cause and effect research paper examples

How To Write A Cause And Effect Essay: Topics, Structure, Examples

How To Write A Cause And Effect Essay?

If you're a student, chances are you'll encounter a cause and effect essay during your studies. This type of essay is all about exploring the relationship between a specific event (the cause) and its outcomes (the effects). But don't worry, we've got you covered with this easy-to-follow guide that breaks down everything you need to know about what is cause and effect essay and the steps for writing it. So get set to dive into the fascinating world of cause and effect as we equip you with the skills to ace this writing task like a pro!

What is a Cause and Effect Essay: Unique Characteristics from Other Essays

A cause and effect essay is a unique type of essay that focuses on examining the reasons (causes) behind an event or phenomenon and the resulting consequences (effects) that occur as a result. What sets it apart from other essays is its emphasis on establishing a clear cause-and-effect relationship between two or more variables.

In a cause and effect essay, the writer analyzes and explains the connections between the causes and effects, providing evidence and supporting details to illustrate the relationship. This type of essay requires critical thinking, logical reasoning, and a structured approach to present the causal chain effectively.

Unlike descriptive or narrative essays that focus on storytelling or presenting facts, cause and effect essays delve into the underlying causes and explore the outcomes, aiming to inform and educate the reader about the relationships between different factors.

cause and effect examples

Different Types of Cause and Effect Essay Structure

A cause and effect essay is a type of academic writing that explores the reasons (causes) and outcomes (effects) of a particular event, situation, or phenomenon. It aims to analyze the relationship between these causes and effects, providing a comprehensive understanding of how one factor leads to another. When structuring a cause and effect essay, there are several approaches you can take. Here are three common types of cause and effect essay structure from our experts:

  • Block Structure:
  • Introduction: Introduce the topic and provide background information.
  • Body Paragraph 1: Present the causes and their supporting details.
  • Body Paragraph 2: Discuss the effects and provide evidence or examples.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and emphasize the overall significance.
  • Chain Structure:
  • Introduction: Introduce the topic and its importance.
  • Body Paragraphs: Each paragraph focuses on a specific cause and its subsequent effects, forming a chain-like progression.
  • Cause 1: Explain the first cause and its effects.
  • Cause 2: Describe the second cause and its effects, which may also include the effects of Cause 1.
  • Cause 3: Discuss the third cause and its effects, which may include the effects of Causes 1 and 2.

Continue this pattern for additional causes if necessary.

  • Conclusion: Summarize the main causes and effects, highlighting their interconnections.
  • Causal Chain Structure:
  • Introduction: Introduce the topic and provide context.
  • Body Paragraphs: Each paragraph focuses on a specific cause and effect, examining the relationships between them.
  • Cause 1: Explain the first cause and its immediate effect(s).
  • Cause 2: Discuss the second cause, which is triggered by the effect(s) of Cause 1 and its subsequent effect(s).
  • Cause 3: Describe the third cause, influenced by the effect(s) of Cause 2 and its further effect(s).

Continue this pattern for additional causes and effects.

  • Conclusion: Summarize the causal chain, emphasizing the overall significance and potential long-term effects.

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cause and effect research paper examples

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

cause and effect outline

I. Introduction

A. Explanation of cause and effect essays

B. Hook: 'Have you ever wondered how excessive screen time affects academic performance?'

C. Thesis statement: Excessive screen time negatively impacts academic performance due to decreased focus, impaired cognitive abilities, and reduced study time.

II. Body Paragraph 1: Cause 1 - Decreased Focus

A. Topic sentence: Excessive screen time leads to decreased focus.

B. Explanation: Constant exposure to screens can overstimulate the brain and make it harder to concentrate on academic tasks.

C. Example: Studies have shown that students who spend excessive time on electronic devices during study sessions often struggle to maintain their focus, leading to reduced productivity and lower academic performance.

III. Body Paragraph 2: Cause 2 - Impaired Cognitive Abilities

A. Topic sentence: Excessive screen time impairs cognitive abilities.

B. Explanation: Prolonged screen usage can negatively impact cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and critical thinking skills.

C. Example: Research has indicated that excessive screen time, particularly in the form of video games or social media, can hinder the development of cognitive abilities, making it more difficult for students to comprehend complex concepts and retain information.

IV. Body Paragraph 3: Cause 3 - Reduced Study Time

A. Topic sentence: Excessive screen time reduces the amount of time dedicated to studying.

B. Explanation: The allure of screens can distract students and tempt them away from their academic responsibilities.

C. Example: A study conducted at XYZ University found that students who spent more time on social media or streaming platforms were more likely to allocate less time to study, resulting in poor performance on exams and assignments.

V. Conclusion

A. Restate the thesis statement: Excessive screen time has a detrimental effect on academic performance due to decreased focus, impaired cognitive abilities, and reduced study time.

B. Recap the main points discussed in each body paragraph.

C. Final thoughts: Encourage students to manage their screen time wisely to optimize their academic success.

10 Cause and Effect Essay Topics

If you are struggling to come up with a topic for your essay, consider one of these ten great cause and effect essay ideas below. Feel free to also hit us up with your ' write my essay ' request for a professionally crafted paper on your chosen topic.

Discuss the Effects of Social Media on Face-to-Face Communication

Social media has become a ubiquitous part of modern society, with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram connecting people from all over the world. However, as social media usage has increased, so has concern over its impact on face-to-face communication. Some argue that social media has made it easier for people to stay in touch with friends and family, regardless of distance. Others worry that social media has led to a decline in the quality of face-to-face interactions, with people spending more time on their phones than engaging with those around them. This topic is ripe for exploration and analysis.

Analyze the Reasons Behind the Increased Use of Smartphones by Children

Smartphones have become a ubiquitous part of modern life, with people of all ages relying on them for communication, entertainment, and information. However, there has been a recent trend of children using smartphones at increasingly young ages. Some argue that smartphones can be a valuable tool for education and communication, while others worry that they can be addictive and harmful to children's development. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the factors that have led to this trend and its potential long-term effects.

Explore the Impacts of Climate Change on the Natural Environment

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, with rising temperatures, sea levels, and extreme weather events all having profound impacts on the natural environment. This topic is complex and multifaceted, with a range of potential causes and effects to explore. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of climate change on ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources, as well as the potential long-term consequences for human societies.

Investigate the Effects of Pollution on Human Health

Pollution is a major problem in many parts of the world, with air, water, and soil pollution all having serious consequences for human health. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the specific ways in which pollution can impact different aspects of human health, including respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and mental health. Some of the key factors to consider might include the impact of pollution on vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly, as well as potential strategies for prevention and mitigation.

Discuss How Social Isolation Can Lead to Mental Health Issues

Social isolation is a growing problem in many parts of the world, with people of all ages and backgrounds feeling increasingly disconnected from their communities and social networks. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the specific ways in which social isolation can impact mental health. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of social isolation on depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, as well as potential strategies for prevention and treatment.

Analyze the Reasons Behind the Rise of Populism in Politics

Populism has become an increasingly prominent force in politics in recent years, with populist politicians and movements gaining ground in many parts of the world. This topic is complex and multifaceted, with a range of potential causes and effects to explore. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of economic inequality, globalization, and cultural change on the rise of populism, as well as potential strategies for addressing this trend.

Explore the Impacts of the Internet on the Traditional Media Industry

The internet has had a profound impact on the media industry, with traditional forms of media such as newspapers, television, and radio facing increasing competition from online sources. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the specific ways in which the internet has disrupted traditional media models. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of social media on news consumption, the rise of citizen journalism, and the challenges facing traditional media outlets in the digital age.

Examine the Factors that Lead to the Growth of Online Shopping

Online shopping has become an increasingly popular way for people to purchase goods and services, with e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay dominating the retail landscape. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the specific factors that have contributed to the growth of online shopping. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of convenience and accessibility, the rise of mobile devices, and the changing demographics of consumers.

Investigate the Effects of Globalization on Local Industries

Globalization has had a profound impact on the world economy, with goods, services, and capital flowing more freely across borders than ever before. This topic is worth exploring in depth, with a focus on the specific ways in which globalization has affected local industries. Some of the key areas to consider might include the impact of outsourcing and offshoring on employment, the role of multinational corporations in shaping local economies, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of globalization for different regions of the world.

Analyze The Impact of Social Media on Sleep Quality

Analyzing the impact of social media on sleep quality requires examining various factors related to social media usage and its effects on sleep patterns. Investigate the correlation between the amount of time individuals spend on social media platforms and their sleep quality. Excessive use of social media may lead to delayed bedtime, shorter sleep duration, or disrupted sleep. You can also explore the impact of blue light emitted by electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, which are commonly used for social media browsing.

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

In this section, we will unravel the essential elements of how to write a cause and effect essay, equipping you with the tips to present a logical and well-supported argument.

how to write a cause and effect essay

Step 1: Choose a Topic

The first step in writing a great cause and effect examples essay is choosing the right topic. Consider something that interests you and is relevant to your academic field. The cause and effect essay topics should also be specific enough to allow for in-depth analysis in your assignment.

Step 2: Conduct Research

Once you have identified your topic, it is important to do extensive research to gather sufficient information to support your arguments. Use scholarly sources such as academic journals, books, or reputable websites to do your research.

Step 3: Develop a Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the core idea of your essay and should be presented in the opening paragraph. It is a single sentence that clearly states the cause and effect relationship you will be discussing in the essay. A well-crafted thesis statement is critical to the success of your essay.

Step 4: Create an Outline

Creating a cause and effect essay outline is a crucial element of the writing process. It helps in organizing your thoughts and providing a clear structure for your essay. Divide your essay into an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Step 5: Write the Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of your essay, and it should catch the reader's attention and provide background information on the topic at hand. The introduction should also include the thesis statement.

Step 6: Write the Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should discuss the causes and effects of the event or topic at hand. Each paragraph should discuss one specific cause or effect followed by supporting evidence from your research.

Step 7: Write the Conclusion

The cause and effect essay conclusion should restate the thesis statement and provide a summary of your arguments. It should also demonstrate the relationship between the various causes and effects you have discussed.

Step 8: Proofread and Edit

The final step is to proofread and edit your essay. Ensure that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all correct and that your ideas are presented in a clear and concise manner.

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cause and effect research paper examples

Cause and Effect Essay Examples

You can order an essay from professional writers have meticulously crafted a sample essay that delves into the cause and effect relationship between air pollution on human health.

Title: The Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution is a prevalent issue that has detrimental effects on human health. This essay will explore the multiple causes and consequences of air pollution, highlighting the interconnectedness between environmental factors and public well-being.

The primary cause of air pollution is industrial emissions. Factories and power plants release harmful pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, into the atmosphere. These pollutants contribute to the formation of smog, which can be inhaled by individuals, leading to respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Furthermore, vehicular emissions also contribute significantly to air pollution, particularly in urban areas with heavy traffic congestion.

The effects of air pollution on human health are alarming. Prolonged exposure to polluted air can cause respiratory diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Studies have also linked air pollution to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, children and the elderly are more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, as their immune systems are less robust.

Moreover, air pollution has broader societal consequences. It contributes to the degradation of ecosystems, reduces crop yields, and harms biodiversity. It also poses economic burdens by increasing healthcare costs and decreasing productivity due to illnesses and absenteeism.

In conclusion, air pollution has far-reaching effects on human health and the environment. The causes, including industrial emissions and vehicular pollution, directly impact the quality of the air we breathe. The consequences, such as respiratory diseases and cardiovascular problems, highlight the urgent need for measures to mitigate and control air pollution. Efforts to reduce emissions, promote cleaner technologies, and raise public awareness are crucial steps toward safeguarding human health and preserving the environment for future generations.

A Final Perspective

In our exploration of cause and effect essays, we've covered all the essentials. We've defined what is a cause and effect essay, delved into good cause and effect essay topics, and taken a closer look at its structure.

Now, here's the deal: if you put in the time and effort to prepare, your professor will definitely notice and give you the grade you deserve. But hey, we get it! Sometimes these tasks can be confusing and eat up all your time. If that's the case, no worries! You can easily hire our professional essay writers to lend a hand and enjoy some well-deserved free time without the stress of assignments.

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cause and effect research paper examples

Cause and Effect Essay Outline: Types, Examples and Writing Tips

20 June, 2020

9 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

This is a complete guide on writing cause and effect essays. Find a link to our essay sample at the end. Let's get started!

Cause and Effect

What is a Cause and Effect Essay?

A cause and effect essay is the type of paper that the author is using to analyze the causes and effects of a particular action or event. A curriculum usually includes this type of exercise to test your ability to understand the logic of certain events or actions.

cause and effect essay

If you can see the logic behind cause and effect in the world around you, you will encounter fewer problems when writing. If not, writing this kind of paper will give you the chance to improve your skillset and your brain’s ability to reason.

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this article, the  Handmade Writing team will find out how to create an outline for your cause and effect essay – the key to successful essay writing.

Types of the Cause and Effect Essay

Before writing this kind of essay, you need to draft the structure. A good structure will result in a good paper, so it’s important to have a plan before you start. But remember , there’s no need to reinvent the wheel: just about every type of structure has already been formulated by someone.

If you are still unsure about the definition of an essay, you can take a look at our guide:  What is an Essay?

Generally speaking, there are three types of cause and effect essays. We usually differentiate them by the number of and relationships between the different causes and the effects. Let’s take a quick look at these three different cases:

1. Many causes, one effect

Cause and effect graphic organizer

This kind of essay illustrates how different causes can lead to one effect. The idea here is to try and examine a variety of causes, preferably ones that come from different fields, and prove how they contributed to a particular effect. If you are writing about World War I, for example, mention the political, cultural, and historical factors that led to the great war.

By examining a range of fundamental causes, you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge about the topic.

Here is how to structure this type of essay:

  • Introduction
  • Cause #3 (and so on…)
  • The effect of the causes

2. One cause, many effects

Cause and effect chart

This type of cause and effect essay is constructed to show the various effects of a particular event, problem, or decision. Once again, you will have to demonstrate your comprehensive knowledge and analytical mastery of the field. There is no need to persuade the reader or present your argument . When writing this kind of essay, in-depth knowledge of the problem or event’s roots will be of great benefit. If you know why it happened, it will be much easier to write about its effects.

Here is the structure for this kind of essay:

  • Effect #3 (and so on…)

3. Chain of causes and effects

Cause and effect pictures

This is the most challenging type. You need to maintain a chain of logic that demonstrates a sequence of actions and consequences, leading to the end of the chain. Although this is usually the most interesting kind of cause and effect essay, it can also be the most difficult to write.

