27 September 2011

The Cause and Effect Essay

Topic: Anger--Cause and Effects

First, we need to remember that writing is a PROCESS…and, if we want to have a good essay, we have to follow the PROCESS.

The first step in the process is simply THINKING.  Once we have the topic, we must take some time to think about that topic...  Think about what you know.  Think about how the topic makes you feel.  Think about associated memories.     …Just THINK!

So, the topic for our paper—a “Cause and Effect” essay—is “Anger: Cause and Effect.”  Before you go forward, take a few minutes to think about those times in your life you have had an outburst of anger or have been with/near someone who had an outburst of anger….  (Keep a pen and paper nearby as you think…so you can write down your thoughts and ideas!) 

We want to look at three steps in the cause-and-effect process:  What brought about (caused) the outburst of anger?  How was the anger released or expressed—what did you/the person do?  And what were the results of this angry outburst (effect)—who was impacted and how? 

This is, of course, an examination of anger that we began while studying “Taming the Anger Monster” and related to “Sleeping Your Way to the Top” (noting that lack of sleep contributes to anger.)

I’d like you to remember that your classmates are probably going to be reading your essay—so you will want to avoid writing about or including details about things you don’t want others to know about.  Use good judgment.  At the same time, feel free to be honest and candid about your experiences…especially experiences that have taught you something about anger and its consequences.  In the end, the whole purpose of this writing project is to determine what we can learn about anger, ourselves and others.

Hopefully, you are thinking about all the things we have looked at already, and your brain is already sorting, classifying, dividing and putting things together without your even being conscious of it!  (Our brains are amazing…and they work hard, even when we’re not intentionally thinking about things…!)

Okay, now that we’ve considered the topic for a while, let’s think about the INTRODUCTION of our paper.  We have to start this paper somewhere, and the Introduction is the best place to begin.

First, let’s remember the PURPOSE of the introduction:
       Let the reader know generally what 
            we’re talking about and where 
            we’re going.
       Bring the reader into the writer’s world.

Now, let’s remember what we should find in the introduction:
  • The topic – What are we writing about?
  • The thesis – What perspective do we have on the topic? 
  • What, more specifically, are we going to do with the topic?

Our topic is:  Anger: Cause and Effect
So, what will our Thesis be??  What are going to say about this topic??  What situations are we going to look at?

We are going to look at TWO possible approaches to our task at hand.  Basically, I’m going to take you through the development of two thesis statements.  You’ll see as we do this that putting together the thesis statement basically forces us to develop a simple outline.  And, if we have the thesis statement and outline in hand, we almost ready to write an essay!

In the first THESIS development activity, I’m going to think three times that I got angry, acted foolishly and had to live with the consequences.
  • ·      Chased my brother with a machete around the house.
  • ·      Mad at my parents and beat the dog.
  • ·      Angry at my boss and talked behind his back.
So, for this possible paper, I have THREE situations from my life that I’m going to develop. 

Now, I need to decide what order I want to present them.  I think I’ll follow chronological order…so, dog then brother then boss. 

Somehow, I need to weave all of this together into a SINGLE SENTENCE…and that single sentence will be my THESIS statement.  Since I don’t have to give ALL the information in the thesis and introduction, I’ve decided to just give a hint at who they are without giving any other information.  Therefore, my thesis will look something like this:

What do a dog, a machete and slander have to do with each other?  Usually not a lot…but when you add my angry temper, these all three mean someone is going to get hurt..

So, we have one, single sentence here…and if you look closely, you’ll see that we already have the outline of the paper:

I. Introduction + Thesis
II. Body Paragraph I – Dog incident
III. Body Paragraph II – Machete incident
IV. Body Paragraph III – Boss-Slandering incident
V. Conclusion

Now, all we have to do is go back and fill in “the blanks” in the body paragraph—that is, we have to decide what anecdotes or stories we want to tell in order to show the cause(s) and effect(s) of these three angry outbursts.

Okay, let’s think through another approach.  Perhaps we don’t want to write about three events.  Instead, we may want to go deeper into one, single incident, examining each part with more depth.  So, here we go….

For this one, I can draw on my memories about when I became very angry with a girl I was dating.

So, let’s see how it all unfolded:
  • I saw her talking to Bobby during break.
  • I seethed with anger all last period…and exploded after  school.
  • I looked the fool…and almost lost my girlfriend.

Since this is cause and effect, the best order is to simply follow the event as it happened.

Now that I have the topic, the person, and the elements in order, I’m ready to write a thesis statement.  How does this sound?

Misunderstanding what I saw led me to say things I didn’t mean and almost ended my most important friendship

So, again, we can see that the basic layout of the paper appears in the thesis.  This paper about anger will have three body paragraphs… the first will be about what I saw and misinterpreted, the second about how I reacted to what I saw and the third will be about the effects of my faulty understanding and angry outburst.

I. Introduction and Thesis
II. Body Paragraph I – Seeing What Didn’t Happen
III. Body Paragraph II – My Angry Response—Out of my Fear
IV. Body Paragraph III – The ALMOST End of it All
V. Conclusion

I’m hoping that you can see clearly that if you put your THESIS together well, you will already have your outline for your paper!  Doing things this way requires you to remember that you are in a PROCESS…and it takes time.  You have to think, put thoughts on paper and do things well and thoughtfully from the beginning.  Just remember—better, deeper work at the beginning makes for easier, better work at the end!

Okay…one more thing to do.  We need to take those THESIS statements and work them into a good introduction paragraph.  Remember that the Intro. paragraph needs to be brief…just long enough to introduce the topic, share the thesis…all with the purpose of bringing the reader into the writer’s world!  So, let’s get these statements into some introductory paragraphs.

Remember, also, that as we looked at the elements of the essay earlier, we talked some about ways to get the reader into our world.  One way is by using the question.  Why?  When our minds hear a question, they try to answer it—whether we consciously want to or not!  So, here is one way we could write an introduction:

What do a dog, a machete and slander have to do with each other?  Usually not a lot…but when you add my angry temper, these all three mean someone is going to get hurt.  We often think that our anger or our angry actions only affect us, but experience have led me to realize that my anger can have far-reaching effects.

Here, I’ve used a question to bring the reader right into my direction of thought…and I’ve left just enough “unknown” in the thesis that the reader might want to read on a little more to see what I might mean.  Also, I’ve put my THESIS towards the beginning of the paragraph rather than at the end as we usually do.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes not!

Let’s do the next one:

An angry outburst may or may not be justified.  Sometimes we react out of our sense of justice, sometimes out of fear…and sometimes out of just plain old ignorance.  That’s exactly what happened to me when misunderstanding what I saw led me to say things I didn’t mean and almost ended my most important friendship.

Here, I’ve opted not to use the question, but—hopefully—I’ve again given just enough information that the reader will want to read on a little more…if for no other reason than to find out what happened.

Okay, I hope this has been helpful for you as you begin the practice of essay-writing.  You may find it very helpful to go back to the beginning and go through this all again before you begin your own introduction and thesis work.  Once you work through a couple of these essays with me, you’ll find that it’s not too, too difficult to set up the thesis…and if you can set up the thesis, then you have set up your essay outline…and if you have your outline, you are on the way to having your essay!

Happy Writing!

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