Academic Resource Center Wheeling Jesuit University
Ground Floor Ignatius Hall x4473 www.wju.edu/arc
How Do I Write a Cause-Effect Essay?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and since your composition grade hangs in the balance, the ARC’s advice is to accept it enthusiastically), is to write a cause-effect essay. You’ll need a thesis, of course, but before you can develop one, you’ll need to establish a few cause-effect parameters. 1. What effect or effects will you be analyzing in the essay? 2. What causal chain leads to the effect? 3. What primary cause (also known as the main cause, or necessary cause, or
first cause) is the basis for the causal chain, and thus, the basis for
the effect? (It’s imperative to establish a causal chain, but it’s not enough.
There can be more than one chain; there can be more than one effect; but there should only be one primary cause.) 4. What relationship will you be trying to establish between cause and
effect (your topic), and why (your thesis) ?
Causes ü First, of course, there is the primary cause. This is the necessary cause without which the effect could not occur; it’s the first link in any causal chains that follows. ü Then there are the sufficient causes, which by themselves might produce the effect you’ve chosen to discuss in your paper, yet still find their root farther back along the chain in the primary cause. Example:
Say that your topic is the causes for the effect of roommate feuds. • Contributing causes might be sloppiness, bad music, and staying up all night. • Trace that back a bit further in the chain and you may find a sufficient cause like the differences between two roommates (one’s sloppy, one’s neat; one likes Mozart, the other likes Snoop Dogg, one’s a morning person, the other’s a night owl). • Many people stop here, and sometimes this is as far as you can go. But often a sufficient cause isn’t the primary cause. Isn’t it possible, in other words, for two people who are...