Cause And Effect Argument Essay

To write a cause and effect essay, you’ll need to determine a scenario in which one action or event caused certain effects to occur.  Then, explain what took place and why! This essay allows us to identify patterns and explain why things turned out the way that they did.

How do I choose a topic and get started?  Try choosing a major event, either in your own life or an event of historical significance.  For example, The Great Depression.

Cause of The Great Depression: stock market crash

How would we elaborate?  We'd discuss the behaviors, carelessness, errors, and even cultural attitudes that led to the crash—explaining why it was devastating.

Effects of the Great Depression: joblessness & poverty

What should we say about the effects?

  • Businesses went under—explain HOW the crash caused this
  • Describe poverty in detail—explain how this could’ve been handled more efficiently or even avoided

Narrowing a Large Topic

In a short essay, it might be difficult to tackle the cause and all of the many effects of a big event like the Great Depression. To narrow a cause and effect topic down to a manageable size, ask yourself… 

  1. What's the main (most important) cause?  Most people attribute it to the stock market crash, so that's a good place to start.   
  2. Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.  (example below)
  3. Which category interests me the most? "Practical effects" is the most interesting. I'll narrow the topic of my paper down so that my essay will now be about how the stock market crash affected the practical ways that people lived their lives during the Great Depression.    

Can that category be broken down even further to make the topic more manageable?  I'm actually interested in the ways that the Great Depression affected the farming industry.  I want to talk about the new skills and methods that farmers were forced to learn and implement, as a result of their difficult situation.

Narrowing a Large Topic - Example

Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.






money loses value

poverty increases

jobs eliminated

public resourcefulness increases

low self-esteem

companies lose value

homelessness increases

employers pay lower wages

farming techniques change

men emasculated by job loss

banks lose the public's trust

orphanages fill up

forced to work longer hours

public wastes less, finds creative ways to save

patriotism declines

Example Paper

Student Sample: The Desired Look: Nothing But Bones

Argumentation by classification

People tend to classify things into groups to make it easier to organize. This method of organization involves the forming and defending of a classification(s). For example, a person may argue that a part collection of songs should be classified as rap because the lyrics talk about urban life. Arguments by classification are generally used at the beginning of a paper because they can be useful in setting up a common understanding.

Against an argument by classification: Using the above example, a person could argue that phrasing "talk[s] about urban life" is too vague and broad to be a good classification. A person might also argue that a classification system is inadequate and propose an alternative classification. In case of the rap songs, a person may argue that the group of songs should instead be classified into three groups: Rap, Rap/R&B and Rap/Soul, based on the instruments used.

Example of an argument by classification:

The decision finds that the key in determining whether the Hazelwood precedent applies is whether or not the publication operates as "a designated public forum." Well, duh! A newspaper is a public forum, and any newspaper without competition on campus (which is most of them, certainly at every college or university I've ever attended) is obviously going to be considered the "designated" forum for expression of opinions or news about the campus. The executive director of the Student Press Law Center (which offered legal assistance to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit), Mark Goodman, was dead accurate when he said that this ruling is only going to muddy the waters of First Amendment jurisprudence even further than they already are: "A school that is looking for an excuse to censor and wants some legal principles to hang its hat on will use this ruling as a justification." 1
Many of the arguments I've read online are making a mockery of this debate, both pro and con. I have read logically fallacious appeals to tradition, arguing that Pluto should remain a planet because that's what we were taught in school and that's the way it has been for 76 years. On the other side of the aisle, I am reading equally spurious logic that there are enough planets and the fact that we will certainly discover more means there will eventually be too many. The media seems to simply be accepting the change as if the IAU were an authority instead of a collaboration of experts.
I'm telling you: Don't start rewriting the textbooks yet.
The original definition was simple. In order for a celestial body to qualify as a planet, it must (1) have sufficient mass to pull it into a relatively round shape and (2) orbit the sun rather than orbit another planet. 2

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Argumentation by cause and effect

Argumentation by cause and effect means that particular event is caused or affected by another event. For example, a person might argue that driving cars(cause) creates carbon emissions which change the global climate(effect).

Against argumentation by cause and effect: Although arguments of cause and effect can be very common, they are also problematic. Complex problems often have multiple causes and effects, which can make it difficult to isolate a single cause and its matching effect. When arguing against a cause and effect argument, find alternate causes for an effect. For example, critics of global climate change have used other causes such as the intensity of the sun and natural shifts in the earth's temperature as the reason for global climate change.