Here is the outline structure:

  • Effect #1 = Cause #2
  • Effect #2 = Cause #3
  • Effect #3 = Cause #4 (and so on…)

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Example

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, you will find an outline for the topic “The causes of obesity” (Type 1) :

Cause and effect examples

As you can see, we used a blended strategy here. When writing about the ever-increasing consumption of unhealthy food, it is logical to talk about the marketing strategies that encourage people to buy fast food. If you are discussing fitness trainers, it is important to mention that people need to be checked by a doctor more often, etc.

In case you face some issues with writing your Cause and Effect essay, you can always count on our Essay Writers !

How do I start writing once I have drafted the structure?

If you start by structuring each paragraph and collecting suitable examples, the writing process will be much simpler. The final essay might not come up as a classic five paragraph essay – it all depends on the cause-effect chain and the number of statements of your essay.

Five paragraph essay graphic organizer

In the Introduction, try to give the reader a general idea of what the cause and effect essay will contain. For an experienced reader, a thesis statement will be an indication that you know what you are writing about. It is also important to emphasize how and why this problem is relevant to modern life. If you ever need to write about the Caribbean crisis, for instance, state that the effects of the Cold War are still apparent in contemporary global politics. 

Related Post: How to write an Essay introduction | How to write a Thesis statement

In the Body, provide plenty of details about what causes led to the effects. Once again, if you have already assembled all the causes and effects with their relevant examples when writing your plan, you shouldn’t have any problems. But, there are some things to which you must pay particular attention. To begin with, try to make each paragraph the same length: it looks better visually. Then, try to avoid weak or unconvincing causes. This is a common mistake, and the reader will quickly realize that you are just trying to write enough characters to reach the required word count.

Moreover, you need to make sure that your causes are actually linked to their effects. This is particularly important when you write a “chained” cause and effect essay (type 3) . You need to be able to demonstrate that each cause was actually relevant to the final result. As I mentioned before, writing the Body without preparing a thorough and logical outline is often an omission.

The Conclusion must be a summary of the thesis statement that you proposed in the Introduction. An effective Conclusion means that you have a well-developed understanding of the subject. Notably, writing the Conclusion can be one of the most challenging parts of this kind of project. You typically write the Conclusion once you have finished the Body, but in practice, you will sometimes find that a well-written conclusion will reveal a few mistakes of logic in the body!

Cause and Effect Essay Sample

Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own cause and effect essay. Link: Cause and effect essay sample: Advertising ethic issues .

Tips and Common Mistakes from Our Expert Writers

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Check out Handmadewriting paper writing Guide to learn more about academic writing!

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Writing Cause and Effect Papers

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  • Definitions of Writing Terms
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  • Poetry: Meter and Related Topics
  • Revising and Editing
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TIP Sheet WRITING CAUSE AND EFFECT PAPERS

Cause and effect papers use analysis to examine the reasons for and the outcomes of situations. They are an attempt to discover either the origins of something, such as an event or a decision, the effects or results that can be properly attributed to it, or both.

Cause and effect papers answer questions like the following ("A" is your topic):

Why did A happen? (discovering the causes of A) What happened as a result of A? (discovering the effects of A) What might happen as a result of A? ( predicting further effects of A)

You may write a cause and effect paper primarily about causes, primarily about effects, or a combination of both.

Discovering causes Before you begin writing or even researching, make a list of all the causes of this event you already know about. Ask questions like these: Why did this happen? What preconditions existed? Were the results foreseen? Could they have been foreseen? Then do some preliminary research, using what you already know to guide the direction of your reading. Change or add to your original list of causes to reflect new information gathered from your research. Done in depth, this kind of analysis is likely to uncover an almost unlimited chain of linked causes, far more than you can effectively address in one paper. Identify one to three of them as more important (or interesting, or overlooked) than the others. Then, acknowledging that multiple causes exist, limit your discussion to those most important (or interesting, or overlooked).

As you brainstorm possible causes, do not fall into the trap of thinking that, simply because one event followed another, that there was necessarily a causal relationship. (The mere fact that four youths were seen running away from the scene of an assault does not itself logically implicate them in the assault; they could have been running for help, chasing down the alleged criminal, or simply jogging by.)

Also, do not confuse a necessary precondition for a cause: A large number of costumed students milling about in downtown Chico on Halloween night may be a necessary precondition for a riot, but it is not, in itself, the cause of a riot.

As you write, use the transitions, or signal words, that tell readers you are demonstrating causal relationships between your ideas:

Led to Because Cause(s) Reasons(s) Explanation(s) So

The following example names the cause first, followed by the effect:

Because the technology program received independent funding from grants and federal Title I funds, it was relatively untouched by the school district's own budget cuts.

Discovering effects If you choose to write about effects, first brainstorm: Make a list of all the effects you know about, and use this list to direct your research to learn more. Have the effects had great impact on history, culture, or your own life? Or have they had a small impact with few results? Again, be sure you can demonstrate the causal relationship.

Just as there are usually several causes for anything, there are a multitude of effects that proceed from any one cause. Don't try to address a long chain of effects in one paper. Acknowledge that many effects of various kinds exist, and then limit your discussion to the most important ones.

Transition words that suggest to the reader that you are discussing effects include the following:

Therefore As a result Consequently Thus Then Thanks to

The following statement names a cause first, and then an effect:

Employees at companies that offer flexible work schedules are more productive and file fewer claims for mental-health benefits; consequently, the number of companies offering flextime is on the rise.

(As a matter of argument, you could claim that the example above shows two linked effects of the flextime policy: First, it caused employees to be more productive; and second, their enhanced productivity, in turn, caused more companies to adopt flextime. Linked causes and effects are typical of this type of paper.)

Predicting results Cause and effect papers often make predictions based on known facts, trends, and developments. Prediction moves from the known and observable into the unknown and possible. Prediction tries to answer questions like these: What are the possible or likely consequences? Are these results likely to have great impact on my life or the lives of others? Are these results likely to have great impact on shaping public policy, society, or history? What preconditions would have to exist before my predictions could come about?

If you choose to make predictions, as is common, for example, in political science, education, science, and philosophy, be sure to use credible evidence and strong reasoning. If you do not handle predictions with finesse and ground them in established fact, they are apt to appear fantastic and unbelievable.

Avoid overstating your case; use language couched in an appropriate degree of uncertainty ( might, may well be, is likely to, can expect, is entirely possible ). Signal words and verb forms such as these suggest to the reader that you are making the move from observation to prediction:

If When After As soon as Likely that Might/May Can expect Possible that

Here is a prediction using two of the above transitions:

If the governor fails to clearly declare his position and take a leadership role in reforming the state's workers' compensation system, voters are likely to take matters into their own hands and call for a statewide referendum.

A cause and effect paper relies heavily on your analysis of the situation. Although there are many ways to interpret any situation and the effects that it has produced, in the end the convincing power of your paper depends on specific evidence, clear and convincing language, and logical development.

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10.8 Cause and Effect

Learning objectives.

  • Determine the purpose and structure of cause and effect in writing.
  • Understand how to write a cause-and-effect essay.

The Purpose of Cause and Effect in Writing

It is often considered human nature to ask, “why?” and “how?” We want to know how our child got sick so we can better prevent it from happening in the future, or why our colleague a pay raise because we want one as well. We want to know how much money we will save over the long term if we buy a hybrid car. These examples identify only a few of the relationships we think about in our lives, but each shows the importance of understanding cause and effect.

A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine how various phenomena relate in terms of origins and results. Sometimes the connection between cause and effect is clear, but often determining the exact relationship between the two is very difficult. For example, the following effects of a cold may be easily identifiable: a sore throat, runny nose, and a cough. But determining the cause of the sickness can be far more difficult. A number of causes are possible, and to complicate matters, these possible causes could have combined to cause the sickness. That is, more than one cause may be responsible for any given effect. Therefore, cause-and-effect discussions are often complicated and frequently lead to debates and arguments.

Use the complex nature of cause and effect to your advantage. Often it is not necessary, or even possible, to find the exact cause of an event or to name the exact effect. So, when formulating a thesis, you can claim one of a number of causes or effects to be the primary, or main, cause or effect. As soon as you claim that one cause or one effect is more crucial than the others, you have developed a thesis.

Consider the causes and effects in the following thesis statements. List a cause and effect for each one on your own sheet of paper.

  • The growing childhood obesity epidemic is a result of technology.
  • Much of the wildlife is dying because of the oil spill.
  • The town continued programs that it could no longer afford, so it went bankrupt.
  • More young people became politically active as use of the Internet spread throughout society.
  • While many experts believed the rise in violence was due to the poor economy, it was really due to the summer-long heat wave.

Write three cause-and-effect thesis statements of your own for each of the following five broad topics.

  • Health and nutrition

The Structure of a Cause-and-Effect Essay

The cause-and-effect essay opens with a general introduction to the topic, which then leads to a thesis that states the main cause, main effect, or various causes and effects of a condition or event.

The cause-and-effect essay can be organized in one of the following two primary ways:

  • Start with the cause and then talk about the effects.
  • Start with the effect and then talk about the causes.

For example, if your essay were on childhood obesity, you could start by talking about the effect of childhood obesity and then discuss the cause or you could start the same essay by talking about the cause of childhood obesity and then move to the effect.

Regardless of which structure you choose, be sure to explain each element of the essay fully and completely. Explaining complex relationships requires the full use of evidence, such as scientific studies, expert testimony, statistics, and anecdotes.

Because cause-and-effect essays determine how phenomena are linked, they make frequent use of certain words and phrases that denote such linkage. See Table 10.4 “Phrases of Causation” for examples of such terms.

Table 10.4 Phrases of Causation

The conclusion should wrap up the discussion and reinforce the thesis, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of the relationship that was analyzed.

Be careful of resorting to empty speculation. In writing, speculation amounts to unsubstantiated guessing. Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments due to the complex nature of finding links between phenomena. Be sure to have clear evidence to support the claims that you make.

Look at some of the cause-and-effect relationships from Note 10.83 “Exercise 2” . Outline the links you listed. Outline one using a cause-then-effect structure. Outline the other using the effect-then-cause structure.

Writing a Cause-and-Effect Essay

Choose an event or condition that you think has an interesting cause-and-effect relationship. Introduce your topic in an engaging way. End your introduction with a thesis that states the main cause, the main effect, or both.

Organize your essay by starting with either the cause-then-effect structure or the effect-then-cause structure. Within each section, you should clearly explain and support the causes and effects using a full range of evidence. If you are writing about multiple causes or multiple effects, you may choose to sequence either in terms of order of importance. In other words, order the causes from least to most important (or vice versa), or order the effects from least important to most important (or vice versa).

Use the phrases of causation when trying to forge connections between various events or conditions. This will help organize your ideas and orient the reader. End your essay with a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample cause-and-effect essay.

Choose one of the ideas you outlined in Note 10.85 “Exercise 3” and write a full cause-and-effect essay. Be sure to include an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, strong evidence and examples, and a thoughtful conclusion.

Key Takeaways

  • The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine how various phenomena are related.
  • The thesis states what the writer sees as the main cause, main effect, or various causes and effects of a condition or event.

The cause-and-effect essay can be organized in one of these two primary ways:

  • Start with the cause and then talk about the effect.
  • Start with the effect and then talk about the cause.
  • Strong evidence is particularly important in the cause-and-effect essay due to the complexity of determining connections between phenomena.
  • Phrases of causation are helpful in signaling links between various elements in the essay.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

cause and effect research paper examples

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay: Full Guide

cause and effect research paper examples

Ever wondered how things are connected in our world? Think of the butterfly effect—where a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's a quirky idea, but it shows how events are intertwined. Writing a cause and effect essay is like unraveling these connections, connecting the dots to reveal how things influence each other and shape our experiences.

In this guide, experts from our paper writing service will explore the concept of causality and share practical tips for creating great cause and effect essays. These essays won't just provide information—they'll leave a lasting impression on your readers.

What Is a Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay is a form of writing that aims to explore and explain the relationships between different events, actions, or circumstances. The central idea is to investigate why certain things happen (causes) and what results from those occurrences (effects). It's like peeling back the layers to reveal the interconnectedness of events, understanding the domino effect in the narrative of life.

What is a Cause and Effect Essay

Here's a breakdown of the key components:

  • Causes: These are the factors or events that initiate a particular situation. They are the reasons behind why something occurs. For instance, if you're exploring the cause of obesity, factors like unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity could be identified as causes.
  • Effects: The effects are the outcomes or consequences that result from the identified causes. Following the obesity example, effects could include health issues, reduced quality of life, or increased healthcare costs.
  • Connection: The heart of a cause and effect essay lies in demonstrating the link between causes and effects. It's not just about listing events but explaining how one event leads to another in a logical and coherent manner.

When crafting such an essay, you're essentially acting as a storyteller and investigator rolled into one. Your goal is to guide the reader through the web of interconnected events, providing insights into the 'why' and 'what happens next.'

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay with Easy Steps

Understanding how to write a cause and effect essay is like putting together a puzzle. Here are ten simple steps to help you write an engaging essay that looks into how things are connected.

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay with Easy Steps

1. Select a Specific Topic

  • Choose a cause and effect relationship that sparks your interest.
  • Ensure your topic is focused and manageable for a thorough exploration.

2. Explore Causal Links

  • Conduct thorough research to uncover hidden connections and supporting evidence.
  • Look beyond the obvious to identify intricate relationships between causes and effects.

3. Craft a Clear Thesis Statement

  • Develop a precise thesis that clearly articulates the main cause and the resulting effects.
  • Your thesis serves as the roadmap for your essay, guiding readers through your analysis.

4. Organize Chronologically or by Significance

  • Structure your essay in a logical order, either chronologically or by the significance of events.
  • This organization enhances clarity and helps readers follow the cause-and-effect progression.

5. Utilize Transitional Phrases

  • Employ transition words and phrases to ensure seamless flow between causes and effects.
  • Clear transitions enhance readability and strengthen the coherence of your essay.

6. Support Arguments with Credible Evidence

  • Back up your claims with relevant data, examples, and statistics.
  • Strong evidence adds credibility to your analysis and reinforces the cause-and-effect relationships you present.

7. Illustrate Chain Reactions

  • Show how a single cause can trigger a chain of effects, and vice versa.
  • Illustrate the ripple effects to emphasize the complexity of the relationships.

