Graphic Organizer For Cause And Effect Essay

Focus Question: How can a cause-and-effect essay be organized in different ways?

Part 1

“During the last lesson, we read ‘The Effects of Being an Athlete’ and completed a graphic organizer that listed specific effects of being an athlete. Take a few minutes to revisit this essay. When you’re finished rereading it, go back and identify what you consider to be the essay’s thesis statement.” After students have finished revisiting the essay, ask them to point out the thesis statement; then ask them to identify the evidence that the author uses to support the thesis. For example, in the paragraph about increasing physical abilities, the author gives facts showing that participating in a sport increases speed, muscular mass, stamina, lung capacity, and elasticity.

 “Now take out the thesis statement and list of causes/effects that you wrote during the last lesson. Just as ‘The Effects of Being an Athlete’ provides support for its claim, you need to support your own thesis with facts, examples, and details.”

Give students time to research information to support their ideas. While some students may have topics for which they can generate their own details and examples, other topics may require outside research. If possible, plan to hold class in a computer lab or a place where students can conduct online research. Help students stay focused by having them generate a list of specific key words or phrases that they will search to support their thesis statements. Approve this list and ensure its focus before they begin.

If necessary, review with students the guidelines for research. They must give credit to the source for any facts and statistics they use in the paper that are not their own work. They must also put in quotation marks any words or phrases that they copy directly from a source. (A good resource for citation guidelines is at Remind students that while the Internet is widely available to the public, any information found there and used directly in a paper must be appropriately documented.

Part 2

Once students have completed their research, say, “Now that you have completed some research, you are ready to outline your paper.” Provide copies of the Cause-and-Effect Essay Outline and the appropriate graphic organizer for students, depending on whether they have chosen a cause or an effect as their topic (LW-8-2-2_Cause-and-Effect Essay Outline.docx, LW-8-2-2_Cause with Multiple Effects Graphic Organizer.pdf, and LW-8-2-2_Effect with Multiple Causes Graphic Organizer.pdf).

Note: You may decide to use only the outline if students do not need as much scaffolding.

The graphic organizer and/or outline will guide students to organize their ideas. Explain that cause-and-effect essays may be structured in various ways. For example, in Lesson 1, students discussed how multiple causes could affect a student’s performance on a test. In contrast, the essay, “The Effects of Being an Athlete,” analyzes how an activity can produce multiple effects.

Instruct students on how to complete the organizer and/or outline. Encourage them to come up with an interesting fact, example, or anecdote to introduce their topic. Emphasize that the introduction is the “hook” that will make readers want to read their paper and that their thesis statement should generally be at the end of their introduction.

One way to describe the introduction is to compare it to an inverted triangle or the top section of an hourglass. Often the introduction is more general in the beginning and slowly becomes more specific as it transitions to the thesis statement, which should be the most specific part of the introduction. As students complete the cause/effect section of the organizer and/or outline, explain that each cause/effect will be a separate body paragraph with a topic sentence. Model with a paragraph topic sentence from “The Effects of Being an Athlete”: “The first major effect of practicing a sport is that you will develop physical abilities.” Point out that this sentence tells the reader exactly what to expect in the first body paragraph.

Explain that they should find a logical order for their paragraphs. For example, organizing from the least important to the most important cause/effect might be ideal for many essays. For some, sequential order might work well. Encourage students to choose the order that will best present their ideas.

Tell students that their research should support each topic sentence. Finally, explain that the conclusion should summarize their main points and restate their thesis.

Collect the organizers and/or outlines and provide verbal or written feedback regarding their ideas, research, and outlines.

Part 3

After students have received feedback on their organizers and/or outlines, they are ready to write their rough drafts. Give each student a copy of Cause-and-Effect Transitions (LW-8-2-2_Cause-and-Effect Transitions.doc). Explain to students that transitions are like dots of glue that hold the ideas of their paper together. The chart lists common transitions used for different purposes in a paper. Choose examples and discuss how different words show different relationships between causes and effects and therefore when you would use one over another. Have students read over the chart, and ask about words they have questions about before completing the exercises at the bottom of the page. Review the exercise to show the effect of the transitions. Tell students to use the chart as a resource while they complete their drafts.

Give students time to write their rough drafts in class or assign them as homework. Explain that they will have an opportunity to get feedback on their drafts and revise them before writing the final draft.


  • Students who might be going beyond the standards can read and analyze “Corn-Pone Opinions” by Mark Twain, available at This is written at a higher readability level and has a less traditional organization format for cause-and-effect analysis.
  • Students who might require additional practice could choose an essay from the following Web site to make a visual representation of the causes and effects expressed: “Students’ Cause-and-Effect Essays—Models” in Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English.
  • Students who have not been exposed to much research will benefit from a tutorial at the school library.
  • For extra practice with transitions, students can add transition words in the blank arrows of the Athletic Graphic Organizer (LW-8-2-1_Athletic Graphic Organizer.pdf and LW-8-2-1_Athletic Graphic Organizer KEY.pdf).

Cause and Effect diagrams, also called sequence of events diagrams, are a type of graphic organizer that describe how events affect one another in a process.

The student must be able to identify and analyze the cause(s) and the effect(s) of an event or process. In this process, the student realizes how one step affects the other.

There are many models of cause and effect events, including:

Disjointed Events:

One Cause Leading to Multiple Events:

Multiple Causes Leading to One Event:

Chains of Cause and Effect Events:

Loops of Cause and Effect Events:

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