Examples of an argument by cause and effect

Wal-Mart is one of the few common features of every small town in the States. There are hundreds of them on I-80 alone (having used their immense parking lots to turn around a 17ft Uhaul towing a car last year). Over and over again, i heard locals defend the Wal-Marts as a cheap option for getting access to needed goods. There was often slippage in their arguments, as they would tell me that it's now the only option since the introduction of the Wal-Mart meant the closing of every possible competitor.
Wal-Mart makes billions of dollars every year. But at such an aweful expense. Check out these statistics (thanks Chloe!!).
Here's a sample (but read the full list):
$420,750: Annual cost to U.S. taxpayers of a single 200-employee Wal-Mart store, because of support required for underpaid workers -- including subsidized school lunches, food stamps, housing credits, tax credits, energy assistance, and health care.
45%: Proportion of her entire annual wage that a single Wal-Mart employee might have to pay out-of-pocket before collecting any benefits from the company-sponsored health plan. 3

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A recent L.A.Times article -- Now playing: A glut of ads -- points out that even studio executives were stunned by 15 minutes of commercials theatre goers had to endure after paying their 10 bucks:
"As head of production at New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich is not your typical moviegoer. So when he wanted to see "War of the Worlds" the other night, his choice was between seeing the film in a theater with a tub of popcorn or watching it in a screening room at Jim Carrey's house, with a private chef handling the culinary options. Despite this seemingly loaded deck, Emmerich opted for a real theater.
"I love seeing a movie with a big crowd," he says. "But I had no idea how many obnoxious ads I'd have to endure — it really drove me crazy. After sitting through about 15 minutes of ads, I turned to my wife and said, 'Maybe we should've gone to Jim Carrey's house after all.' "
When DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press took her young twins to see "Robots" this year, she said, "My own children turned to me and said, 'Mommy, there are too many commercials!' Now, when the lights go halfway down, I'm filled with dread. The whole uniqueness of the moviegoing experience is being eroded by all the endless ads."
So while the industry laments piracy, consider if you will why going to the theatre has become so much less enjoyable than watching DVD films on your own big screen in the comfort of your home theatre.
The theatres have adapted Radio's disasterous Hamburger Helper approach: Short term increases in profitability in exchange for alienating your core audience, who eventually seek out a more enjoyable substitute. Quite frankly, I'm astonished the film industry has (contractually) allowed theatre owners to degrade their copyright protected product by diminishing the experience so dramatically.
As Radio has so painfully learned, the end result is a big fat Buh-bye! To a large degree, this is a zero sum game: The theatre chains losses are Best Buys' gain; Is it any surprise that high quality home sound systems and large screen TV sales have gone through a ginormous growth spurt over the past 5 years? 4

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Argumentation by definition

Argumentation by definition means that the meaning of a word or phrase is defined or refuted. For example, there has been a lot of debate about whether the conflict in Iraq qualifies as a "civil war." The Bush administration argues that because there is an Iraqi government, the conflict does not qualify as a civil war. Like argumentation by classification, argumentation by definition is generally used at the beginning of the essay or paper to define terms used throughout the argument. Writers should be careful about argumentation by definition because it can easily become boring and tedious.

Against argumentation by definition: The most common way to refute an argument by definition is to disagree with the definition. For example, critics of the Bush administration argue that the daily violence in Iraq is a part of the definition of "civil war." Another strategy is to argue that the definition of a word or phrase is not important to the central argument.

Example of an argument by definition:

We see lots of reports on TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. about higher prices for oil or higher wages or low unemployment causing inflation. Bunk. Inflation is not rising prices. It is not rising wages (i.e. the price of labor). These are not causes of inflation but effects of inflation. A rise in the price of one thing, even something like oil that is used for many other things, does not cause a general price increase.
Considering that the USA lived through a serious bout of prolonged inflation just 25 years ago, this lack of understanding of the problem is appalling. It's not particularly surprising, though, since few understood it at the time.
The real cause of inflation becomes apparent once we use the correct definition of inflation. In a nutshell: Inflation is a decline in the value of money. The decline in a currency's value will eventually become apparent as a general rise in the the prices of goods, services and labor. However, these price changes occur simply as a reaction to the fall in the currency's value (or sometimes in anticipation of that fall). 5


  1. Kiss Freedom of Speech Goodbye on Campus
  2. Pluto is a Planet
  3. Society Problems Caused by Wal-Mart
  4. Ads the Reason Movie Theater Revenue Declining?
  5. The Real Cause of Inflation

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Citation: tomcas. (2008, May 19). Classification, Cause and Effect, Definition. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site:

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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