8. Analyze Root Causes

  • Move beyond surface-level explanations and explore the underlying factors contributing to the cause-and-effect scenario.
  • Deep analysis adds depth and nuance to your essay.

9. Consider Alternative Causes

  • Address potential counterarguments to showcase a comprehensive understanding.
  • Acknowledging alternative causes strengthens your essay's overall credibility.

10. Conclude with Impact

  • Summarize key points and emphasize the broader significance of your analysis.
  • Leave your readers with a thought-provoking conclusion that ties together the cause-and-effect relationships explored in your essay.

Cause and Effect Essay Structure Types

When setting up your essay, you can choose from different structures to make it organized. Let's look at two common types of cause and effect essay structures:

Cause and Effect Essay Structure Types

  • Block Structure:

The block structure is a clear and organized way to present causes and effects in your essay. Here, you dedicate one section to discussing all the causes, covering multiple causes within each category. After that, you have another section to explore all the effects. This separation makes your ideas easy to understand.

Using the block structure allows you to dive deep into each category, thoroughly looking at causes and effects separately. It's handy when you want to give a detailed analysis and show the importance of each part of the causal relationship. This way, readers can fully grasp each element before moving on.

  • Chain Structure:

On the other hand, the chain structure focuses on how events are connected and create ripple effects. It highlights how one cause leads to a specific effect, and that effect becomes the cause of more effects in an ongoing chain. This method is potent for illustrating the complexity of causal relationships.

The chain structure works well when you want to emphasize the sequence of events or deal with intricate cause-and-effect scenarios. It allows you to show how actions trigger a series of reactions, displaying the domino effect that leads to a specific outcome.

Regardless of the structural style you choose, if you require assistance with your academic paper, reach out to us with your ' write my paper for me ' request. Our experienced team is ready to tailor your paper to your specific requirements and ensure its excellence.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Creating an effective cause and effect essay begins with a well-structured outline. This roadmap helps you organize your thoughts, maintain a logical flow, and ensure that your essay effectively conveys the causal relationships between events. Below, we'll outline the key components of the essay along with examples:

I. Introduction

  • Hook: Start with an engaging statement or fact. Example: 'Did you know that stress can significantly impact your overall health?'
  • Background Information: Provide context for your topic. Example: 'In today's fast-paced world, stress has become an increasingly prevalent issue.'
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main cause and its corresponding effects. Example: 'This essay will explore the causes of stress and their profound negative effects on physical and mental health.'

II. Body Paragraphs

  • Topic Sentence: Introduce the first cause you'll discuss. Example: 'One major cause of stress is heavy workload.'
  • Supporting Details: Provide evidence and examples to support the cause. Example: 'For instance, individuals juggling multiple job responsibilities and tight deadlines often experience heightened stress levels.'
  • Transition: Link to the next cause or move on to the effects.
  • Topic Sentence: Introduce the first effect. Example: 'The effects of chronic stress on physical health can be devastating.'
  • Supporting Details: Present data or examples illustrating the impact. Example: 'Studies have shown that prolonged stress can lead to cardiovascular problems, including hypertension and heart disease.'
  • Transition: Connect to the next effect or cause.

C. Causes (Continued)

  • Topic Sentence: Introduce the next cause in a new cause and effect paragraph. Example: 'Another significant cause of stress is financial strain.'
  • Supporting Details: Explain how this cause manifests and its implications. Example: 'Financial instability often results in anxiety, as individuals worry about bills, debts, and their financial future.'
  • Transition: Prepare to discuss the corresponding effects.

D. Effects (Continued)

  • Topic Sentence: Discuss the effects related to financial strain. Example: 'The psychological effects of financial stress can be profound.'
  • Supporting Details: Offer real-life examples or psychological insights. Example: 'Depression and anxiety are common consequences of constant financial worries, affecting both mental well-being and daily life.'

III. Conclusion

  • Restate Thesis: Summarize the main cause and effects. Example: 'In summary, the heavy workload and financial strain can lead to stress, impacting both physical and mental health.'
  • Closing Thoughts: Reflect on the broader significance of your analysis. Example: 'Understanding these causal relationships emphasizes the importance of stress management and financial planning in maintaining a balanced and healthy life.'

Cause and Effect Essay Examples

To help you grasp cause and effect essay writing with clarity, we have prepared two distinct essay examples that will guide you through the intricacies of both block and chain structures. Additionally, should you ever find yourself requiring assistance with academic writing or descriptive essays examples , simply send us your ' write my research paper ' request. Our expert writers are here to provide the support you need!

Why Wait? Get Your Stellar Cause and Effect Essay Now!

Don't procrastinate – order yours today and let our wordsmiths create an essay that's more captivating than a Netflix series cliffhanger!

Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Choosing a good topic starts with recognizing cause and effect key words. Here are 10 interesting topics that let you dig into fascinating connections and their important consequences:

  • The Relationship Between Lack of Exercise and Mental Health in Older Adults
  • Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Workplace Productivity
  • The Impact of Cyberbullying on Adolescents' Emotional Well-being
  • Influence of Social Media Advertising on Consumer Purchasing Decisions
  • Consequences of Oil Spills on Coastal Ecosystems
  • How Noise Pollution Affects Concentration and Academic Performance in Schools
  • The Connection Between Fast-Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity
  • Effects of Urbanization on Water Quality in Local Rivers
  • The Relationship Between Indoor Plants and Air Quality in Homes
  • Impact of Plastic Pollution on Wildlife in Urban Environments
  • The Effect of Meditation on Stress Reduction in College Students
  • How Increased Screen Time Affects Teenagers' Attention Span
  • The Impact of Single-Use Plastics on Marine Microorganisms
  • The Relationship Between Smartphone Use and Sleep Quality in Adults
  • Effects of High-Fructose Corn Syrup on Metabolic Health
  • The Consequences of Deforestation on Local Biodiversity
  • Influence of Social Media Comparison on Body Dissatisfaction in Adolescents
  • The Connection Between Air Pollution and Respiratory Health in Urban Areas
  • Effects of Excessive Gaming on Academic Performance in High School Students
  • The Impact of Fast Food Consumption on Childhood Obesity Rates

Final Words

Knowing what a cause and effect essay is and how to write it helps you uncover connections in different topics. With this guide, you can share your ideas in a clear and impactful way.

Meanwhile, if you're in need of a reaction paper example , rest assured we have you covered as well. So, seize this opportunity, put your thoughts on paper logically, and witness your essays leaving a lasting and influential mark.

Let's Turn Those 'What Ifs' into 'A+ Ifs'!

Don't procrastinate when you can cause an effect on your grades right now!

Related Articles

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Cause and Effect in Composition

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition , cause and effect is a method of paragraph or essay development in which a writer analyzes the reasons for—and/or the consequences of—an action, event, or decision.

A cause-and-effect paragraph or essay can be organized in various ways. For instance, causes and/or effects can be arranged in either chronological order or reverse chronological order. Alternatively, points can be presented in terms of emphasis , from least important to most important, or vice versa.

Examples and Observations

  • "If you prove the cause , you at once prove the effect ; and conversely nothing can exist without its cause." (Aristotle, Rhetoric )
  • Immediate Causes and Ultimate Causes "Determining causes and effects is usually thought-provoking and quite complex. One reason for this is that there are two types of causes: immediate causes , which are readily apparent because they are closest to the effect, and ultimate causes , which, being somewhat removed, are not so apparent and may perhaps even be hidden. Furthermore, ultimate causes may bring about effects which themselves become immediate causes, thus creating a causal chain . For example, consider the following causal chain: Sally, a computer salesperson, prepared extensively for a meeting with a client (ultimate cause), impressed the client (immediate cause), and made a very large sale (effect). The chain did not stop there: the large sale caused her to be promoted by her employer (effect)." (Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, Models for Writers , 6th ed. St. Martin's Press, 1998)
  • Composing a Cause/Effect Essay "For all its conceptual complexity, a cause/effect essay can be organized quite simply. The introduction generally presents the subject(s) and states the purpose of the analysis in a clear thesis . The body of the paper then explores all relevant causes and/or effects, typically progressing from least to most influential or from most to least influential. Finally, the concluding section summarizes the various cause/effect relationships established in the body of the paper and clearly states the conclusions that can be drawn from those relationships." (Kim Flachmann, Michael Flachmann, Kathryn Benander, and Cheryl Smith, The Brief Prose Reader . Prentice Hall, 2003)
  • Causes of Child Obesity "Many of today's kids are engaged in sedentary pursuits made possible by a level of technology unthinkable as recently as 25 to 30 years ago. Computer, video, and other virtual games, the ready availability of feature films and games on DVD, plus high-tech advancements in music-listening technology have come down into the range of affordability for parents and even for the kids themselves. These passive pursuits have produced a downside of reduced physical activity for the kids, often with the explicit or implicit consent of the parents. . . . "Other fairly recent developments have also contributed to the alarming rise in child obesity rates. Fast food outlets offering consumables that are both low in price and low in nutritional content have exploded all over the American landscape since the 1960s, especially in suburban areas close to major highway interchanges. Kids on their lunch breaks or after school often congregate in these fast food outlets, consuming food and soft drinks that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat. Many parents, themselves, frequently take their children to these fast food places, thus setting an example the kids can find justification to emulate." (MacKie Shilstone, Mackie Shilstone's Body Plan for Kids . Basic Health Publications, 2009)
  • Cause and Effect in Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" "'A Modest Proposal' is a brilliant example of the use of non-argumentative devices of rhetorical persuasion . The whole essay, of course, rests broadly upon the argument of cause and effect : these causes have produced this situation in Ireland, and this proposal will result in these effects in Ireland. But Swift, within the general framework of this argument, does not employ specific argumentative forms in this essay. The projector chooses rather to assert his reasons and then to amass them by way of proof ." (Charles A. Beaumont, Swift's Classical Rhetoric . Univ. of Georgia Press, 1961)
  • Effects of Automobiles "I worry about the private automobile. It is a dirty, noisy, wasteful, and lonely means of travel. It pollutes the air, ruins the safety and sociability of the street, and exercises upon the individual a discipline which takes away far more freedom than it gives him. It causes an enormous amount of land to be unnecessarily abstracted from nature and from plant life and to become devoid of any natural function. It explodes cities, grievously impairs the whole institution of neighborliness, fragmentizes and destroys communities. It has already spelled the end of our cities as real cultural and social communities, and has made impossible the construction of any others in their place. Together with the airplane, it has crowded out other, more civilized and more convenient means of transport, leaving older people, infirm people, poor people and children in a worse situation than they were a hundred years ago." (George F. Kennan, Democracy and the Student Left , 1968)
  • Examples and Effects of Entropy "Because of its unnerving irreversibility, entropy has been called the arrow of time. We all understand this instinctively. Children's rooms, left on their own, tend to get messy, not neat. Wood rots, metal rusts, people wrinkle and flowers wither. Even mountains wear down; even the nuclei of atoms decay. In the city we see entropy in the rundown subways and worn-out sidewalks and torn-down buildings, in the increasing disorder of our lives. We know, without asking, what is old. If we were suddenly to see the paint jump back on an old building, we would know that something was wrong. If we saw an egg unscramble itself and jump back into its shell, we would laugh in the same way we laugh as a movie run backward." (K.C. Cole, "The Arrow of Time." The New York Times , March 18, 1982)
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Sophomore Research: Cause & Effect

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Cause and Effect

What is cause and effect.

Cause and effect is something we encounter everyday, but rarely think about in concrete terms...

In the most basic sense, cause and effect helps us explain 2 things...

WHAT   happened (the effect) and   WHY   it happened (the cause)!

Topic : Test Grades

Effect  : Student fails a test.

Causes  : Did not study enough, Did not study the right things, waited too long to begin studying, stayed out too late the night before.

Topic : Traffic Accidents

Effect  : Number of accidents increases

Causes  : Age limit for drivers lowered, Maximum age for drivers raised, amount of training required decreased, legal limit for DUI increased, speed limit increase, number of cars on road increased.

(Western Illinois University)

Another example:

Topic : Teen Driver Accidents

Causes : Teens have less experience driving and avoiding other bad drivers than adults.   Teens have a high incidence of "distracted driving" (ex. texting while driving, putting on making, talking)   Teens have a high incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other substances. 

Effects : Higher insurance costs for teen drivers.   Teens have a high incidence of injury or mortality.

(Glendale Community College)

More Cause and Effect Topics 

Getting Started with Your Cause / Effect Research Paper

Step 1 : Choose to Examine the Causes or the Effects of an event or topic.

Unless your teacher has told you otherwise, focus on just causes OR effects, not both.

Causes Paper

Focus on a single event. Think about why the event occurred.

Step 2 : Brainstorm for your three main points.

Write down as many ideas as you can about why the event occurred - all contributing factions.

Then, group ideas into three main points. keep the best ideas that fall into one of the three main points and drop the rest.

Step 3 : Develop a Thesis Statement

Create a thesis statement that mentions a "causes-type" word and the three main causes. 

A simple example format : The event is caused by 1, 2, and 3.     

Effects Paper

Focus on a single event.  Think about what happened (outcomes) as a result of the event.

Step 2 :  Brainstorm for your three main points

Write down as many ideas as you can about the results of the event - all the outcomes.

Create a thesis statement that mentions an "effects-type" word and the three main effects.

A simple example format : The effects of the event are 1, 2, and 3.

St. Petersburg College

Organizing a Cause or Effect Paper

Introduction Paragraph :  Attention grabber is the first sentence of the introduction. Lead from a general discussion of the topic to the main point of the paper, the thesis statement sentence. Thesis statement is the last sentence of the introduction paragraph.

Thesis Statement

Body Paragraphs :  Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that at least alludes to the main point of that paragraph. Then follow up with concrete and specific details to provide “evidence” and support the point.

Body Paragraph 1  

Topic Sentence for Point 1

     Detail 1

     Detail 2

Body Paragraph 2

Topic Sentence for Point 2

Body Paragraph 3

Topic Sentence for Point 3

Conclusion Paragraph :  Conclude with a rewording of the thesis statement and place as the first sentence of the conclusion paragraph. Move from that specific point of the essay out to a general discussion of the topic. Look to the introduction for ideas on what to include in the conclusion.

