Assignment: Cause-and-Effect Essay—Prewriting and Draft

Length: 3 pages, double-spaced

For this assignment, you will work through the prewriting and drafting stages of your writing process in a cause-and-effect essay.

Cause-and-Effect Essay Prompt

Choose one of the following questions, and answer it in an essay developed by analyzing causes or effects. The question you decide on should concern a topic you care about so that the examples are a means of communicating an idea; not an end in themselves.

People and Their Behavior

  1. Why did one couple you know marry or divorce?
  2. Why is a particular friend or relative always getting into trouble?
  3. Why do people root for the underdog?
  4. How does a person’s alcohol or drug dependency affect others in his or her family?

Art and Entertainment

  1. Why do teenagers like rock music?
  2. Why is a particular television show so popular?

Contemporary Issues

  1. Why is a college education important?
  2. Why do marriages between teenagers fail more often than marriages between people in other age groups?


  1. The best courses are the difficult ones.
  2. Students at schools with enforced dress codes behave better than students at schools without such codes.

Politics and Social Issues

  1. Drug and alcohol addiction does not happen just to “bad” people.

Media and Culture

  1. The Internet divides people instead of connecting them.
  2. Good art can be ugly.
  3. A craze or fad reveals something about the culture it arises in.
  4. The best rock musicians treat social and political issues in their songs.

Rules for Living

  1. Lying may be justified by the circumstances.
  2. Friends are people you can’t always trust.

Writing Your Cause-and-Effect Essay


To get started writing your essay:

  1. Review What is an Essay?
  2. Take time to review possible subjects.
  3. Use prewriting to help you narrow your topic to an appropriate level of focus.

Remember that “story starters” are everywhere. Think about it—status updates on social media websites can be a good place to start. You may have already started a “note”on Facebook, and now is your chance to develop that idea into a full narrative. If you keep a journal or diary, a simple event may unfold into a narrative. Simply said, your stories may be closer than you think!


When drafting your essay:

  1. Develop an enticing title.
  2. Use the introduction to pull the reader into your thesis with a singular experience.
  3. Avoid addressing the assignment directly. (Don’t write “I am going to write about the causes and effects of ____…”—this takes the fun out of reading the work!)
  4. Think of things said at the moment your perspective on the topic became clear. Perhaps use a quote, or an interesting part of the experience that will grab the reader.
  5. Let the story reflect your own voice. Is your voice serious? Humorous? Matter-of-fact?
  6. Organize the essay in a way that may capture the reader, but don’t string the reader along too much with “next, next, next.”
  7. To avoid just telling what happens, make sure you take time to show significant details and reflect on why topic—and your experience with it—is significant.

Assignment Instructions

  1. Review the grading rubric as listed on this page.
  2. Choose a writing prompt as listed above on this page.
  3. Create a prewriting in the style of your choice for the prompt. Review the prewriting videos on the My Writing Process: Prewriting and Draft page if needed.
  4. Develop a draft according to the following guidelines. Papers submitted that do not meet the requirements will be returned to you ungraded.
    • Minimum of 3 typed, double-spaced pages (about 600–750 words), Times New Roman, 12 pt font size
    • MLA formatting (see the MLA Format page as needed)
    • Submitted as either a .doc, .docx, .rtf file
  5. Submit your prewriting and draft as a single file upload.


Be sure to:

  • Develop an essay developed by analyzing causes or effects or the prompt
  • Decide on something you care about so that the narration is a means of communicating an idea
  • Include characters, conflict, sensory details as appropriate to help your essay come alive
  • Create a sequence of events in a plot to support the logical flow of your essay
  • Develop an enticing title
  • Use the introduction to pull the reader into your singular experience
  • Avoid addressing the assignment directly (Don’t write “I am going to write about…” – this takes the fun out of reading the work!)
  • Let the essay reflect your own voice (Is your voice serious? Humorous? Matter-of-fact?)
  • Avoid “telling” your reader about what happened. Instead, “show” what happens using active verbs and/or concrete and descriptive nouns and details.

If you developed your prewriting by hand on paper, scan or take a picture of your prewriting, load the image onto your computer, and then insert the image on a separate page after your draft.

Grading Rubric: Cause-and-Effect Essay—Prewriting and Draft

Criteria Ratings Point Total: 50
Ideas 15 pts: The paper demonstrates outstanding idea development.

12 pts: The paper demonstrates above average idea development.

11 pts: The writer sufficiently defines the topic, even though development is still basic or general.

9 pts: The paper has an idea that needs to be developed.

0 pts: There is no coherent idea.

15 pts
Content 15 pts: The paper demonstrates outstanding evidence of supporting the main point.

12 pts: The paper demonstrates above average evidence of supporting the main point.

11 pts: The paper demonstrates sufficient support of the main point.

9 pts: The paper requires more supporting evidence of the main point.

0 pts: There is little content supporting the main idea.

15 pts
Organization 15 pts: The organization is outstanding and showcases the central theme. The presentation of information is compelling.

13 pts: The organizational structure is above average.

10 pts: The organizational structure is strong enough to move the reader through the text without too much confusion.

8 pts: The writing needs a clearer sense of direction. The internal structure is weak.

0 pts: The organization is poor.

15 pts
Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions 5 pts: The writer demonstrates an outstanding word choice selection, flow and cadence, with well-built sentences and strong grasp of standard writing conventions.

3 pts: The writer demonstrates above average word choice selection, flow and cadence, with well-built sentences and strong grasp of standard writing conventions.

2 pts: The writer demonstrates sufficient selection of words. The text tends to be more mechanical and contains some errors of standard writing conventions.

1 pts: The writer demonstrates a limited vocabulary and lack of fluidity. Errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, usage and grammar repeatedly distract the reader and make the text difficult to read.

0 pts: No marks.

5 pts