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How to Create a Functional Cause and Effect Essay Outline

functional cause and effect essay outline

The first rule of essay writing is to remember there are multiple types of essay one can write. The chances are high you’ll have to work on all of them at some point of your university education and after. If you work as an essay writer, there’ll come the time when you’ll receive a special assignment that requires a particular type of essay writing, and your job is to make that happen. Cause and effect essay is just one example, but it’s poorly understood. Some may regard it as complicated, but once you learn how to create a functional outline, it will be easier. To help you out, I’m going to show you how to construct cause and effect paper successfully. You’ll see, it’s easier than it seems!

How differentiate cause and effect?

Let’s start with the definition first; cause and effect essays are concerned with why things occur (causes) and their outcomes (effects). This type of writing poses as a standard method of organizing and discussing ideas. Here, the author demonstrates his/her ability to connect the reasons and their consequences in a logical and evidence-based manner.

Naturally, a cause is an answer to why a particular event occurs and effect refers to things that happen because of it. Although the explanation is quite simple, many students find it difficult to differentiate causes and effects. Since the successful completion of your paper depends on the ability to know the difference between causes and effects, you should take your time with this. There’s no reason to rush and construct your outline when you aren’t sure how to set apart two main factors.

For example, global warming is an effect whose causes are deforestation, pollution, climate change and so on. To determine the cause, you should ask yourself “Why did this happen?” while effects are usually the answers you get after asking “What happened because of this?” In the example mentioned above, you have global warming as an effect of multiple causes. This allows you to complete your essay discussing different factors that contributed to global warming while citing official sources, respected journals, and so on.

In a way, cause and effect essay is similar to an argumentative essay. You have to prove certain cause led to some particular effect, just like argumentative essay writing requires showing that your argument about some subject is valid.

When you’re in doubt, always ask yourself why and what, and you’ll get your answer. Sometimes you won’t have to describe both causes and effects throughout the essay. In some instances, you’ll just have to explain causes of some effect or effects that occurred due to some cause.

Structure of cause and effect essay

As mentioned above, adequate structure and proper outline are the keys in the successful completion of cause and effect essay. The structure of your work will depend on the type of subject i.e. whether the essay will discuss both causes and effects combined or one of these factors individually. Below, you can see three possible variants and their outlines.

Variation #1: Multiple causes, one effect

This kind of work refers to the situation when one effect is a result of multiple causes. The paper should consist of five paragraphs, introduction and conclusion, and three sections wherein each one describes one cause.

structure of functional cause and effect essay outline #1

Variation #2: One cause, multiple effects

Unlike the previous variant, this type of essay writing is used for situations when a single cause induces a multitude of effects. Five paragraphs make up the outline of the essay, introduction and conclusion, and three sections for each effect.

structure of functional cause and effect essay outline #2

Variation #3: Domino effect (causal chain)

The last variant of this kind of essay refers to instances when a single cause leads to a certain effect. Then, that effect leads to some other situation, and so on. Every situation might have different causes and effects that you have to mention and elaborate. For domino effect essay you’ll need to construct seven paragraphs: introduction and conclusion, and five causal link sections.

structure of functional cause and effect essay outline #3

Writing your cause and effect essay

Now that you know how the outline of your essay should look, you can proceed to the writing process. It’s always useful to have a schematic demonstration of your outline on a piece of paper. This will help you with the context, research, and ensures you don’t drift away from the subject, which happens sometimes. This part is just the accumulation of your plans, notes, and details gathered, and it happens to be the most demanding aspect of essay writing. You have to showcase your knowledge about the topic as well as your vocabulary and discuss the given subject to keep the reader’s eyes locked on the paper. Below, you can see valuable tips that will help you construct each part of your essay.


As always, your essay starts with the introduction. Although very overlooked, the intro is vital. It sets the tone, catches reader’s attention, and creates a sound basis for the entire paper. This part shouldn’t be too long; a few sentences are enough. Start by quoting someone, mentioning some general info or anecdote and move your way to the thesis statement.

Thesis statement informs the reader what he or she will read about; it also navigates the course of your essay. The introductory part should end with a thesis (one to two sentences long). Here are some thesis tips for cause and effect essay:

  • Variation #1 – mentions the general effect of the situation and names three causes that led to it
  • Variation #2 – mentions one specific cause that created numerous effects
  • Variation #3 – names the first and last part of the causal link chain

The thesis statement should be precise and easy to understand. The last thing you want is to create confusion that would prevent professor (or client) from reading the rest of the text you wrote and submitted.

Causes/effects paragraphs

Sections that elaborate causal links, causes and effects are the central part of your work. Each cause or effect should be divided to different paragraph to create a clear flow of situations and consequences.

Let’s say you have to write about global warming; it’s not enough to mention pollution, deforestation, and so on. You have to provide accurate and reliable info that will confirm that they, indeed, contribute to the problem you specified. Whenever you use some information, website, study, or journal don’t forget to acknowledge it. Plus, mentioning reliable sources only contributes to the quality of your paper. For that purpose, it’s wise to avoid personal blogs and unreliable websites, despite how tempting they might seem.

Research and organizing info you found are crucial for the quality of your text. Organization is the key, and you can do it in a few different ways:

  • Chronological order – arrange details in order they occurred
  • According to importance – organize info from the least important to the most importance or vice versa
  • Categorical manner – divide the topic into different parts or categories and arrange details accordingly

Once you’re done describing one causal link, effect, or cause, you’re ready to move to the next paragraph, and so on. However, you just can’t just skip from one subject to another. Instead, you should make a smooth transition to retain the logical flow and avoid choppiness. To accomplish this, you can start navigating the subject to the one you’re going to discuss in the next paragraph by mentioning something they have in common. This will allow you to elaborate the next cause/effect/causal link without making it look weird.

You can also use transitional words for both causes and effects.


  • Due to
  • Because
  • First
  • Second
  • Since
  • Another is
  • On cause is


  • Consequently
  • As a result
  • Thus
  • Resulted in
  • Therefore
  • Thereby
  • One result is


The importance of conclusion is underestimated, but you shouldn’t ruin your hard work on the essay with a wrong conclusion, right? Conclusion should:

  • Restate the topic and why it’s important
  • Summarize causes and effects discussed
  • Call for action regarding the subject i.e. why we should help fight global warming and what could happen if we don’t

Keep this in mind

  • Don’t forget your purpose: are you writing the essay to inform a reader about causes/effects or your aim is to persuade someone?
  • Limit yourself onto causes that are close in time and related i.e. they should have a direct relationship
  • Improve the quality of your essay with facts, definition of some terms, statistics, examples, and so on
  • Be precise and on point, don’t exaggerated effects or causes just to prove your point
  • Don’t say “evidence” or “proof” if you’re not going to support those words with actual evidence. The information isn’t automatically valid just because you write “a growing body of evidence supports…”

Bottom line

Cause and effect essay aims to discuss the situations where one (or more) causes lead to one (or more) events. To write this paper and get positive feedback, you just have to know how to create an adequate structure, and this article taught you that. With a little bit of practice, you’ll find it incredibly easy. In fact, why don’t you start now? Write cause and effect essay about global warming and see how you’ll do.