Signal Transitions for Cause/Effect

cause and effect research paper examples

As you write, use the transitions, or signal words, that tell readers you are demonstrating causal relationships between your ideas:

  • Explanation(s)

Transition words that suggest to the reader that you are discussing effects include the following:

  • As a result
  • Consequently

A cause and effect paper relies heavily on your analysis of the situation. Although there are many ways to interpret any situation and the effects that it has produced, in the end the convincing power of your paper depends on specific evidence, clear and convincing language, and logical development.         (Butte College)

Transitions Handout - UNC-CH Writing Center

Cause and Effect Ideas by Category

A Research Guide for Students

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4.3: Cause and Effect

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The Purpose of Cause and Effect in Writing

It is often considered human nature to ask, “why?” and “how?” We want to know how our child got sick so we can better prevent it from happening in the future, or why our colleague received a pay raise because we want one as well. We want to know how much money we will save over the long term if we buy a hybrid car. These examples identify only a few of the relationships we think about in our lives, but each shows the importance of understanding cause and effect.

A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine how various phenomena relate in terms of origins and results. Sometimes the connection between cause and effect is clear, but often determining the exact relationship between the two is very difficult. For example, the following effects of a cold may be easily identifiable: a sore throat, runny nose, and a cough. But determining the cause of the sickness can be far more difficult. A number of causes are possible, and to complicate matters, these possible causes could have combined to cause the sickness. That is, more than one cause may be responsible for any given effect. Therefore, cause-and-effect discussions are often complicated and frequently lead to debates and arguments. Indeed, you can use the complex nature of cause and effect to your advantage. Often it is not necessary, or even possible, to find the exact cause of an event or to name the exact effect. So, when formulating a thesis, you can claim one of a number of causes or effects to be the primary, or main, cause or effect. As soon as you claim that one cause or one effect is more crucial than the others, you have developed a thesis.

Consider the causes and effects in the following thesis statements. List a cause and effect for each one on your own sheet of paper.

  • The growing childhood obesity epidemic is a result of technology.
  • Much of the wildlife is dying because of the oil spill.
  • The town continued programs that it could no longer afford, so it went bankrupt.
  • More young people became politically active as use of the Internet spread throughout society.
  • While many experts believed the rise in violence was due to the poor economy, it was really due to the summer-long heat wave.

Write three cause-and-effect thesis statements of your own for each of the following five broad topics.

  • Health and nutrition

The Structure of a Cause-and-Effect Essay

The cause-and-effect essay opens with a general introduction to the topic, which then leads to a thesis that states the main cause, main effect, or various causes and effects of a condition or event.

The cause-and-effect essay can be organized in one of the following two primary ways:

  • Start with the cause and then talk about the effects.
  • Start with the effect and then talk about the causes.

For example, if your essay were on childhood obesity, you could start by talking about the effect of childhood obesity and then discuss the cause, or you could start the same essay by talking about the cause of childhood obesity and then move to the effect.

Regardless of which structure you choose, be sure to explain each element of the essay fully and completely. Explaining complex relationships requires the full use of evidence, such as scientific studies, expert testimony, statistics, and anecdotes. Be careful of resorting to empty speculation. In writing, speculation amounts to unsubstantiated guessing. Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments due to the complex nature of finding links between phenomena. Be sure to have clear evidence to support the claims that you make.

Because cause-and-effect essays determine how phenomena are linked, they make frequent use of certain words and phrases that denote such linkage. See Table of Phrases of Causation for examples of such terms.

The conclusion should wrap up the discussion and reinforce the thesis, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of the relationship that was analyzed.

Look at some of the cause-and-effect relationships from Exercise 2. Outline the links you listed. Outline one using a cause-then-effect structure. Outline the other using the effect-then-cause structure.

Choose a local issue or topic that concerns you. Examine both the causes and effects of this issue or topic, and write a paragraph that outlines these using the components of a cause and effect essay.

Contributors and Attributions  

Adapted from  Successful College Composition (Crowther et al.) . Sourced from  LibreTexts , licensed under  CC BY-NC-SA  .

Adapted from  Let's Get Writing (Browning, DeVries, Boylan, Kurtz and Burton) . Sourced from  LibreTexts , licensed under  CC BY-NC-SA  .

Cause And Effect Essay Guide

Cause And Effect Essay Outline

Caleb S.

How to Create a Cause and Effect Outline - An Easy Guide

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In academic paper writing, students often tackle diverse essay types, including cause and effect essays. 

Cause and effect essays act as a gauge for how well students can use logical reasoning to understand the outcomes of different actions.

However, the most crucial element while writing this type of essay is to create an outline. 

Many students skip outlining, thinking it's time-consuming. While creating a cause and effect paper outline does take time, it actually saves more time during writing. Following a detailed plan makes the writing process easier, ensuring you don't miss key details and can draft a logical, organized essay. 

Follow the steps given in this blog for a perfect outline.

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  • 1. What is a Cause and Effect Essay Outline?
  • 2. Cause and Effect Essay Outline Format
  • 3. How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay Outline?
  • 4. Cause and Effect Essay Outline Examples

What is a Cause and Effect Essay Outline?

A cause and effect essay outline is a detailed plan of action that students follow throughout the writing process. It is the key factor in writing a successful essay as it provides help in the following ways:

  • It is used to organize thoughts logically.
  • It makes the writing process easier and saves enough time to proofread.
  • It helps the writer concentrate on the main points that need to be described in the essay.

It is not required to write full sentences at this step. Instead, state the ideas and structure them in the right order.

Furthermore, it is important to choose a unique topic before developing an outline. Check out our compiled list of good  cause and effect essay topics  to grab the reader’s interest.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Format

Cause and effect essay outline generally follows a five-paragraph format. However, the number of body paragraphs may vary according to the topic and scope of the essay. Typically, the cause and effect essay layout contains an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Here is the complete outline format structure of a cause and effect writing:

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How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay Outline?

Follow the steps below to write an effective cause and effect essay outline.

  • Introduction
  • Body paragraphs
  • Antithesis paragraph

The following is a detailed description of the steps to writing an outline.

Step 1: Cause and Effect Essay Introduction

The introduction is the first section written to give an idea of what your essay is about. It provides background information about the topic under discussion. Similarly, it also discusses the issues and focus of the essay’s main argument, along with its purpose.

Thus, try to give a general idea to the reader with the help of a  thesis statement . It is crucial to emphasize how and why the chosen event is relevant to modern life.

For example, if you are writing about the Cold War, state how it is still apparent in global politics.

Furthermore, the  essay introduction  paragraph includes the following elements.

Start With an Attention Grabber

Start your essay with a relevant, attention-grabbing hook statement. It can be in the form of a sentence, quote, anecdote, rhetorical question, or fact. The primary purpose of such a hook is to attract the audience at the beginning of the paper.

Basic Background Information

Mention some background information on the topic to get a clear picture. It will help readers understand the event and connect with the major argument. Similarly, this element is also used to understand the cause and effect before you start writing.

Thesis Statement

It is the central element while writing an introduction. Its absence will indicate that the essay lacks a focus. It is a statement of 1-2 sentences that briefly describes the major argument of the essay.

Moreover, a writer needs to discuss this idea through all the body paragraphs. Thus, make sure to craft a strong thesis statement that correlates with the outline.

Step 2: Cause and Effect Essay Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs provide enough details and facts about the causes that led to the effects.

  • Begin with  topic sentences  that indicate the first cause or effect of your topic. Also, brainstorm to describe their importance.
  • Each paragraph should discuss a single cause and a single effect. Furthermore, the information must be organized in chronological or reverse order.
  • Moreover, it is better to start the body paragraphs by describing causes and presenting the effects later. Analyze both the elements by explaining how and why an effect influenced the events or actions. Make sure that the content relates to the thesis statement and the overall topic.
  • Use  transitional words  to connect the ideas and give relevant examples. Most writers made a common mistake of adding weak and unconvincing causes to reach the word count. As a result, it affects the essay’s credibility.
  • Discuss the below elements while writing the body of your cause and effect essay.

Description of the Cause

This part requires the writer to explain the current situation clearly. It will help the reader to understand the primary argument. Thus, it is important to describe the situation in a way that prepares the reader for effect.

For example, if you are writing about the loss of privacy, that will lead to individual freedom. The focus should be on the technologies that affect freedom.

Description of the Effect

It explains to the reader the logical steps that move from cause to effect. It focuses on explaining what the multiple effects are and how we move from cause to effect.

Following the above example, the writer will explain the connection between privacy and freedom.

Explain the Cause and Effect Relationship

Here, a writer must discuss the importance of the findings. It is used to describe the short and long-term results of the effects. Also, suggest the recommendations to tackle the situation along with future prospects.

Step 3: Cause and Effect Essay Antithesis Paragraph

This paragraph will discuss the other side of the issue by identifying the major causes and effects. Also, explain the causes behind choosing a topic and how it will be relevant to modern life. 

This way, you can show the logic behind the occurrence of the two variables and their possible causes and effects.

Step 4: Cause and Effect Essay Conclusion

The conclusion paragraph aims to provide a brief summary of your essay. Thus, it should leave the audience with the feeling of completeness and make a final emphasis on the major ideas.

This section requires the writer to show how their perspective of the issue has changed by the following analysis. Also, it should further describe the positive and negative effects of the situation.

The conclusion includes the elements discussed below:

Restate the Thesis Statement

Write a few sentences that connect the body paragraphs with the thesis statement. It must also indicate how this statement has helped in proving the main argument of the essay.

Remind the Audience about the Main Points

Here you describe your general outline in strong and precise sentences. Avoid adding any new information. In case you are writing about a major event that influenced the world, such as global warming.

You should write a call to action and suggest what necessary steps need to be taken to overcome the issue.

Draft a Concluding Sentence

Like a convincing introduction; the conclusion should be catchy and compelling as well. Thus, pay attention to this section while writing a college or university essay.

Describe the research outcomes, along with the importance of the essay’s arguments.

Lastly, check out the examples available online. Consider the structure and vocabulary used by most authors to write a cause and effect essay conclusion.

Refer to the example below to better understand writing a cause and effect essay.

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay Outline – Example

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Examples

Below are the cause and effect outline examples and samples for you to understand better.

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Template

5 Paragraph Cause and Effect Essay Outline

MLA Format Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Cause and Effect Essay Outline Sample

Cause and Effect Essay Outline on Divorce

Cause and Effect Essay Outline on Global Warming

Smoking Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Obesity Cause and Effect Essay Outline

Cause and Effect Essay Outline for College Students

Cause and Effect Essay Formal Outline

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To Sum it Up! This ultimate writing guide will help you write a perfect cause and effect paper outline.

Nevertheless, not everyone can develop a cause-and-effect chain relationship between variables. Therefore, instead of risking your grades, it is better to seek professional help.

MyPerfectWords.com stands as a reputable and professional writing service , poised to support you in your academic writing tasks. In addition to our core writing services, our essay writer service offers a range of free services, including plagiarism reports, editing, and revisions. 

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Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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Cause and effect essays.

  • Cause and Effect

Various factors cause air pollution. For instance, excessive burning of substances such as combustion of fossil fuel contributes to air pollution. Apart from that, industrial emissions also contribute to the release of pollutants into the air thereby causing air pollution. Smoke that is released from chimneys, vehicles, and even factories...

Global warming is the phenomenon through which the temperature of the earth’s water, land, and atmosphere has increased at a faster rate than at any other point in recent human history. Indeed, many of the temperature changes observed and recorded over the past 50 years are unprecedented (Haldar 34). In...

We will write the topic for you if you can't find it among our "Cause and Effect" samples.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, along with other terrorist attacks occurring on that day, for example, the attack on the Pentagon, American foreign policy shifted towards what has come to be known as the “War on Terror.” This war...

Divorce is an unfortunate event that happens in a marriage for a myriad of reasons. The fast pace of today’s society has placed independence for both sexes above the family and if there are children involved in the union, the impact of the dissolution of this bond is much greater....

Violence is a problem plaguing society. Determining what causes violence is a complex issues. I believe that the causes of violence are rooted in social issues. The inability for individuals to access there basic needs, find employment sources that will sustain their basic needs and previous exposures to violence or...

The Perfect Format for Writing A Cause and Effect Essay

A Cause and Effect essay describes the relationship between what happened and why it happened – in other words, the cause and its effect. This concept is universal, as it touches almost every aspect of life and existence. For instance, if a hypothetical seed is sown, it is expected to bear fruit as an effect. Similarly, if an accident occurs, it follows that there should be a reason why it happened.

As you will imagine, there are countless examples of cause and effect essays because every condition can be traced to a cause and effect. However, a definitive cause and effect essay stands out from other descriptive essays because of its writing format coupled with its tone and the use of natural cause and effect words and transition words.

Cause and Effect Essay as a Type of Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay, by definition, is a genre of essay that describes a person, object, a place, experience, or a condition. Cause and effect essays fall under this category and hence are judged by the standards of descriptive essay writing. In this light, the writer of this kind of paper will endeavor to create a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.

How to Write the Cause and Effect Essay in Four Simple Steps

  • First, choose an appropriate topic and identify the cause(s) and effect(s). Depending on your project, you may decide to write only about the causes, or the effects, or both. As a rule, ask the question, “why did this happen?” to identify the causes and “what happened because of this?” to identify the effects. In practice, you will realize that a single cause can lead to multiple effects and vice versa.  
  • An Introduction which includes the thesis statement
  • A Body that builds upon the thesis statement
  • A conclusion that summarizes the body and reinforces the thesis statement.
  • Now, write out your thesis statement, which clearly states the cause and effect you would describe in the essay.
  • Finally, organize supporting details that expand your thesis statement in sentences and paragraphs. It is advisable to follow one of the three standard methods of arranging your essay paragraphs, namely:
  • The chronological order which follows the time each event occurred
  • The categorical order which groups events based on similarity
  • The order of importance which arranges the events according to how significant they are.

When linking your points, it is essential to use the right cause and effect transition words when appropriate.

Typical Cause and Effect Essay Transition Words and Phrases

For Causes, use words like since, because, due to, for this reason, another is, for, first, second, etc.

For Effects, use words like therefore, thus, consequently, as a result, resulted in, one result is, etc., in between your points.

Some Writing Tips for Cause and Effect Essay Writers

  • As much as possible, quote facts and figures to highlight your points.
  • Try to qualify your points for causes and effects using words like “highly likely,” “evidence suggests,” “approved” and other variants.
  • Use a persuasive tone and clear instances to drive your message home.

Examples of Cause and Effect Essays

For your practice, try your hands on the following sample topics for cause and effect essays.

