the world of nature. Review your sketch to find interesting details that make a good writing topic.
    • For example, you might draw a field of dandelions and clover that has a pond in the middle of it.
    • You might then decide to write about the effects of last year’s drought on local flowers and crops.

Choosing Your Topic (2)

  • Make a List—List interesting events or scientific phenomena.
    • After five minutes, circle the one you find most interesting.
    • Then, write for another five minutes, lisitng any causes and effects that spring to mind when you think of that topic.
    • Review what you wrote, and develop your topic into a cause-and-effect essay.
    • If you find that your topic doesn’t have a strong enough cause-and-effect relationship, continue the listing process until you find one that does.

Choosing Your Topic (3)

  • Scan a Newspaper—Scan a newspaper, looking for topics that you can link to causes or effects.
    • Keep a list of the possible topics as you come across them.
    • Then, review your list, and choose a topic the item you find most interesting.

Topic Bank

  • If you are having difficulty finding a specific topic for your cause-and-effect essay, use the following ideas:
    • Influences of the Blues on Popular Music—Write an essay that reveals how blues instruments, blues singers, and recurring themes in blues songs affect music today.

Topic Bank (2)

  • Causes of Changes in Rain Forests—In a cause-and-effect essay, explore the various factors that have led to the rain forest’s acreage being decreased.
    • You can find information about deforestation in current periodicals available at the library.

Topic Bank (3)

  • Responding to Fine Art—Find a picture such as Rolling Power (see next slide) that depicts a close-up view of the workings of a locomotive (see http://www.smith.edu/artmuseum/exhibitions/spectrum/edsheelerfull.htm) explaining how steam engines propel locomotives.
  • As an alternative, explore the cause-and-effect relationship between the development of the railroad and patterns of settlement westward across the United States.

Rolling Steel

Topics Bank (4)

  • Responding to Literature—Read a story such as “The Dog That Bit People” by James Thurber.
    • In an essay, explain how Thurber exaggerates cause-and-effect relationships to create humor
    • Your teacher can help you find this or similar stories to write about.

Cooperative Writing

  • History or Science Display—Work with a group to plan a cause-and-effect display for the classroom.
    • Choose a significant moment in history or science.
    • Then, divide into two sub-groups, with one group making a timeline that traces the causes leading up to that significant moment and the other group making a timeline showing effects.
    • Share your work with the class.

Narrowing Your Topic

  • Once you have a general idea for a topic, work with the material until it is narrow enough to cover effectively within the scope of your essay.
  • Cubing is one narrowing technique that you can use.

Use the Cubing Technique

  • Cubing lets you focus on details by helping you identify six perspectives or aspects of your topic.
  • Answer the six questions, and decide to focus your essay on one or two of the perspectives or aspects your explored.

6 Questions

  • Describe It—How would you describe your topic to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
  • Associate It—What other situations or events does your topic bring to mind?
  • Apply It—Why is your topic important? Why is it useful to explore?
  • Analyze It—Where is it? When did it happen? Why might it happen again? Can anything stop it from happening?
  • Compare or Contrast It—How does your topic compare and contrast with similar topics?
  • Argue for or Against It—What are the positive and negative effects of your topic?

The Cube

  • Analyze It
  • Describe It
  • Analyze It
  • Compare or Contrast It
  • Apply It

Considering Your Audience and Purpose

  • Before you gather details, identify your audience and your purpose.
  • Your audience and purpose will affect your word choice, the details you include, and the way in which you present those details.
  • For help identifying the types of details and style of language that will be most effective, devise a plan like the one that appears on the next slide:

Audience and Purpose Planner

  • Audience:
  • Purpose:
  • Details:
  • Style of
  • Language
  • School Board
  • To explain effects of decreased music funding
  • Facts and statistics; cause-and-effect chart; examples
  • Formal word choice; vivid persuasive language; tone of respect

Gathering Details

  • Before you draft, collect and organize details for your cause-and-effect essay.
  • Following are two methods for collecting and organizing details:

Collect Note Cards

  • When you research a topic, it’s important to keep note cards for each cause-and-effect idea and its source.
  • Before you begin to draft your essay, collect note cards from a least three or four sources either at home or at the library.
  • On each note card, record the quotation or the idea you want to include in your report.
  • Mark the note card with a number that identifies its source and the page number(s) on which the information can be found.
  • As an alternative, photocopy source pages and highlight the information you use.

Chart Causes and Effects

  • On a sheet of paper, write the effect, or event, that is your subject.
  • Then, use arrows and boxes to show events or conditions that are caused by or result from your topic.
  • If one event has several different effects, use a separate arrow to point to each.

