Take note of the assignment details.
Carefully write down any of the assignment requirements as provided by your teacher. If you have an assignment sheet make sure to read through it carefully and note any questions that you have. At a minimum, you should know the due date, the assignment length, the formatting requirements, and the opening prompt.
If you write down the details yourself make sure to keep this piece of paper in a safe location as you will need to consult it throughout the writing process.
Understand the goal of the assignment
Cause and effect papers do not always cover both of these elements. Find out if your essay is supposed to focus on causes, effects, or a bit of both. You will also want to determine if you are supposed to explore an assigned topic or come up with one yourself.
For example, you may be asked to write about the causes of the American Revolution, which means that you will discuss taxation protests and other contributing factors. Or, you may be asked to write about the effects of the American Revolution, which means that you will discuss nation-building and other long and short-term effects. A combined cause and effect essay would combine both of these angles.
Narrow down (or broaden) your topic
If you need to choose your own topic it is a good idea to start by brainstorming. Write down any and all topics that jump to mind. Pick the top five that interest you the most. Consider how much information you can reasonably fit into your paper’s required page length. Besides, you can try breaking a potential topic into multiple parts and choosing one of them.
Double-check that your idea is within the given subject parameters outlined by the teacher for the assignment.
Consider writing about moments that are close to your own experience, such as events that have impacted your life. For example, you could discuss a war period that you lived through. Or, you could take on a controversial topic, such as the proven effects of eating fast food on a regular basis. Taking a historical angle and looking into events like the American Revolution is another possible approach.
Be flexible in adjusting your topic breadth or depth as you work on your paper. At any point in the process, you may need to add or delete particular discussions to fit the requirements. For example, if you are writing about the actions of George Washington during the American Revolution, you may need to narrow your focus and only discuss one particular choice that he made.
Read any assigned texts.
If your teacher assigned articles or books to coincide with this essay assignment it is a good idea to start reading those as soon as you can. They may help you to narrow down a topic or they make help you to understand the topic that you’ve been assigned. You can also use your text notes as evidence when you actually start writing too.
These texts are usually great places to research your topic further.
Conduct background research.
Look at sources (books, articles, etc.) that explore your topic from a variety of perspectives. Cast a wide net initially by reading everything that you can. Narrow down your search as you find useful information. Make sure to take careful notes while you research so that you can cite properly later and avoid plagiarism.
Check that your sources fall within the guidelines given by your teacher for the assignment.
If you are covering a recent topic, such as the effects of fast food production, you may be able to use first-hand accounts, also known as primary sources, in your work.
Approach your teacher with questions.
At any stage in the process if you have questions you should email your teacher (if possible) or talk with them after class. It is a good idea to write down your questions beforehand too. You can also talk with students who’ve worked with this teacher before to see if they can clarify the assignment for you.
A good question might be, “Is there a minimum source number for this assignment?” Just make sure that the question that you ask is not already answered in the assignment sheet.
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