  • The Effect of Social Media in American Schools
  • The Causes and Effect of Climate Change
  • Gun Violence in North America
  • The Impact of Globalization on your Country’s Economy
  • The Future Consequence of Domestic Violence in Modern Society
  • How Has Your Hobby Affected Your Academic Performance
  • The Causes of Divorce and Its Effect on Children
  • The Effects of Drug Abuse among Youths
  • How Modern Educational Applications is Affects Learning
  • Possible Causes of Natural Disasters

More samples of Cause and Effect essays can be found on MyPaperWriter.com. The website also features several samples other essays types.

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Understanding Causation in Healthcare: An Introduction to Critical Realism

Erica koopmans.

1 School of Health Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, Canada

Dr. Catharine Schiller

2 School of Nursing, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, Canada

Both healthcare providers and researchers in the health sciences are well rehearsed in asking the question ‘What could be causing this’? and examining beyond the surface of observable symptoms or obvious factors to understand what is really occurring with patients and health services. Critical realism is a philosophical framework that can help in this inquiry as we attempt to make sense of the observable world. The aim of this article is to introduce critical realism and explore how it can help both healthcare providers and health science researchers to better understand causation through the mechanisms that generate events, despite those mechanisms often being unseen. The article reviews foundational concepts and examples framed in the healthcare setting to make the key principles, strengths and limitations of critical realism accessible for those who are just beginning their journey with this approach.

Human health and illness are complex areas of study, and our understanding of them is typically constructed from our direct observations and experiences of events ( Alderson, 2021 ). From what we observe, we try to make sense of, and interpret what we see happening; however, the philosophical stance we take as healthcare providers and researchers will influence our ways of thinking about these findings, and the conclusions we draw in understanding our area of study. Critical realism is a philosophical framework that is well suited to the health sciences to help us make sense of the ‘observable’ world and the ‘real’ world ( Alderson, 2021 ). Critical realism suggests that while we may observe and experience events, they are being generated by independent, often unobservable, but still very real, mechanisms ( O’Mahoney & Vincent, 2014 ). As healthcare providers and researchers, we are well rehearsed in looking beyond the surface of observable symptoms or factors to try and understand what is really occurring with the patients with whom we work, or the conditions and interventions which we study. The aim of this article is to introduce readers to the key tenets of critical realism, explore how it can offer healthcare providers and researchers deeper levels of explanation and understanding of causation, and examine some potential limitations of this approach.

The Case for Critical Realism

Critical realism is not a methodology or even a theory but a way of thinking (philosophical stance), which can inform investigations into our reality ( Archer et al., 2016 ; Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). In healthcare, critical realism can help us understand health and illness as processes that are affected by interactions between individuals and their contexts, including the agents and structures present, and help us explain what we see but also what we do not see ( Alderson, 2021 ). In recent years, the use of critical realism by health researchers has increased as they recognize the value it provides for effectively framing, identifying and understanding complex phenomena in the healthcare sector ( Schiller, 2016 ; Sturgiss & Clark, 2020 ). This approach has appeal for healthcare providers and researchers because of its recognition of the complexity of many health interventions, and its focus on explaining what works under specific conditions or contexts ( Williams et al., 2016 ). For example, a healthcare provider may question ‘why, after trying multiple interventions that I anticipated would change the disease trajectory for my patient, am I not seeing those desired changes?’ Using critical realism, we can effectively inquire into and understand more about the unseen mechanisms that have causal influence in the situation and their effect on the patient’s health and illness ( Alderson, 2021 ). Understanding generative mechanisms has the potential to be very meaningful when we design and evaluate new programs and services that are then transposed to another context, as it enables us to understand how and why desired change might be generated instead of just believing that it will or should happen (e.g., the effectiveness of programs or interventions).

Critical realism is also appealing given its application to various research designs and methods for data collection and analysis. This approach has been applied across broad areas of health research including in several mental health focused studies ( Bergin et al., 2008 ; Lauzier-Jobin & Houle, 2021 ; Littlejohn, 2003 ; Martin, 2019 ; Sims-Schouten & Riley, 2018 ); rural health ( Reid, 2019 ); as a framework for understanding smoking and tobacco control in South Africa ( Oladele et al., 2013 ); for designing an integrated care initiative for vulnerable families in Australia ( Eastwood et al., 2019 ); and for explaining the relationship between human rights and social determinants of health ( Haigh et al., 2019 ).

Foundational Concepts of Critical Realism

Critical realism emerged as a philosophical approach in the 1970s and 1980s, led by the work of Roy Bhaskar ( Bhaskar, 1998 , 2008 ) and built further by scholars such as Margaret Archer, Dave Elder-Vass, Philip Gorski, Tony Lawson and Andrew Sayer. It was introduced as an alternative philosophical framework to the positivist and interpretivist approaches being used in the natural and social sciences ( Fletcher, 2017 ; Williams, 2003 ). To appreciate the value of critical realism it is important to understand how it compares to other key philosophical positions used in research and consider what it can offer that these other ways of thinking do not.

A Focus on Ontology

Critical realism’s focus on ontology or more simply, what is real and independent of thought, awareness or knowledge of existence by humans, distinguishes it from other metatheoretical positions ( Alderson, 2021 ). Bhaskar critiqued positivist and interpretivist philosophical frameworks because of their tendency to conflate what the world ‘is’ ( ontology ) with our experiences of it ( epistemology ) ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ; Reid, 2019 ). This is referred to as the epistemic fallacy. Positivist research is what you might think of as your ‘typical’ science experiment that uses research methods to test, observe, capture, compare and evaluate data ( Hartwig, 2015 ). Positivism aims to identify universal laws in an objective way ( Fryer, 2020 ). Those who use this approach consider that there is an independent, factual reality that can be discovered ( Alderson, 2021 ). Unlike positivism, which involves searching for laws that can be generalized, interpretivist and constructivist approaches see knowledge production as fallible and theory-dependent and they tend to focus more on discourse, meaning and experiences of people ( Fryer, 2020 ). The focus is on interpreting or constructing people’s experiences rather than discovering the actual reality which they claim is subjective to the individual ( Alderson, 2021 ). Bhaskar argued positivist and interpretivist frameworks either limit ‘reality’ to what can be empirically studied and identified as universal laws (positivism), or view reality as entirely constructed through human discourse or experiences (interpretivism and constructivism) ( Fletcher, 2017 ). Bhaskar criticized that research being pursued from these philosophical stances was based only on what could be observed or experienced ( Clark et al., 2008 ). While observations and experiences might make us more confident about what exists, or what might be ‘real’, critical realists note that existence itself is not dependent on such observations ( Haigh et al., 2019 ). For example, people have the right to health even when they are not aware they hold that right or may not have experienced it ( Haigh et al., 2019 ). Much of the justification for using critical realism rests on the integrity of the epistemic fallacy. Critical realists need to accept this as a limitation of the framework since, when distinguishing between ontological and epistemic claims, they cannot move outside their own experiences to ‘prove’ that those distinguishing features actually exist. Positivist and interpretivist approaches do not attract the same corresponding critique as they argue that all knowledge is either objectively observed through deductive reasoning, where they look for general patterns and rules (positivism), or subjectively experienced and inductively analysed (interpretivism).

Intransitive and Transitive Dimensions of Knowledge

Critical realism assumes the existence of an objective world, where mechanisms and structures function as intransitive objects, meaning they exist and act independently with powers and properties that are independent of humans but are still able to be investigated ( Hartwig, 2015 ; Schiller, 2016 ). In contrast, knowledge is considered socially produced and transitive , meaning it is subjective; because knowledge is subjective, our understanding of phenomena can and will constantly change ( Haigh et al., 2019 ; Vincent & O’Mahoney, 2018 ). Critical realists argue that we cannot just observe the world and produce knowledge about universal laws as positivists claim, without acknowledging that our beliefs, values and understanding are socially produced and changeable, meaning that knowledge is intrinsically fallible and relative. Critical realists are trying to approximate the truth of reality or the world, while remaining cognizant that all knowledge developed is fallible ( Schiller, 2016 ). Critical realism combines observation and interpretation in a search for causation and allows for an understanding of the structural forces or mechanisms that influence our lives and generate outcomes. However, it is noted that the validity of explanation in critical realism rests upon these ontological presuppositions and we once again must assume that those presuppositions are both valid and correct.

Stratified Reality

Critical realism suggests that reality is stratified and consists of three domains: empirical, actual and real ( Fletcher, 2017 ). These strata can be more simply considered as experiences, events and causal mechanisms. The empirical layer captures our experiences, senses, feelings and observations. The actual refers to the events or phenomena that happen but may or may not be observed by humans. Sayer discusses that, while observability can provide confidence about what we think exists, existence itself is not dependent upon it ( Sayer, 2000 ). The final layer is the real . Critical realism claims that real, but typically unseen, forces precede and generate events; these are referred to as causal mechanisms or generative mechanisms ( Alderson, 2021 ; Hartwig, 2015 ) . Both positivism and interpretivism acknowledge the empirical level of trying to understand and analyse reality. Positivism also recognizes the actual level by acknowledging that the world does exist independently of our thoughts about that world. However, critical realism remains unique in adding the third level of real, yet typically unseen causal influences or mechanisms ( Alderson, 2021 ). To explain why events, effects or outcomes occur, critical realists describe that we need to move beyond the surface of experienced and observable factors to understand what is happening underneath, at the real level ( Clark et al., 2008 ).

Alderson (2021) supplies a helpful example, adapted here, using the condition of Type I insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) to demonstrate stratified reality ( Table 1 ). To begin, you are working as a healthcare provider and a patient presents to your office describing frequent occurrences of hyperactivity as well as feelings of being weak or faint. This is experienced by that person at the empirical level. You may ask additional questions to further understand their symptoms and, as a result of this information, decide to conduct a blood glucose test. You observe from the blood test results that they have irregular blood sugar levels. The actual event that is happening is the rise and fall of blood sugar levels, but this does not explain why this is happening or what is generating this event. There could be many reasons why this individual has irregular blood sugar levels. It is not until you examine further and consider what could be causing those irregular levels that you identify that this individual’s pancreas is not secreting insulin, the hormone which converts sugar into energy. While the patient may not be aware of what their pancreas is (or is not) doing, this does not change the fact that the pancreas is indeed present and its failure to secrete insulin is causing changes to the patient’s blood sugar levels. Alderson (2021) ends this simplified life sciences example here to show how outcomes can only be understood if we dive into the context and mechanisms that generate the events we observe. Yet, we can effectively take this inquiry significantly further by using critical realism to explore why the pancreas is not secreting insulin. Existing research informs us that, in such situations, something will be causing the body’s immune system (which under normal conditions fight harmful bacteria and viruses) to mistakenly destroy insulin secreting beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas ( Leslie & Elliott, 1994 ; Lernmark & Alshiekh, 2016 ; Moini, 2019 ). Is it genetics? Is it exposure to other viruses? Is it environmental factors? What are the hidden but necessary preconditions for IDDM? Using a critical realist lens of inquiry, we may be able to better understand what is generating this outcome of irregular blood sugar levels and under what conditions this outcome will be the result.

Example of Stratified Reality Using Endocrinology and Diabetes in the Life and Social Sciences. Adapted from P. Alderson (2021) .

We can also apply this stratified reality to a social sciences example where the views and experiences of patients with IDDM, their families and their healthcare providers are observed and understood at the empirical level by asking patients about their experiences receiving health services for their condition. We could also observe their daily lives, document the number of people affected, the services accessed and the cost of care incurred to identify events associated with IDDM. However, to deeply understand events, and the ways that IDDM may be influenced by structures such as class, ethnicity, gender or income, we need to consider the real level, where unseen causal mechanisms associated with structural entities and agency are at work.

Causal Mechanisms

As introduced above, critical realists aim to develop and provide ever-deeper levels of explanation and understanding of causal or generative mechanisms and how they work ( Bergin et al., 2008 ). A key question in critical realism is ‘for this to occur, what does the world (or the body system) need to be like?’ ( Alderson, 2021 ). Questions of inquiry include the following: How is the effect being caused? What triggers them? What inhibits them? ( Connelly, 2001 ). These questions ring true as both healthcare providers and researchers. While it is important to know about a patient’s experience and the actual phenomenon that is happening, we want to find and understand the mechanisms that are producing a given effect, event or outcome (or why those mechanisms are interacting in such a way that a given event does not happen). This contrasts the thinking of positivists who look for cause and effect relationships using lawful patterns of thinking and interpretivist approaches who do not view causality as linear but rather as meaning constructed from human activity ( Bergin et al., 2008 ).

Critical realism acknowledges that the relationship between mechanisms and events, despite initial appearances, is not as simple as ‘cause and effect’ ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ) and it is not necessarily linear either (cannot be inferred from a regular sequence of events) ( Oladele et al., 2013 ). Critical realism accepts the possibility of complex causality, meaning that generative mechanisms interact in different ways and will not always play out the same as actual events or previously observed empirical experiences ( Angus & Clark, 2012 ). Sayer (2000) provides a useful description of a critical realist view of causality:

What causes something to happen has nothing to do with the number of times we have observed it happening. Explanation depends instead on identifying causal mechanisms and how they work, and discovering if they have been activated and under what conditions (p. 14)

Therefore, for critical realists it is neither the experience nor the event itself that is the most important to identify and understand, but rather how the mechanisms are coming together in the right number, combination, time and context required to generate an outcome ( Oladele et al., 2013 ; Schiller, 2016 ). Critical realism also critiques the idea that only things that are present exist ( Haigh et al., 2019 ). Consider, for example, access to health care; when access is not present, the lack of access to health care itself may generate unmet health needs as outcomes ( Haigh et al., 2019 ). Critical realists argue that reality, specifically social reality, is produced and changed by these generative mechanisms that are activated or not activated at any given time ( Connelly, 2000 ). It is possible for mechanisms to exist but not generate an effect or to generate a new, different or unexpected effect ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). Mechanisms can therefore be enabling or constraining depending on the context ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). As critical realists, we cannot assume that they will have a particular effect but rather that their interactions will result in a tendency for an effect to occur or not occur ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). When we conduct research using critical realism then, we are looking to identify those relatively enduring tendencies or repetitions (demi regs or demi regularities) ( Hartwig, 2015 ) .

