What is an academic cause and effect essay?

This is the first of four chapters about Cause and Effect Essays. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Explain the concepts of cause and effect

– Highlight the questions that focus on causes

– Highlight the questions that focus on effects

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Chapter 1

There are many different types of essay that you may be asked to write during your time as an academic, and one of the most common is the cause and effect essay. The purpose of such an essay is usually to explain to the reader the connection between an event or a situation (known as the cause) and the result that such an event or situation has created (known as the effect):

Cause and Effect Essays 1.1 Cause, Situation and Effect

Cause and effect essays usually include an evaluation of such causes as well as provide the general implications or wider impact of any significant and related effects – such as what would happen to a select country or group of people in particular circumstances. However, as a student it’s important to recognise that the focus of such cause and effect essays may vary and that your writing will need to vary to suit these differences. In addition to such variation, there are a number of different structures and language patterns which can be used by a writer to provide cohesion and variety to their cause and effect writing, and new academics should become familiar with these aspects. To help you in this, Lessons 1-4 discuss all of these issues, while our beginner-, intermediate– and advanced-level worksheets offer the opportunity to check comprehension of this guidance.


The first aspect of understanding cause and effect essays is about recognising the three different types of cause and effect essay question:


1. Questions that Focus on Causes

In these types of cause and effect essays, the effect will likely have been introduced or highlighted in the essay question and the causes will be left open to the interpretation of the researcher. Consider then the following possible task questions for such a cause and effect essay in which the researcher has already been presented with the effect (written in bold):

Cause and Effect Essays 1.2 Focussing on the Cause
Cause and Effect Essays 1.3 Focussing on the Cause

For these question types, the researcher’s responsibility is to introduce and contextualise the provided effect and to research, decide upon, and argue for the most significant causes for that effect. Such possible causes (which could be used as the main ideas of body paragraphs) are outlined below:

Cause and Effect Essays 1.4 Causes for the 2008 Economic Crash
Cause and Effect Essays 1.5 Reasons for Increasing English

2. Questions that Focus on Effects

It’s also important to be able to recognise the essay questions which ask the researcher to focus on the results of a situation instead of its causes. As in the following cause and effect essay questions (which offer similar topics to the previous examples), the researcher is already presented with the cause (in bold) and is now tasked with investigating its effects:

Cause and Effect Essays 1.6 Focussing on the Effects
Cause and Effect Essays 1.7 Focussing on the Effects
Cause and Effect Essays 1.8 Effects of the 2008 Economic Crash
Cause and Effect Essays 1.9 Reasons to Study in English

Notice that the language provided in such questions doesn’t have to explicitly use the words ‘cause’ or ‘effect’, but may simply indicate that the researcher is asked to find the impacts or results of a certain scenario, event or situation.


3. Questions that Focus on Causes and Effects

In this final essay type, the essay question will expect the researcher to determine both the causes and the effects for themselves when writing an essay:

Cause and Effect Essays 1.10 Focussing on Causes and Effects

Notice in the above essay question that the causes of the creation of preliminary-year programmes as well as the knock-on effects of them being introduced are both under investigation. Although the researcher of such a question is presented with the challenging task of having to explore both aspects in some detail, the good news is that Chapter 2 provides a number of structures which can help a writer do just this.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Cause and Effect Essays. Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/essay-types/cause-and-effect-essays/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

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