Drafting—Shaping your Writing

  • Now that you have gathered details on your topic, shape the structure of your essay.
  • Choose a logical method of organization for your cause-and-effect essay.
  • Following are two such methods:

Chronological Organization

  • Chronological, or time, organization is a logical choice for structuring a cause-and-effect essay.
  • You can start either with the effect and go back through its causes one at a time, in chronological order, or you can start with the cause and proceed to describe its effects in time order.

Effects Organized Chronologically:

  • After the Titanic sank, new marine regulations were put into effect. The tragedy of the Titanic caused mariners to firm up regulations about radio contact and lifeboats. Marine regulations instituted after the Titanic included these mandates: constant radio contact between vessels and sufficient lifeboats to hold all passengers.
  • Photo: http://cacella.tachyonweb.net/Titanic_i.htm

Order-of-Importance Organization

  • Order-of-Importance organization allows you to build an argument or to present various causes or effects in the order of their relative importance.
  • You can either begin with the most important detail and end with the least important detail or reverse it, beginning with the least important detail and ending with the most important detail.

Effects Organized in Order of Importance

  • The Titanic’s voyage proved to be a disaster because of many causes. Chief among them was the failure of the crew to navigate around the iceberg. The resulting damage to the ship’s hull made its sinking inevitable. . . .
  • Another contributing cause was the lack of adequate lifeboats and safety instruction. Because the Titanic was “unsinkable,” the company that made the ship did not provide enough safety equipment to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
  • The weather conditions certainly did not help. . . .

Providing Elaboration

  • Elaborate as you draft to add depth and detail to your cause-and-effect essay.
  • Types of elaboration include examples, statistics, quotations, and other types of details that support your ideas.
  • Use the following strategy to help you elaborate:

SEE Technique for Elaboration

  • Use the SEE technique to layer, or give depth, to your writing as you draft.
  • First, write a basic statement about your topic.
  • Next, write a sentence that extends that statement.
  • Finally, write a sentence that elaborates on the extension.

SEE Technique

  • STATEMENT:
    • State the main idea of the paragraph.
    • Exercise is beneficial to your health.
  • EXTENSION:
    • Restate the idea.
    • People who exercise regularly live longer, fuller lives.
    • ELABORATION:
    • Add information that further explains or defines the main idea.
    • For example, a person who works out for twenty minutes three times a week is often in far better shape than a person who has no regular routine.

Revising Your Overall Structure

  • As you look at the structure of your essay, make sure that the ideas you’ve presented appear in logical order and are clearly connected to each other.
  • Strengthen Your Introduction and Conclusion
    • In your introduction, clearly present the main idea of your cause-and-effect essay.
    • You may also mention reasons for your choice of topic and give readers an idea about why it is interesting or important.

Revision Strategy: Circling to Identify Relationships

  • To make sure that your introduction and conclusion “match up,” circle the main idea you present in your introduction.
  • Then, find and circle in your conclusion a restatement of that main idea.
  • If your conclusion does not contain such a restatement, either rewrite your introduction or rewrite your conclusion so that they work together effectively.

Revising Your Paragraphs

  • Review your paragraphs to be sure that each develops a single idea and that the paragraphs themselves flow together smoothly.
  • Check to be sure that topical paragraphs—those that contain a topic sentence—are unified.

Strengthen the Unity of Paragraphs

  • Revise your topical paragraphs to make them unified—to make sure that each has a topic sentence
  • and that the other sentences within the paragraph support or develop the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Revision Strategy: color-Coding to Identify Related Details

  • Circle each topic sentence in every topical paragraph.
  • (Functional paragraphs—those that perform a specific function—do not have topic sentences.)
  • Then, using a pencil of a different color, circle the details that support the topic sentence.
  • Examine sentences you have not circled. If they do not support the topic sentence, either rewrite or delete them.

Revising Your Sentences

  • Now that your paragraphs are unified, look even more closely at your writing.
  • Within each sentence, check to see that the relationships are logical.
  • Make sure that the connections among words, phrases, and clauses are clear.
  • Read each sentence carefully. If there is more than one thought within a sentence, you may have to add a transition to show how those thoughts are related.
  • Some transitions indicate meaning or clarify the significance of a detail.
  • For example, the phrase not only indicates that a detail is just one of many.

Grammar in Your Writing: Transitional Phrases

  • A phrase is a group of words without a subject and verb.
  • In your cause-and-effect essay, use transitional phrases to show connections between ideas.
  • A phrase may appear at the beginning of the sentence, between the subject and the verb, or at the end of a sentence:

Transitional Phrases

  • Beginning:
    • After lunch, we worked enthusiastically.
  • Between the Subject and Verb:
    • We, after eating lunch, worked enthusiastically.
  • End:
    • We worked enthusiastically after eating lunch.