Critics of critical realism may argue that this approach to causality does not avoid the problem of induction at the level of the empirical but instead just transfers it to the level of the real. Critical realists are looking to uncover the foundational unchanging, intransitive, generative mechanisms in which to ground claims about why an event will probably happen in future if these mechanisms are present. Some will question why causal mechanisms (the real) are a better candidate for this than observations or experiences (empirical)? In other words, why is there any more reason to think that these enduring tendencies are more reliable just because they exist ‘beneath’ the empirical where it is experienced. Critiques such as these need to be considered when choosing the critical realism approach over other philosophical frameworks.

An Open System

While we may try to create a closed system in which we can conduct an experiment, control for confounding factors, and yield universal laws about interaction between outcomes and their causes, the ‘real world’ is inevitably an open system. Patients, healthcare providers and the healthcare systems in which they exist and interact are complex and unpredictable, entangled in social contexts, behaviours and relationships which cannot be neatly classified into separate variables ( Alderson, 2021 ). It is challenging to work in the social realm because people cannot easily be placed in the controlled environments considered necessary to truly attribute an effect or event to a cause ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). For example, if you read in a recent research article that a new behaviour change intervention has been successful in reducing cardiovascular disease risk in a randomized control trial, you may not see the same result when you try to implement this intervention in your practice. Interventions, polices, practice guidelines and programs are frequently transposed to another context and expected to work as effectively as they worked in the context in which they were first developed or tested ( Oladele et al., 2013 ). Critical realism recognizes the difficulties that are inherent in designing social science research and helps us to understand deterministic patterns of activity ( Schiller, 2016 ). It acknowledges that there is a causal network of interacting forces counteracting or reinforcing each other and that outcomes depend upon the conditions in which these mechanisms will operate ( Schiller, 2016 ). There is demonstrable value then, in identifying causal mechanisms and searching for relatively enduring tendencies or repetitions to guide us in explaining how they work, if they have been activated, and under what conditions their interactions might produce outcomes.

Agency and Structure

In using a critical realist framework, we also need to consider agency and structure. Bhaskar (2014) and Archer (1995) explain agency and structure as separate yet interdependent entities in that neither can be ‘reduced to, explained in terms of, or reconstructed from the other. There is an ontological hiatus between society and people, as well as a mode of connection’ ( Bhaskar, 2014 , p. 37). Their writings on agency and structure are the basis for current theorists/practitioners to apply and adapt within a healthcare context. In the context of healthcare, agents are providers and users of health services. This includes (but is not limited to) patients, their family members and support system, healthcare providers and staff, administrators and policy makers. In experimental conditions it is typically implied that each agent involved has free will, choice or agency; in other words, they can act independently and make free choices. However, in the real world, human agency is constrained by structures, other agents and resources ( Alderson, 2015 ). As Fryer (2020) frankly describes it, people do not just wander around, acting freely and doing whatever they want. Alternatively, if they do behave in this way, they do not usually get away with it for long. The world has social structures within which we live and, due to this, we will not often make completely individual decisions that are entirely unaffected by external influence.

Structures are powerful, objective and enduring entities that exist in and through human social relationships ( Alderson, 2021 ). Examples of these social structures include social class, gender and race. While these structures are not typically visible (although manifestations of them might be), nor are they tangible in and of themselves, they are no less real than the law of gravity ( Reid, 2019 ). Agents do not individually construct structures, but they will reproduce, resist, change or work within them, either through direct interaction with these structures or simply via the agent’s movement through the world ( Alderson, 2021 ). Structures would not continue to exist without agents continuing to reproduce and transform them ( Martin, 2019 ). Further, agents will each have their own reasons, motives, decisions, hopes and intentions (conscious and unconscious) brought to bear on the influence they wield and the choices they make; these can then be very real causal influences with effects and outcomes generated through the actions they produce, maintain and transform ( Alderson, 2021 ; Connelly, 2000 ). If we are to think as critical realists, we need to be aware of our own histories and motives and how they might be affecting our experiences and observations, as well as the way in which we are interpreting the experiences and observations of others ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ), such as patients or coworkers. We should also consider how the social histories of patients or coworkers may be affecting their own experiences and observations ( Oltmann & Boughey, 2012 ). If we persist in the belief that everyone has free will or choice, for example the agency to rise above difficult life circumstances such as poverty, abuse or discrimination, then this places the power of agency above the power of structures. It implies that agency is a single overriding power instead of acknowledging the variety and complexity of the multiple powers that will exist in an open system ( Alderson, 2015 ). While the power of social structures is not absolute, it is immense and though some individuals may be able to overcome these powers, others may not for a variety of reasons ( Alderson, 2015 ). It is therefore vital, when conducting social research in the realm of health sciences, to pay attention to and acknowledge these complex agency-structure relationships and interactions as much as possible. If we only look at agency, we fail to consider the impact of structures and what constraints they may have on how and why someone acts in a particular way ( Martin, 2019 ). Conversely, if we only explore structures, we assume individuals are only influenced by these constraints and have no agency or influence ( Martin, 2019 ).

Next Steps for Advancing Your Practice

This article attempted to make the key principles of critical realism accessible for those who are just beginning their journey with this approach. It is a high-level introduction to critical realist concepts and supplied some examples of how critical realism can be helpful in health research, health practice inquiry, and interpretation of findings and observations. There are many more comprehensive resources available to support continued learning on this subject. While readings on philosophy can often feel dense and complex, Fryer’s (2020) A Short Guide to Ontology and Epistemology (Why Everyone Should Be a Critical Realist) , makes it easy to ‘wrap one’s head around’ some difficult concepts. Fryer navigates the basics of ontology and epistemology and reviews different philosophical positions through entertaining and easy to understand examples. For a user-friendly and detailed expansion on critical realism and its application for health research, Alderson’s (2021) book Critical Realism for Health and Illness Research: A Practical Introduction is a particularly excellent guide . Those interested in clarifying concepts and connecting critical realist theory and methodology may wish to read Danermark, Ekstrom and Karlsson’s (2019) recently revised Explaining Society: Critical Realism in the Social Sciences which includes illustrative examples of recent research, and Edwards et al. (2014) Studying organizations using critical realism: A practical guide. Lastly, if you are interested to dive into more complex reading in this area, Critical Realism: Essential Readings contains key works of many thought leaders in the field, including Archer, Bhaskar and Collier ( Archer et al., 2013 ).

Health and illness affect every aspect of our lives and are influenced by many factors, including the context, policies, behaviours and beliefs that surround us ( Alderson, 2021 ). Patients with the same diagnosis can differ in their presentation of symptoms and how they respond to interventions. Interventions developed and studied with demonstrated efficacy in one context may fail to result in the same outcomes in another context. This article provided an overview of foundational critical realist concepts using examples from the healthcare setting. The aim was to support healthcare providers and health science researchers to consider how critical realism can help them understand causation at a deeper level and thus support more effective change, while also noting the assumptions and critiques they may encounter when using this approach. Critical realism offers many opportunities as described, including an affinity with the way many of us in healthcare see the world fitting together ( O’Mahoney & Vincent, 2014 ). While we may observe what we think are universal laws, and experience actual events which shape our stories and guide our thinking, critical realism helps us avoid conflating what is real with our experiences. It can assist us in understanding the open system of our social world where relationship between mechanisms and events is not as simple as ‘cause and effect’, and where context, structures, and agents can interact in diverse ways to generate or constrain effects, events or outcomes. This way of thinking can help us examine beyond the surface of observable symptoms or obvious factors to understand what is really happening with patients and health services. As we attempt to make sense of the ‘real’ world and the ‘observable’ world, critical realism is a way of approaching healthcare issues that can allow us to be more successful in this endeavour.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethical Statement: Our study did not require a research ethics board approval because it did not contain human or animal trials.

Erica Koopmans https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2001-7128

Catharine Schiller https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3656-2171

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How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay: Step by Step Guide

Every professor expects students to know how to write a cause and effect essay. They might explain, but if you’re here, then this explanation wasn’t sufficient. Don’t be concerned, as our guide will answer each question you might have in less than ten minutes. We got some of our best experts to combine their experience and share their insights with students. If you aren’t interested in gaining them and want quick help, contact us and tell us, “Please write my essay on a specific topic.” But if you’re determined to do it personally, look at our guide, see examples scattered throughout this text, and by the end of it, your knowledge of how to write such an essay will be absolute.

Cause and Effect Writing and Its Purpose

You have to choose a topic, research it, understand why it happened, and explain this process from its inception to its implications. Connecting points and educating yourself along with your readers is the central goal of this assignment. It might be complex and boring, especially if you choose the wrong topic, but with some knowledge and patience, you’ll be a master before you know it.

Six Steps that Will Help Prepare You for Successful Essay Writing

Before and when they’re writing cause and effect essays, students must cover several productive writing stages. There are only six of them. Each of them is simple, and together, they form an impressive paper.

  • Brainstorm and come up with a topic. Sometimes students receive a prompt from their professor. In this case, they might look for an article review writing service because they have no interest in reading the assigned article, never mind reviewing it. But if you’re free to make your own choices, decide on a unique topic for your cause-and-effect paper, something you find truly curious. Brainstorm by going through your interests, speaking with friends, or browsing online topics for perfection. Remember that you must have both a cause plus an effect for exploring.
  • Make up a strong thesis. Thesis plays such an important role in writing that students have to develop it first and foremost. Inside a standard cause and effect essay structure, the thesis will take place at the end of the introduction. It’s a summary of your paper confined to just one single sentence. It should be powerful, and it must directly engage your readers in your argument. We’re going to give you an example. Our chosen essay topic is “The Impact that Unhealthy Dynamics in a Family Have on a Person’s Future Romantic Relationships.” A possible thesis could be:   “Unhealthy family dynamics cause people to have unsatisfying romantic relationships in their future, as obvious in the example of Vivien from the regarded case study.”
  • Arrange points from the thesis into body paragraphs. The next step lies in placing each aspect of your thesis into its own cause and effect paragraph. We suggest creating an outline: it is a quick process, and it will hardly take you ten minutes, but its value will last for as long as you’re working on a final version of your essay. Outlines ground you; they preserve your ideas and remind you of them any time they begin to slip your mind. Create it, make it of any length, and you’ll see how much it simplifies your life later.
  • Create your first draft. Most students are impatient to know how to start a cause and effect essay: they don’t want to waste their time on drafts. Unfortunately, it’s an important step that we wholeheartedly recommend you follow. Writing a draft takes maybe an hour, but once you do it, you’ll leave the hardest steps behind. It won’t be difficult to expand your already-crafted points, add quotes from relevant research, and polish any rough edges. Checking which of these nuances are necessary is what students should do next.
  • Review it in search of any issues. Check the draft of your cause and effect research paper thoroughly. Identify any problems with it. Some points may sound weak; some paragraphs are more convincing than others, or the conclusion is ineffective. If you need, take a break and return to re-reading your essay.
  • Correct them and expand the draft. At this stage, you can finally focus on writing your cause and effect expository essay. Correct every weakness you identified during previous steps in your draft and start working on each paragraph, starting with the introduction. Add details to your ideas, create links, and elaborate on conclusions. Ensure your word count corresponds to the number of words your professor requires.

Structure of a Cause and Effect Essay

The cause-and-effect paper doesn’t differ from any other essay in structure. It must have at least three well-defined paragraphs: introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion should constitute about 10% of your word count. Start your introduction with a hook: it’s the very first sentence. It must be impressive, and it should awaken curiosity in your audience. After that, describe your topic’s background. Mention how an issue emerged and which causes commonly contribute to it. You already know how to write a cause and effect thesis — it comes last in the introduction, and it must create a layout for your future exploration.

The body is the most responsible part. It’s heavy with content, and it must begin with a special opening sentence that links back to the thesis statement. Never include direct quotes in it: make it clear what your paragraph will focus on. Afterward, introduce research and explanations, and cite sources you use correctly. Finish it with a closing sentence that summarizes what you’ve just discussed. If you face problems at any stage, consult our college paper writing service at any time. The conclusion is the final section that must remind readers of your thesis and the major outcomes you’ve reached. Specify the connection between your reason and its effect.

Types of Cause and Effect Papers You Could Pick

Unless college professors specify their requirements, students could choose their preferred cause and effect essay format. There are three kinds of it. We’ll discuss them all while giving you some quick examples:

  • Effect-Focused Essay. In these papers, the effect dominates the entire show. While students should still discuss causes, most of their attention goes toward what consequences they have. Imagine a topic about the problem of drinking coffee often. A cause would be excessive coffee drinking, while the effect would be insomnia, irritability, and headaches. In such an essay, students would have to discuss the issue of coffee drinking in one paragraph before moving on to its effects, exploring them in detail, and dedicating a separate paragraph to each.
  • Cause-Focused Essay. In the cause and effect essay definition, no focus goes toward a specific part, but if you want to concentrate on a cause in particular, nothing is stopping you. Take a topic about inefficient policies at school leading to aggravated incidents of bullying among students. If you plan on emphasizing the policies, do it by listing each of them and dedicating several paragraphs to them. Mention the bullying as the result of such policies quickly, without stopping to expand it or go into details.
  • Casual Chain Method Essay. This is an interesting model that allows students to describe causes and effects one by one, alternating between them repeatedly. Instead of focusing on a certain cause or a specific consequence, you build a whole chain of them. Here is a fitting scenario: your colleague fell sick, and you had to take up their work shift; because of this, you didn’t have time to do your homework, so you decided to get essays for sale from experts. Your colleague’s illness is a cause that led to extra work for you — this is one chain of cause and effect; an insufficient amount of free time resulted in you ordering your paper from third parties. This is a second chain of causes and effects.

Pick any model from above. They are all efficient.

Example of Your Cause and Effect Outline

Hopefully, you know why outlines are crucial by now. We want to give you an even more explicit idea by sharing an outline for our hypothetical essay. It’s going to mention every key part of the ideal paper structure briefly:

Introduction

Hook: “Wounds left in a childhood continue to fester decades after they were inflicted.”

Background: Research shows that children who grow up surrounded by unhealthy dynamics are usually incapable of forming healthy romantic relationships in adulthood.

Thesis statement: Unhealthy dynamics within families cause people to have unsatisfying romantic relationships in their future, as obvious in the example of Vivien from the regarded case study.

Body paragraph: Proving how people with childhood traumas struggle with forming solid romantic bonds on the example of a case study.

As a case study showed, having toxic relationships in one’s childhood leaves a negative impact on a person’s ability to build their own healthy family.

Five Ideas of Topics for Your Cause and Effect Paper

If you need ideas for your essay on cause and effects, we have a couple of suggestions. Here are five topics that could inspire you. We offered explanations for them, too, to help you make your decision more easily.

