Drafting Body Paragraphs: Purpose-Based Organization Strategies Cause-Effect
There are many different strategies designed for organizing specific types of body paragraphs, including cause-effect, problem-solution, comparison-contrast and chronological. You must identify the purpose of the paragraph before you begin writing and then seek out the appropriate organizational strategy for writing a paragraph with that specific purpose. This handout discusses the cause-effect strategy in detail.
First, there’s one thing you should know about this handout and its connection to another Academic Center handout. This handout is best used in conjunction with the Academic Center handout Drafting Body Paragraphs: CECC: An Internal Organization Strategy, which discusses a method of paragraph development that focuses on claim, evidence, commentary and conclusion. The CECC method accounts for the labeling in brackets of the example paragraphs in this handout. These labels in brackets are merely meant to show how each purpose-based organization strategy also corresponds with the CECC method.
Cause-effect paragraphs seek to illustrate the relationship(s) between two or more events by revealing why or how something happened. Therefore, it’s not enough simply to state the cause(s) and the effect(s). The cause-effect paragraph should be organized in a way that focuses on the connection(s) between the cause(s) and the effect(s). Keep in mind that there are several ways to develop a cause-effect paragraph: you can discuss how one cause led to one effect, how one cause led to several effects, how several causes led to one effect, or many other variations of the process. Furthermore, a cause and effect relationship may not necessarily be explained in its entirety in a single paragraph. If the process that is being described is quite detailed or complicated, a paragraph block might work better.
A paragraph block is a series of several paragraphs which share the same topic sentence. The paragraph block has the same basic function as a single paragraph – to explore a main idea in detail. A paragraph block is used when the main idea being covered features several different components or is especially detailed. The paragraph block will still follow the same organizational pattern; the content will just be revealed over the course of several paragraphs rather than contained within a single paragraph.
Regardless of the way that you choose to develop a cause-effect paragraph or paragraph block, the following organizational structure can apply:
- In the paragraph’s topic sentence, make your claim that x, or x and y, or x, y and z, were the causes for the event (effect).
- In the paragraph’s body, use evidence and commentary to describe the process of how these causes, x, y, and z, led up to the effects.
- In the paragraph’s conclusion, describe the resulting effect(s).
Let’s take a look at an example of a successful cause- effect paragraph:
Causes of the event tied to its effects [claim]
While many teachers and parents offer rewards to entice children into behaving in a specific manner, recent research indicates that providing rewards may have negative effects on the child, including delayed egocentric growth.
Description of process whereby the effects are achieved [evidence and commentary]
Rewards are detrimental to a child’s ego development because they manipulate the very basic foundations of the ego’s function. According to Smith (2004), development of the ego relies on allowing one to choose and control situations for oneself subliminally without outside pressure. When that ability to choose and control for oneself is taken out of a child’s life and is manipulated with a concrete reward, some degree of meaning is lost (Smith 2004). Quite clearly, rewards, much like punishments, seek to control an individual’s behavior.
Effects of the event [conclusion]
Therefore, these rewards inhibit egocentric growth by taking the aspect of choice away from the child and placing the control of the child’s ego into the hands of the person with the reward.
In this example paragraph, the cause is the offering of rewards to children, the effect is the delay in egocentric growth, and the description of the process explains why the offering of rewards leads to a delay in egocentric growth.
Not only is the cause and effect pattern present, but the components of the CECC pattern also emerge. For example, in the description of the process section, the evidence, or statements about how ego development relies on the ability to choose and control for oneself, is cited according to Smith. However, the writer’s commentary which follows these statements interprets and summarizes this evidence for the reader. More information on providing and signaling commentary is available in our handout Signal Your Commentary on Source Material.
This cause-effect pattern is most useful in journalistic writing and historical writing, but it may also be used in other kinds of papers. In particular, this pattern may work well in the background section(s) of different types of papers.
Although this handout discussed the cause-effect approach to paragraph organization, there are many other methods you can use to organize information within a specific paragraph. Additionally, while the information presented in this handout is tailored toward paragraph development, this organizational strategies discussed can be applied as overall organization strategies for research papers or can be used as organization strategies for paragraph blocks within a larger paper.
Copyright 2008 by the Academic Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, and Candice Chovanec Melzow.
Created 2007 by Candice Chovanec Melzow.