How to Present Cause/Effect Essays

Done well, cause/effect essays can uncover subtle and often surprising connections between events or phenomena.

What is your topic ? (I am looking for between thirty and fifty sentences that are focused on the topic, without tangential information.)

Let us say that I am going to write on the growing popularity of fantasy literature.

You must choose a topic you can write about without consulting secondary sources. So pick something you know a lot about. (An example of a cause paper on why soccer isn’t going to be big in the US can be found here.)

If I am going to write about fantasy literature’s growing popularity, I have to know a lot about fantasy literature. I do. I have attended a few cons, gone to writers’ talks, and read a lot in the genre. I can probably talk about it well without having to look things up.

You must also choose whether you are going to deal with causes or effects. You may not deal with both. The paper is too short to deal adequately with both.

I can talk about the cause of the growing popularity of fantasy literature (Real life is too stressful? war? People who grew up on Tolkein and C.S. Lewis are passing that on?) or I can talk about the effects (Romance novels now have fantasy series. Vampires are part of mystery novels. People are becoming more open to the supernatural [again].) My first two effects are not really effects, they are symptoms or proof that fantasy literature’s popularity is growing. The last, however, might be an effect.

What are the three causes or effects that you will deal with in this essay? These will be the topic sentences of your main body paragraphs.

For my examples I would use:
Fantasy returns wonder to the scientific world.
Fantasy encourages people to strive for difficult goals.
Fantasy helps people suspend their disbelief.

What is your purpose? What point are you trying to make by revealing these key causes or effects?

Fantasy is changing the way post-Enlightenment people look at the world around them.

Create a thesis sentence for your paper. (You do not have to use the first one you come up with, but write something before you begin your paper.)

Fantasy is changing the post-Enlightenment worldview by returning wonder to the world, encouraging big goals, and suspending disbelief.

Possible topic ideas, just to get you thinking:
increase in community college enrollment
increase in single parenting
increase in out-of-wedlock babies
mudslinging in political campaigns
voter apathy
school violence
road rage
cell phone popularity
some clothing or hairstyle fad
alcohol abuse among college students
academic dishonesty
popularity of fast food restaurants
high drop out rate in college
divorce rate
sibling rivalry
something’s popularity (soccer, basketball, quilting, etc.)
driving while intoxicated
high school graduates unable to read

Make sure you are not just listing causes or effects. The causes or effects need to be discussed in a solid paragraph. Develop each cause or effect using sufficient supporting evidence. Include examples, stories, personal observation, and logical reasoning.

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