  • How Writing Fanfiction Can Affect People’s Skills

Explore how writing fanfiction is a cause that has different effects on people, such as improving their writing skills, helping them learn a new language, preparing them for criticism, and so on.

  • The Effect PTSD Has on Sleep Patterns

Focus on PTSD or its effects, like insomnia and nightmares. You could also focus on both to the same degree.

  • How Serial Killers Are Made

Trace the link between abusive childhood and violence that progresses in some abused children, with them going after animals first, then moving on to people.

  • What Led Hitler toward Power

Describe what caused Hitler to nearly succeed in conquering half of the world, such as weak global policies, the stupidity of the USSR, and the greediness of the USA.

  • Why It Might Be Difficult for Rabbits to Bond with Humans

Emphasize that rabbits are prey animals and their nature affects their attitude toward humans, making them scared and wary.

Practical Cause and Effect Essays Examples

Our collection of samples has numerous cause-and-effect papers, all free. You can find them on different topics and see how they should sound. If you are too impatient, we present an immediate short sample below. It focuses on the topic we already introduced about unhealthy childhood complicating people’s ability to build romantic relationships.

Wounds left in childhood continue to fester decades after they were inflicted. Research by Miliens (2022) shows that children who grew up surrounded by unhealthy dynamics usually cannot form healthy romantic relationships in adulthood. They might become abusers by themselves, manipulating their partners and creating another cycle of toxic communication. Unhealthy family dynamics cause people to have unsatisfying romantic relationships in the future, as obvious in the example of Vivien from the regarded case study.

The case study focusing on a girl named Vivien demonstrates that children who do not have healthy role models might be unable to create a positive romantic bond as they mature. According to Miliens (2022), children are extremely vulnerable to influence. He performed a case study, and one of its participants was Vivien, aged 21. As a child, she had a domineering mother and an obedient father who did everything his wife told him. He was working, cooking, and cleaning the house while the mother was focused on her hobbies. Vivien did not receive sufficient attention from either of her parents and when she was 18, she began a relationship of her own. She expected her boyfriend to do everything and cater to her every whim; instead of communicating her feelings, she tried to give commands. When her boyfriend disagreed, she shouted, cried, and threatened suicide, which is a common manipulation technique (Miliens, 2022). Thus, after watching the unhealthy dynamic between her parents, Vivien tried to enforce the same model on her boyfriend, creating a new cycle of abuse.

Children who watched their parents engage in unhealthy relationships often cannot build an appropriate relationship themselves. Vivien’s example from a case study by Miliens (2022) proves it. Toxic role models she observed in her childhood became the cause that brought the negative effect of her creating a failing relationship in her adulthood. Therapy might be helpful in addressing these problems in such people.

Enjoy Writing Your Paper Now that You Have Knowledge for It

You know how to write a cause and effect essay introduction; you understand what the body entails and what steps to take to craft a compelling paper. If we answered all your questions, start creating right away. Consult our experts if you need more tangible help or advice, and keep our guide close because it belongs to you now. Let it help you complete your homework effectively.

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My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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Get top 100 cause and effect essay topics now.

cause and effect essay topics

When you need the best cause and effect essay topics on the Internet, all you have to do is read this blog post. We have a list of the best 100 cause and effect topics and these topics are updated periodically. You can get some ideas from our list right now, as it has just been updated for June, 2020. On top of the free topics, you also get to see why choosing a great topic is entirely in your best interest. Read on!

The Importance of Interesting Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Most students underestimate the importance of interesting cause and effect essay topic ideas. We don’t know why, but many students still prefer to get topics from the first three pages that pop up in Google’s SERPs. They probably don’t realize that at least a couple of their classmates will pick the exact same topics. You may thing that you have a good cause and effect topic and later realize that 5 other students have chosen that same topic for their essays. Here is why you need to come up with a 100% original cause and effect essay topic idea:

  • Your professor is bored of reading essays on the same plain old topics. When he sees a new topic, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Don’t underestimate how important this can be for your grade.
  • Interesting cause and effect paper topics have been shown by many studies to get higher grades. Why? It’s probably because professors tend to award bonus points for originality and uniqueness.
  • Consistently finding good cause and effect topics shows your professors that you really take the essay seriously. After all, you’re willing to dedicate a lot of time and effort to finding the most interesting things to talk about.

Where Can You Get Some Topics for Cause and Effect Essay?

Now that you know how important some original, fun cause and effect essay topics can be, it’s time to find the best of them. Of course, nobody expects you to spend hours every day thinking about topics. You are free to use the Internet. It’s an invaluable source of information, to be honest. There are several ways to get some really good topics:

  • You can go to the school library and read journals, articles and other writings to try to find topics for cause and effect essay. You’ll be able to find many ideas there, but it takes time to go through all the materials.
  • You can read newspapers and scientific articles online. New, intriguing research is being done every day, so you are almost guaranteed to find something interesting to write about sooner or later.
  • You can try to ask people to make some suggestions on blogs and forums. You can get some ideas from genuine experts, but it will take time.
  • You can read our list and pick a cause and effect topic for free. You are free to reword it just the way you like. And remember, we update the list periodically so we can help as many students as possible with original topics. Don’t hesitate to take a closer look at feminist essay topics .

Our Free List of Cause and Effect Essay Ideas

Without further ado, here is our list of 100% original cause and effect essay topics, updated for 2020. Pick a topic for cause and effect essay and start writing right now!

Social Media/Internet Cause and Effect Topics

Need some excellent social media/internet cause and effect topics? Look no further than our free list of topics:

  • The effect of cell phones on US youth.
  • The cause and effect of cyber bullying.
  • Why is Google the largest search engine?
  • The effects of identity theft.
  • Are social media sites losing popularity? Why?
  • Cause or playing video games and its effects.
  • Social media and its effects on teens.

Fun Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Of course, we have some very interesting and fun cause and effect essay topics for you. Pick any of these and start writing right now:

  • The causes why men are afraid to commit.
  • Does a happy marriage have an effect on mental health?
  • The causes why video games are so popular.
  • The effects of eating your veggies.
  • The cause and effect of a low grade on your essay.
  • The use of screens to write instead of pen and paper.
  • The effects of wearing a school uniform.

Culture Cause and Effect Topics

Looking for culture cause and effect topics? We have some of them in our list, of course. Just pick the best one:

  • Does mass media cause a bias effect?
  • Skinny models are causing a spike in anorexia cases.
  • Discuss China’s one-child-per-family policy.
  • Does college affect a student’s skills?
  • The effects of going to the theatre regularly.
  • Do some people learn foreign languages faster?
  • Reality shows have a negative impact on youths.

Very Good Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Looking for very good cause and effect essay topics? Want the best topics? Here are some ideas for you:

  • Hormonal changes are causing mood swings.
  • Is your career influenced by bad eating habits?
  • Personal relations are improved by humor.
  • Stress can be reduced by regular exercise.
  • Children are unhealthy because of junk food.
  • Doing lots of homework doesn’t get you better grades.

Health Cause and Effect Ideas

When it comes to health cause and effect ideas, you won’t find better topics than ours. Check them out below:

  • Causes and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Energy levels drop when eating junk food.
  • The causes of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Joint problems are caused by obesity.
  • The cause of stress and its effects on health.
  • Obesity is impacting the healthcare system in the US.
  • The main causes of cardiovascular disease.

Easy Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Don’t want to spend an entire day writing the essay? Just pick one of our easy cause and effect essay topics:

  • The effects of pollution in Europe.
  • How dangerous are earthquakes?
  • The main causes of racism.
  • The effect of telling a lie.
  • The cause of the tsunami.
  • Has your favorite book influenced you?
  • The effect your pet has on you.

Cause and Effect Essay Topics for College Students

Here are some cause and effect essay topics for college students that you will really appreciate:

  • Why did you choose your major?
  • The causes and effects of World War II.
  • Water vapors can cause a greenhouse effect.
  • The causes and effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Multitasking causes an increase in stress.
  • Strict immigration policies are causing severe tensions in the US.

Relationships Cause and Effect Ideas

Discussing relationships can be an excellent choice for an essay. Pick one of our relationships cause and effect ideas:

  • Many breakups are caused by financial problems.
  • How a parent’s behavior influences his or her kids.
  • Affordable housing causes an increase of happy couples.
  • Can a friendship end because of poor communication?
  • Facebook can ruin your relationship.
  • The effect of a Lottery win on relationships.
  • The effect of smartphones of relationships.

Cause and Effect Paragraph Topics

Looking to write just a cause and effect paragraph? No problem! Here are some cause and effect paragraph topics:

  • The effect of the Internet on high school students.
  • What causes you to get low grades?
  • Families are affected by vacations.
  • Illegal deforestation is causing global warming.
  • Should we conserve water?
  • The dangers of being bullied.

Cause and Effect Speech Topics

Need to write a speech? We have plenty of cause and effect speech topics. Check them out below:

  • Is your personal information private?
  • The effects of illegal immigration on the US.
  • The effects of the Coronavirus on the UK.
  • Which is more loyal, a dog or a human?
  • The main causes of global warming.
  • The effects of a positive mindset.
  • Good food really makes you happy.

Environment Cause and Effect Topics

Discussing the environment can be very interesting, so we have an entire section with environment cause and effect topics:

  • What causes forest fires in the US?
  • The effects of water conservation.
  • What causes natural disasters?
  • Do forecasts help prevent natural disasters?
  • Why do some fish go extinct?
  • The extinction of the dinosaurs.
  • The effects of city pollution on humans.

Smoking Cause and Effect Topics

Is smoking really that bad? What about the menthol in cigarettes? Pick one of our smoking cause and effect topics and start writing:

  • The effects of heavy smoking.
  • Is pancreatic cancer deadly?
  • The causes of not having medical insurance.
  • Does nicotine affect your brain?
  • The effects of quitting smoking.
  • The causes why people start smoking.

Cause and Effect Topic Ideas for High School

Perhaps you want something easier, more appropriate for high school students. Check out our cause and effect topic ideas for high school students:

  • The causes of acne.
  • Do children suffer from social anxiety?
  • The effects of cheating on your tests.
  • What causes rivalry between siblings?
  • The causes of teenage rebellion.
  • Why do people want to travel so much?

Education Cause and Effect Ideas

Want to make a change? Pick one of these education cause and effect ideas and present your opinion to your professor:

  • Does college education give you a better life?
  • The causes of cheating at exams.
  • The effect of standardized tests on students.
  • Why do students consider school boring?
  • Are single-sex classrooms necessary?
  • The effect of homeschooling on a child.
  • Do professors burn out?

Social Problems Cause and Effect Topic Ideas

There will always be social issues to be discussed. Choose one of the social problems cause and effect topic ideas and make a change:

  • Why are men earning more than women in the US?
  • The effect of food insecurity on people.
  • What causes extreme poverty in the UK?
  • What causes widespread racism views?
  • The causes of poor sanitation.
  • Why are disabled people unable to get good jobs?
  • Should children watch news reports?

Need More Cause and Effect Ideas?

Didn’t manage to find the perfect topic in our list of cause and effect topic ideas? Don’t worry about it! You can still get some help and avoid spending another day looking for a topic elsewhere. Our seasoned academic writers can send you an entire list of topics and you can pick the best one. We move very fast, so you can expect to get the list in no time. And remember, our writers are genuine experts and hold degrees in various fields. Get the help you need right now!

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What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

Published on June 7, 2021 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023 by Pritha Bhandari.

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall research objectives and approach
  • Whether you’ll rely on primary research or secondary research
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research objectives and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research design.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities—start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed-methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

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Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types.

  • Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships
  • Descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analyzing the data.

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study—plants, animals, organizations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

  • Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalize your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study , your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalize to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question .

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviors, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews .

Observation methods

Observational studies allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviors or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what kinds of data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected—for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are high in reliability and validity.

Operationalization

Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalization means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in—for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced, while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method , you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample—by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method , it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method , how will you avoid research bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organizing and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymize and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well-organized will save time when it comes to analyzing it. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings (high replicability ).

On its own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyze the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarize your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarize your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

There are many other ways of analyzing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:

  • Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
  • Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.

Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

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How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real?

There is unequivocal evidence that Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate. Human activity is the principal cause.

cause and effect research paper examples

  • While Earth’s climate has changed throughout its history , the current warming is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ), "Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact." 1
  • Scientific information taken from natural sources (such as ice cores, rocks, and tree rings) and from modern equipment (like satellites and instruments) all show the signs of a changing climate.
  • From global temperature rise to melting ice sheets, the evidence of a warming planet abounds.

The rate of change since the mid-20th century is unprecedented over millennia.

Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 800,000 years, there have been eight cycles of ice ages and warmer periods, with the end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

CO2_graph

The current warming trend is different because it is clearly the result of human activities since the mid-1800s, and is proceeding at a rate not seen over many recent millennia. 1 It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the Sun’s energy in the Earth system. This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land, and widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.

Related Reading

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Do scientists agree on climate change?

Yes, the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.

Earth-orbiting satellites and new technologies have helped scientists see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate all over the world. These data, collected over many years, reveal the signs and patterns of a changing climate.

Scientists demonstrated the heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases in the mid-19th century. 2 Many of the science instruments NASA uses to study our climate focus on how these gases affect the movement of infrared radiation through the atmosphere. From the measured impacts of increases in these gases, there is no question that increased greenhouse gas levels warm Earth in response.

"Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal." — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly 10 times faster than the average rate of warming after an ice age. Carbon dioxide from human activities is increasing about 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age. 3

The Evidence for Rapid Climate Change Is Compelling:

Global temperature is rising.

The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and other human activities. 4 Most of the warming occurred in the past 40 years, with the seven most recent years being the warmest. The years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record. 5

The Ocean Is Getting Warmer

The ocean has absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 100 meters (about 328 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.67 degrees Fahrenheit (0.33 degrees Celsius) since 1969. 6 Earth stores 90% of the extra energy in the ocean.