Types of Transitional Phrases

  • There are many types of phrases that you can use as transitions, connecting ideas in your writing:
    • A prepositional phrase is a group of words made up of a preposition and a noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition.
    • Inside the studio, the sound engineers began mixing the demo

Types of Transitional Phrases

  • A participial phrase is a participle modified by an adverb or adverb phrase or accompanied by a complement.
  • The entire phrase acts as an adjective:
    • Using a high-powered lens, Annette could just make out the letters.

Types of Transitional Phrases

  • An infinitive phrase is an infinitive with modifiers, complements, or a subject, all acting together as a single part of speech:
    • To avoid the iceberg, the captain had to steer hard to starboard.
  • Review your draft to identify where you have used phrases to show transitions.
  • If you cannot identify six phrases, challenge yourself to add at least one more to your writing.
  • Notice the improvement.

Revising Your Word Choice

  • If you use the same word or form of it several times within a passage, your writing can sound tedious and awkward.
  • Learn to distinguish between useful repetition and careless repetition.
  • Useful repetition helps to emphasize a point or to make a passage memorable.
  • Careless repetition creates a dull impression on the reader.

Review Your Word Choice

  • USEFUL REPETITION:
    • In the 1920;s, people flocked to theaters to see plays; in the 1930’s, the flocked to theaters to see movies.
  • CARELESS REPETITION:
    • Because I have always loved the theater, I’m studying theater and theater arts in school.

Revision Strategy

  • Underlining Repeated Words and Forms of Words:
    • Read through your draft, and underline repeated words or forms of words.
    • Then, review your draft.
    • If passages containing repetition are not intended, replace some of the repeated words with synonyms, words with the same meanings.

Repeated Words and Forms of Words

  • OVERUSED WORD:
    • They housed the furniture for the house in a shed out back.
  • VARIED WORDS:
    • The stored the furniture for the house in a shed out back.
  • OVERUSED WORD:
    • We tried to locate a better location for our party.
  • VARIED WORDS:
    • We tried to find a better location for our party.

Peer Review—”Say Back”

  • Work with a small group of peers to get feedback on your writing.
    • Read your paper aloud to your peer editors twice.
    • Have peers jot down two positive comments and three constructive comments for improvement.
    • One by one, have your peers read aloud their comments to you.
    • Take their comments into consideration as you prepare your final draft.

Editing and Proofreading

  • Reread your cause-and-effect essay carefully, correcting any mistakes you find in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
  • Double-check statistics or other details you present as fact.
  • Proofread your essay carefully.
  • Make sure you’ve correctly used the following commonly confused words: since, because, then, and than.

Using Since, Because, Then, and Than

  • As you proofread, make sure that you have used these words appropriately.
  • If you have not used any of those words, challenge yourself to add them to make clear connections between your ideas.
  • Use since only to
  • refer to a previous
  • time. Do not
  • Use since to mean
  • “because.”
  • Use because to mean “for the reason that.”
  • Use then to refer to a previous time.
  • Use than in comparisons between people, places, ideas, and events

Publishing and Presenting

  • When you are finished writing your cause-and-effect essay, share it with others.
  • Following are some ideas for sharing your writing:

Building Your Portfolio

  • Presentation: Use your essay as the basis of a cause-and-effect presentation.
    • Use photographs, charts, and diagrams as you explain the topic of your essay.
    • Save the essay and visuals in your portfolio.
  • E-mail: Share your essay electronically.
    • Type the essay using word-processing software.
    • Then, attach the file to an e-mail to a friend or relative.

Reflect on Your Writing

  • Think back on your experience of writing a cause-and-effect essay.
  • Then, respond to the following questions, and save your responses in your portfolio.
    • During the process of writing, what did you learn about the subject you chose?
    • Which strategy for writing a cause-and-effect essay might you recommend to someone as being most useful? Why?

Rubric for Self-Assessment

  • Score 4
  • Score 3
  • Score 2
  • Score 1
  • Audience & Purpose
  • Targets an audience through most word choice and details; identifies purpose in thesis statement
  • Misses target audience by including a wide range of word choice and details; presents no clear purpose
  • Addresses no specific audience or purpose
  • Organiza-tion
  • Presents a clear, consistent organizational strategy to show cause and effect
  • Presents a clear organizational strategy with occasional inconsistencies; shows cause and effect
  • Presents an inconsistent organizational strategy; creates illogical presentation of causes and effects
  • Demonstrates a lack of organizational strategy; creates a confusing presentation
  • Elaboration
  • Successfully links causes with effects; fully elaborates connections among ideas
  • Links causes with effects; elaborates connections among most ideas
  • Links some causes with some effects; elaborates connections among most ideas
  • Develops and elaborates no links between causes and effects
  • Chooses clear transitions to convey ideas; presents very few mechanical errors
  • Chooses transitions to convey ideas; presents few mechanical errors
  • Misses some opportunities for transitions to convey ideas; presents many mechanical errors
  • Demonstrates poor use of language; presents many mechanical errors


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