When writing about a cause, the writer looks at events that occurred and how they led up to something occurring:
What were the causes that led up to the 9/11 attack?
When writing about an effect, the writer looks at events that occurred after an event to analyze what has occurred as a result:
How has American society been effected by the 9/11 attack?
A Cause or Effect Essay often examines more than events:
The essay may give reasons or explanations for:
Remember the Timeline
When writing this essay, writers who decide to write from the perspective of a cause need to focus on what happened before a specific event. Writers who decide to write from the perspective of an effect need to focus on what happened after a specific event.
Make Sure to Avoid Correlation
Correlation is different from causation:
Correlation: there is a connection between two or more things
While there may be a correlation between children receiving vaccines and autism, that does not mean that the vaccine causes autism
Think carefully about various types of fallacies – is this “cause” a hasty generalization? Is it non sequitur? Is it post hoc? If it is any of these, it’s a correlation and not a cause.
Causation: something makes something else happen or exist.
A loud noise may be a causation for a baby crying.
Neeld’s Heuristic Questions for Cause/Effect:
These questions will help guide the writer on how to look at the specific topic deeply:
Is the thesis clear, effective? Does it preview the main points?
What are the causes/effects discussed?
Does the writer focus on cause or effect?
Is there a good conclusion?
Avoiding Bias and Negativity
Biased or negative statements steal the authority of the writer. Which of the following feels more convincing and has more authority?
The American public has long been blind to the horrible effects of student debt on our children’s futures. Student debt must be avoided or the consequences will be dire
In order for students to succeed in their lives, student debt needs to be studied and considered. Managing the amount of debt taken on will help to assure a college education has the desired effect on one’s life.
3rd Person REQUIRED
For this essay, ALL paragraphs, including the introduction and conclusion, must be in 3rd person.
3rd person adds a sense of authority and makes the writing more forceful.
I believe college should be made affordable for all Americans.
By passing policies and instituting that make college more affordable for today’s college student, America will be better equipped to compete in a global economy.
Types of Causal Relationships
Material cause: a material determines its behaviors – a rock falls because of its heaviness.
Formal cause: an item’s form determines its nature – a human differs from the statue of a human.
Efficient cause: the event that begins the first notable change – a human lifts a rock.
Final cause: the ultimate end – often difficult or impossible to predict, especially if all events have not completely played out.
Other Types of Causal Relationships
Necessary Cause: If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y implies the presence of x. The presence of x does not imply that y will occur.
Sufficient Cause: If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x implies the presence of y. However, z may also cause y. The presence of y does not imply the presence of x.
Contributory Cause: If the presumed cause precedes the effect, and altering the cause alters the effect, it is contributory.
The writer should not state something that is obvious.