The Ice Sheets Are Shrinking

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, while Antarctica lost about 148 billion tons of ice per year. 7

Glaciers Are Retreating

Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa. 8

Snow Cover Is Decreasing

Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and the snow is melting earlier. 9

Sea Level Is Rising

Global sea level rose about 8 inches (20 centimeters) in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year. 10

Arctic Sea Ice Is Declining

Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades. 11

Extreme Events Are Increasing in Frequency

The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events. 12

Ocean Acidification Is Increasing

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30%. 13 , 14 This increase is due to humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the ocean. The ocean has absorbed between 20% and 30% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in recent decades (7.2 to 10.8 billion metric tons per year). 1 5 , 16

1. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, WGI, Technical Summary . B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere.” Nature 382 (04 July 1996): 39-46. https://doi.org/10.1038/382039a0. Gabriele C. Hegerl et al., “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method.” Journal of Climate 9 (October 1996): 2281-2306. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(1996)009<2281:DGGICC>2.0.CO;2. V. Ramaswamy, et al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling.” Science 311 (24 February 2006): 1138-1141. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1122587. B.D. Santer et al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes.” Science 301 (25 July 2003): 479-483. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1084123. T. Westerhold et al., "An astronomically dated record of Earth’s climate and its predictability over the last 66 million years." Science 369 (11 Sept. 2020): 1383-1387. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1094123

2. In 1824, Joseph Fourier calculated that an Earth-sized planet, at our distance from the Sun, ought to be much colder. He suggested something in the atmosphere must be acting like an insulating blanket. In 1856, Eunice Foote discovered that blanket, showing that carbon dioxide and water vapor in Earth's atmosphere trap escaping infrared (heat) radiation. In the 1860s, physicist John Tyndall recognized Earth's natural greenhouse effect and suggested that slight changes in the atmospheric composition could bring about climatic variations. In 1896, a seminal paper by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. In 1938, Guy Callendar connected carbon dioxide increases in Earth’s atmosphere to global warming. In 1941, Milutin Milankovic linked ice ages to Earth’s orbital characteristics. Gilbert Plass formulated the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change in 1956.

3. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, WG1, Chapter 2 Vostok ice core data; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record O. Gaffney, W. Steffen, "The Anthropocene Equation." The Anthropocene Review 4, issue 1 (April 2017): 53-61. https://doi.org/abs/10.1177/2053019616688022.

4. https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/monitoring https://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/ http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

5. https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20170118/

6. S. Levitus, J. Antonov, T. Boyer, O Baranova, H. Garcia, R. Locarnini, A. Mishonov, J. Reagan, D. Seidov, E. Yarosh, M. Zweng, " NCEI ocean heat content, temperature anomalies, salinity anomalies, thermosteric sea level anomalies, halosteric sea level anomalies, and total steric sea level anomalies from 1955 to present calculated from in situ oceanographic subsurface profile data (NCEI Accession 0164586), Version 4.4. (2017) NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. https://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/index3.html K. von Schuckmann, L. Cheng, L,. D. Palmer, J. Hansen, C. Tassone, V. Aich, S. Adusumilli, H. Beltrami, H., T. Boyer, F. Cuesta-Valero, D. Desbruyeres, C. Domingues, A. Garcia-Garcia, P. Gentine, J. Gilson, M. Gorfer, L. Haimberger, M. Ishii, M., G. Johnson, R. Killick, B. King, G. Kirchengast, N. Kolodziejczyk, J. Lyman, B. Marzeion, M. Mayer, M. Monier, D. Monselesan, S. Purkey, D. Roemmich, A. Schweiger, S. Seneviratne, A. Shepherd, D. Slater, A. Steiner, F. Straneo, M.L. Timmermans, S. Wijffels. "Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go?" Earth System Science Data 12, Issue 3 (07 September 2020): 2013-2041. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-2013-2020.

7. I. Velicogna, Yara Mohajerani, A. Geruo, F. Landerer, J. Mouginot, B. Noel, E. Rignot, T. Sutterly, M. van den Broeke, M. Wessem, D. Wiese, "Continuity of Ice Sheet Mass Loss in Greenland and Antarctica From the GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Missions." Geophysical Research Letters 47, Issue 8 (28 April 2020): e2020GL087291. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL087291.

8. National Snow and Ice Data Center World Glacier Monitoring Service

9. National Snow and Ice Data Center D.A. Robinson, D. K. Hall, and T. L. Mote, "MEaSUREs Northern Hemisphere Terrestrial Snow Cover Extent Daily 25km EASE-Grid 2.0, Version 1 (2017). Boulder, Colorado USA. NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center. doi: https://doi.org/10.5067/MEASURES/CRYOSPHERE/nsidc-0530.001 . http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/snow_extent.html Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Data History

10. R.S. Nerem, B.D. Beckley, J. T. Fasullo, B.D. Hamlington, D. Masters, and G.T. Mitchum, "Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era." PNAS 15, no. 9 (12 Feb. 2018): 2022-2025. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1717312115.

11. https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/sea_ice.html Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) http://psc.apl.washington.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/ http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/projections-of-an-ice-diminished-arctic-ocean/

12. USGCRP, 2017: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 470 pp, https://doi.org/10.7930/j0j964j6 .

13. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F

14. http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

15. C.L. Sabine, et al., “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2.” Science 305 (16 July 2004): 367-371. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1097403.

16. Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate , Technical Summary, Chapter TS.5, Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities, Section 5.2.2.3. https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/technical-summary/

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March 18, 2024

Too Much Trust in AI Poses Unexpected Threats to the Scientific Process

It’s vital to “keep humans in the loop” to avoid humanizing machine-learning models in research

By Lauren Leffer

Sliced, glitchy illustration of scientist and robot. Artifical intelligence technologies, singularity concept.

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Machine-learning models are quickly becoming common tools in scientific research. These artificial intelligence systems are helping bioengineers discover new potential antibiotics , veterinarians interpret animals’ facial expressions , papyrologists read words on ancient scrolls , mathematicians solve baffling problems and climatologists predict sea-ice movements . Some scientists are even probing large language models’ potential as proxies or replacements for human participants in psychology and behavioral research. In one recent example, computer scientists ran ChatGPT through the conditions of the Milgram shock experiment —the famous study on obedience in which people gave what they believed were increasingly painful electric shocks to an unseen person when told to do so by an authority figure—and other well-known psychology studies. The artificial intelligence model responded in a similar way as humans did —75 percent of simulated participants administered shocks of 300 volts and above.

But relying on these machine-learning algorithms also carries risks. Some of those risks are commonly acknowledged, such as generative AI’s tendency to spit out occasional “hallucinations” (factual inaccuracies or nonsense). Artificial intelligence tools can also replicate and even amplify human biases about characteristics such as race and gender. And the AI boom, which has given rise to complex, trillion-variable models, requires water- and energy-hungry data centers that likely have high environmental costs.

One big risk is less obvious, though potentially very consequential: humans tend to automatically attribute a great deal of authority and trust to machines. This misplaced faith could cause serious problems when AI systems are used for research , according to a paper published in early March in Nature .

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“These tools are being anthropomorphized and framed as humanlike and superhuman. We risk inappropriately extending trust to the information produced by AI,” says the new paper’s co-author Molly Crockett , a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at Princeton University. AI models are human-made products, and they “represent the views and positions of the people who developed them,” says Lisa Messeri , a Yale University sociocultural anthropologist who worked with Crockett on the paper. Scientific American spoke with both researchers to learn more about the ways scientists use AI—and the potential effects of trusting this technology too much.

[ An edited transcript of the interview follows. ]

Why did you write this paper?

LISA MESSERI: [Crockett] and I started seeing and sharing all sorts of large, lofty promises of what AI could offer the scientific pipeline and scientific community. When we really started to think we needed to write something was when we saw claims that large language models could become substitutions for human subjects in research. These claims, given our years of conversation, seemed wrong-footed.

MOLLY CROCKETT: I have been using machine learning in my own research for several years, [and] advances in AI are enabling scientists to ask questions we couldn’t ask before. But, as I’ve been doing this research and observing that excitement among colleagues, I have developed a sense of uneasiness that’s been difficult to shake.

Beyond using large language models to replace human participants, how are scientists thinking about deploying AI?

CROCKETT: Previously we helped write a response to a study in [ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA ] that claimed machine learning could be used to predict whether research would [be replicable] just from the words in a paper.... That struck us as technically implausible. But more broadly, we’ve discovered that scientists are talking about using AI tools to make their work more objective and to be more productive.

We found that both of those goals are quite risky and open up scientists to producing more while understanding less. The worry is that we’re going to think that these tools are helping us to understand the world better, when in reality they might actually be distorting our view.

MESSERI: We categorize the AI uses we observed in our review into four categories: the Surrogate, the Oracle, the Quant and the Arbiter. The Surrogate is what we’ve already discussed—it replaces human subjects. The Oracle is an AI tool that is asked to synthesize the existing corpus of research and produce something, such as a review or new hypotheses. The Quant is AI that is used by scientists to process the intense amount of data out there—maybe produced by those machine surrogates. AI Arbiters are like [the tools described] in the [ PNAS ] replication study [Crockett] mentioned, tools for evaluating and adducting research. We call these visions for AI because they’re not necessarily being executed today in a successful or clean way, but they’re all being explored and proposed.

For each of these uses, you’ve pointed out that even if AI’s hallucinations and other technical problems are solved, risks remain. What are those risks?

CROCKETT: The overarching metaphor we use is this idea of monoculture, which comes from agriculture. Monocultures are very efficient. They improve productivity. But they’re vulnerable to being invaded by pests or disease; you’re more likely to lose the whole crop when you have a monoculture versus a diversity of what you’re growing. Scientific monocultures, too, are vulnerable to risks such as errors propagating throughout the whole system. This is especially the case with the foundation models in AI research, where one infrastructure is being used and applied across many domains. If there’s some error in that system, it can have widespread effects.

We identify two kinds of scientific monocultures that can arise with widespread AI adoption. The first is the monoculture of knowing. AI tools are only suited to answer certain kinds of questions. Because these tools boost productivity, the overall set of research questions being explored could become tailored to what AI is good at.

Then there’s the monoculture of the knower , where AI tools come to replace human thinkers. And because AI tools have a specific standpoint, this eliminates the diversity of different human perspectives from research production. When you have many different kinds of minds working on a scientific problem, you’re more likely to spot false assumptions or missed opportunities.

Both monocultures could lead to cognitive illusions.

What do you mean by illusions?

MESSERI: One example that’s already out there in psychology is the illusion of explanatory depth. Basically, when someone in your community claims they know something, you tend to assume you know that thing as well.

In your paper you cite research demonstrating that using a search engine can trick someone into believing they know something—when really they only have online access to that knowledge. And students who use AI assistant tools to respond to test questions end up thinking they understand a topic better than they do.

MESSERI: Exactly. Building off that one illusion of explanatory depth, we also identify two others. First, the illusion of exploratory breadth, where someone thinks they’re examining more than they are: There are an infinite number of questions we could ask about science and about the world. We worry that with the expansion of AI, the questions that AI is well suited to answer will be mistaken for the entire field of questions one could ask. Then there’s the risk of an illusion of objectivity. Either there’s an assumption that AI represents all standpoints or there’s an assumption that AI has no standpoint at all. But at the end of the day, AI tools are created by humans coming from a particular perspective.

How can scientists avoid falling into these traps? How can we mitigate these risks?

MESSERI: There’s the institutional level where universities and publishers dictate research. These institutions are developing partnerships with AI companies. We have to be very circumspect about the motivations behind that.... One mitigation strategy is just to be incredibly forthright about where the funding for AI is coming from and who benefits from the work being done on it.

CROCKETT: At the institutional level, funders, journal editors and universities can be mindful of developing a diverse portfolio of research to ensure that they’re not putting all the resources into research that uses a single-AI approach. In the future, it might be necessary to consciously protect resources for the kinds of research that can’t be addressed with AI tools.

And what sort of research is that?

CROCKETT: Well, as of right now, AI cannot think like a human. Any research about human thought and behavior, and also qualitative research, is not addressable with AI tools.

Would you say that in the worst-case scenario, AI poses an existential threat to human scientific knowledge production? Or is that an overstatement?

CROCKETT: I don’t think that it’s an overstatement. I think we are at a crossroads around how we decide what knowledge is and how we proceed in the endeavor of knowledge production.

Is there anything else you think is important for the public to really understand about what’s happening with AI and scientific research?

MESSERI: From the perspective of reading media coverage of AI, it seems as though this is some preordained, inevitable “evolution” of scientific and technical development. But as an anthropologist of science and technology, I would really like to emphasize that science and tech don’t proceed in an inevitable direction. It is always human-driven. These narratives of inevitability are themselves a product of human imagination and come from mistaking the desire by some to be a prophecy for all. Everyone, even nonscientists, can be part of questioning this narrative of inevitability by imagining the different futures that might come true instead.

CROCKETT: Being skeptical about AI in science doesn’t require being a hater of AI in science and technology. We love science. I’m excited about AI and its potential for science. But just because an AI tool is being used in science does not mean that it is automatically better science.

As scientists, we are trained to deny our humanness. We’re trained that human experience, bias and opinion have no place in the scientific method. The future of autonomous, AI “self-driving” labs is the pinnacle of realizing that sort of training. But increasingly we are seeing evidence that diversity of thought, experience and training in humans that do the science is vital for producing robust, innovative and creative knowledge. We don’t want to lose that. To keep the vitality of scientific knowledge production, we need to keep humans in the loop.

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COMMENTS

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    CAUSE AND EFFECT The Writing Centre Department of English 1 The cause and effect essay is an exploration of the reasons for or results of things or events. This type of essay can include both causes and effects, but generally contains only one of the two. Before Writing a Cause and Effect Essay 1. Choose your topic. Make sure that the topic is ...

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    Researchers who instead decide to rely on observational data often attempt to deal with its weaknesses by cautiously avoiding causal language: They refer to "associations," "relationships," or tentative "links" between variables instead of clear cause-effect relationships, and they usually add a general disclaimer ("Of course, as the data were only observational, future ...

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    Cause and Effect Essay Examples and Samples 2024. To demonstrate a cause and its effect is never that easy in written form. Check out our cause and effect essay samples to understand how to write an essay of this type on your own. Jul 18 2023.

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    Cause: the reasons for an event or situation Effect: the results of an event or situation ' Examples: o Cause: Excessive use of antibiotics o Effect: Antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat bacterial infections o Cause: Deforestation o Effect: Loss of habitat for wildlife species, disruption of ecosystems, and increased carbon ...

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    Create a thesis statement that mentions a "causes-type" word and the three main causes. A simple example format : The event is caused by 1, 2, and 3. Step 1: Choose to Examine the Causes or the Effects of an event or topic. Effects Paper. Focus on a single event. Think about what happened (outcomes) as a result of the event.

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    A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine how various phenomena relate in terms of origins and results. Sometimes the connection between cause and effect is clear, but often determining the exact relationship between ...

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