University of Houston-Victoria

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Paragraphs Cause-Effect

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.