Writing Cause/Effect Papers

Purpose:Preparing an essay that demonstrates a clear analysis of cause and effect for any phenomenon, trend, or event can be a daunting task if you do not spend a few extra minutes planning a rhetorical strategy. Your topic (phenomenon, trend, or event) may be something you’ve observed or learned about in class. Your ultimate purpose is to convince your audience the assertions you make are accurate.
Step 1: Brainstorming:
Using notes taken in class or observations made during class discussions, select a topic and then scribble down a few key points about your topic.
Step 2:
Developing the Thesis Statement
Develop a specific question you would like to answer in your paper. The answer to this question will then become your thesis statement. Here is a sample question and the thesis statement it engenders:

Question: What caused Italy to become the cultural cradle of the Renaissance?
Contributing factors: 1) When medieval thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas started analyzing Greek and Roman thought, they created a new wave of thinking–humanism. Humanist philosophy says humans have free will; therefore, they can create their own destinies. 2) Common people, tired of feudal oppression, started demanding a larger voice in government. 3) A prosperous economy created a vibrant middle class who felt a civic responsibility to patronize the arts. 4) Church fathers taught biblical lessons from the art in churches so becoming an artist became a valid and respected occupation. 5) Writers like Dante and Boccaccio wrote biting commentary about abuses of power in the church and Machiavelli wrote about the abuse of power in the government.

Thesis Statement: Great writers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Niccolo Machiavelli inspired the common and not so common people of Italy to search for truth and personal freedom in their lives; this inspiration helped create the Italian Renaissance.

Step 3: Developing a Rhetorical Strategy and Outline Paragraph

Introduction (at least 5 – 9 sentences, including thesis statement)–the thesis statement provides the ultimate effect.

Thesis statement
Supporting point 1–cause
Supporting point 2–cause
Supporting point 3–cause
Transition to body of paper

Body of Paper (the body will contain many paragraphs; each paragraph should contain a topic sentence and an average of 5�9 sentences)

Discussion of supporting point 1 (each paragraph should have a topic sentence showing how supporting point 1 made your thesis correct).
Discussion of supporting point 2
Discussion of supporting point 3

Last Paragraph: Conclusion demonstrates that your thesis is correct.

Step 4: Reviewing Causal Analysis

Rise Axelrod gives the following “invention sequence” for developing a causal analysis:

Finding a subject
Exploring what you know about your subject
Considering causes
Researching the subject
Testing your choice
Researching causes
Considering your readers
Developing your argument
Anticipating and refuting objections
Refuting alternative causes

(St. Martin’s Guide to Writing: Instructor’s Resource Manual 237)

Step 5: Presenting your idea in print

Type your paper in MLA format. Proofread carefully. Did you use the spell check and grammar check? Did you cite your quotations or paraphrases? Did you include a works cited page?

Let your paper sit on your desk for a day or so and then revisit it. Can you improve your paper by clarifying your ideas and sentence structure? Did you miss any relevant points? Go back to the computer and make your final changes. You are on your way to improved writing skills.

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