Cause and effect is a common way to organize information in a text. Paragraphs structured as cause and effect explain reasons why something happened or the effects of something. These paragraphs can be ordered as causes and effects or as effects and then causes. The cause and effect text structure is generally used in expository and persuasive writing modes.
To put it another way: when an author gives reasons why something happened, he or she is explaining what caused an effect (reasons are causes and the thing that happens is the effect). Also, when a writer explains the results of an action, he or she is explaining the effects of a cause (results are effects and the thing that occurs is the cause). The cause and effect text structure is used so commonly that you have probably written a paragraph using it and not noticed.
Example: Many people think that they can get sick by going into cold weather improperly dressed; however, illnesses are not caused by temperature- they are caused by germs. So while shivering outside in the cold probably won’t strengthen your immune system, you’re more likely to contract an illness indoors because you will have a greater exposure to germs.
In the above example, the paragraph explains how germs cause illnesses. The germs are the cause in the paragraph and the illness is the effect.
Here is another example of a paragraph that is written using the cause and effect text structure:
Another Example: Students are not allowed to chew gum in my class. While some students think that I am just being mean, there are many good reasons for this rule. First, some irresponsible students make messes with their gum. They may leave it on the bottoms of desks, drop it on the floor, or put it on other people’s property. Another reason why I don’t allow students to chew gum is because it is a distraction. When they are allowed to chew gum, students are more worried about having it, popping it, chewing it, and snapping it then they are in listening, writing, reading, and learning. This is why I don’t allow students to chew gum in my class.
Identifying a text written using the cause and effect pattern of organization can be tricky. In most stories, events in the plot occur for various reasons, This can be mistaken for the cause and effect text structure; however, stories are organized chronologically, and the information in each passage is more likely to be organized by the time in which each event occurred. Contrarily, cause and effect passages usually focus on explaining the reason why something occurs or occurred, and time will usually not pass in these paragraphs.
Here are some signal words that may indicate that information in a paragraph is organized as cause and effect: because, as a result, resulted, caused, affected, since, due to, effect.
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