CoverObjectivesThe Writing ProcessAddressing the PromptPrewritingWritingRevisingOriginalityTimed Writing 1Integrated Writing 1Introduction to Academic EssaysEssay Shape and OrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsExample EssayTimed Writing 2Integrated Writing 2Descriptive EssaysExample Descriptive Essay 1Example Descriptive Essay 2PrewritingWriting: Word ChoiceSources: QuotingRevisingRevise: Descriptive EssayComparison EssaysExample Comparison Essay 1Example Comparison Essay 2PrewritingWriting: UnitySources: SummarizingRevisingRevise: Comparison EssayCause-Effect EssaysExample EssayPrewritingWritingParaphrasingRevisingRevise: Cause-Effect EssayRefining WritingDevelopmentCohesionWriting for the TOEFLIntegrated Writing TaskIndependent Writing TaskNuts and BoltsPunctuationUsing Academic VocabularyUsing SourcesFinding SourcesAnswer KeyThe Writing Process AKIntroduction to Academic Essays AKUsing Sources AKCitationsDescriptive Essays AKComparison Essays AKCause-Effect Essays AKRefining Writing AKWriting for the TOEFL AKNuts and Bolts AK


Understand the assignment

In your essay, you will describe either the causes or the effects of a topic. The topic may be a problem (e.g., poverty), but may also be a good thing (e.g., economic stability).


Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your out- line.


Simple Google searches with either "causes of" or "effects of" might be a good place to start if you aren't sure what to write about. Example topics could include the following:

Choose your focus

Make sure the topic isn't too broad to cover in your essay. One topic (e.g., problems with coworkers) can have many causes (e.g., different cultures, miscommunication, etc.) as well as having many effects (e.g., uncomfortable work environment, bullying, etc.). You should not try to describe every cause and every effect that is related to your topic.


Start with your topic sentences and thesis. Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas.


Your introduction should describe in general terms the topic you will write about in your essay. At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should write your thesis. The thesis should clearly state a cause or effect relationship.

A poor diet, excessive stress, and sleep deprivation cause attention problems in school.

Some of the effects of social media include having more access to information, easier communication, and an ability to share photos and videos.

Here are some phrases that are useful for writing a cause/effect thesis:

Attention problems in school are caused by a poor diet, excessive stress, and ...

The positive effects of social media include...

1 Exercise: Revise thesis statements

Revise the theses to be more effective for a cause/effect essay. Write the revised theses on a piece of paper.

  1. Here are the three negative effects of overfishing.
  1. Homelessness is caused by unemployment, but we can find many solutions for this problem.
  1. What kind of effects and benefits are there?
  1. An unstable economy is a significant economic issue.
  1. Everyone can become addicted to alcohol, and the most important thing is to be able to admit it to yourself and know where to start looking for help.
  1. Every country should have free trade laws because there are many benefits.


Your body paragraphs should explain how or why your thesis sentence is true. As you plan each of your body paragraphs, remember that using sources will make your writing more credible and interesting. Use sources properly so that you do not plagiarize. Each of your body paragraphs should have citations.


Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then, you should speak about the person/event in more general terms and apply their situation to the world more generally. End with a concluding statement.

2 Exercise: Complete an outline

Use the topic sentences to create the thesis for this outline.


TS: Depression can be caused by genetics.

TS: Another cause of depression is chemicals in the brain.

TS: A final cause of depression is due to circumstance.

As you outline your body paragraphs and choose research, make sure the quotes you use support your topic sentence (see pages 19 and 52). Read the example outline below. Notice how the selected quotes support the first topic sentence by answering the questions that were based on it.

Example: Outline with sources for a body paragraph

TH: Stress affects our body's muscular, cardiovascular, and chemical systems.

TS: One of the most obvious effects of stress is muscle tension.

What muscles are affected?

"For example, both tension-type headache and migraine headache are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head" (APA, n.d., "Musculoskeletal," para. 2).

What happens to the muscles?

"When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress — the body's way of guarding against injury and pain" (APA, n.d., "Musculoskeletal," para. 1).

3 Exercise: Choose sources that support a topic sentence

Using the following research, choose quotes that would support the topic sentence below.

TS: Additionally, stress impacts the heart and blood pressure.

"Acute stress causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle, with the stress hormones acting as messengers for these effects. In addition, the blood vessels that direct blood to the large muscles and the heart dilate, thereby increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body and elevating blood pressure" (APA, n.d., "Cardiovascular," para. 1).

"Chronic stress, or a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke" (APA, n.d., "Cardiovascular," para. 2).

"Repeated acute stress and persistent chronic stress may also contribute to inflam- mation in the circulatory system, particularly in the coronary arteries, and this is one pathway that is thought to tie stress to heart attack" (APA, n.d., "Cardiovascular," para. 3).