Analyze A Cause & Effect Relationship In Writing

Analyzing cause and effect relationships in writing is a useful life skill.

Analyzing cause and effect relationships in writing can be done through diagrams, creating lists, identifying verbs and keywords that indicate a causal relationship, or through discussion.


1. Fishbone diagrams help narrow down potential causes to the dominating factor.

Create a diagram to break down the possible causes of a result, or the possible results of a particular cause. The most popular is the fishbone diagram, which requires you to draw a straight line with the effect written in a box as the “head” of the fish. Then, draw lines off of the “backbone” that lead to at least four other boxes, forming the “bones.” These four boxes identify potential causes created by humans, the environment, materials, and methods. Draw more lines off of each of these boxes to identify sub-causes that create these four causes.

2. Write down all possible causes and/or effects to help your analysis.

Create two columns, one listing all of the causes and the other listing all of the effects. Identify the strongest direct relationship to narrow the list down to one main cause and its main effect.

3. Underline or highlight transition words or verbs common in cause-effect writing.

Identify the transition words in cause-effect sentences like due to, because, therefore, consequently, so, since, because of, or but to pinpoint a cause and effect sentence. Also, identify verbs that indicate a causal relationship like result, may, could, did, is, lead to, produce, arise, or stem. For cause-effect paragraphs, underline the thesis sentence that presents the cause or the effect that the rest of the paragraph or essay analyzes.

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4. Just ask “Why?” to get to the root cause.

Ask “why” questions to help readers get to the root causes of an effect/result. For example, for the result “I failed the test,” the answer to “why” might be “because the material is hard.” Ask “Why is the material hard?” and the response may be “because I didn’t study enough.”