Show historical cause and effect using Visio

Applies to
Microsoft Visio® 2002

As any teacher or serious student of history knows, it takes more than simply memorizing a date to understand a historical event. Each event grows out of a complex series of smaller events that precede and cause it.

But slogging through paragraph after paragraph of text that explains the causes can be a tedious and confusing exercise. In many cases, the best way to demonstrate historical cause and effect is to show it using a Visio cause and effect diagram.

After you learn to create cause and effect diagrams:

  • As a teacher, you can incorporate them into your lesson plans or assign them as homework to help students analyze the causes behind a particular event.
  • As a student, you can include them in your research papers and other assignments.

What is a cause and effect diagram?

The cause and effect diagram was invented by Kaoru Ishikawa, a management expert and author of Guide to Quality Control, to help improve quality control in the workplace. As the example below demonstrates, cause and effect diagrams are also useful tools for showing historical cause and effect.

Cause and effect (fishbone) diagram

Cause and effect diagrams are also known as fishbone diagrams because they resemble the skeleton of a fish. The largest bones attached to the fish's spine represent major categories of causes. In the cause and effect diagram above, for example, the categories are Angles/Jutes, Danes, Saxons, and Normans. These were the ethnic groups who battled for control of England.

The smaller bones feeding into the categories represent primary causes. In the diagram above, for example, a primary cause of the Battle of Hastings from the Saxons category is that, in AD 1051, Edward the Confessor promised the throne to William I.

Although none are shown in the diagram above, you can also add secondary causes that feed into primary causes.

How do I create a cause and effect diagram?

You can quickly create a cause and effect diagram in Visio because the basic skeleton is already set up.

To create a cause and effect diagram

  1. Start Visio. Under Choose Drawing Type, click Business Process, and then click Cause and Effect Diagram.

A cause and effect diagram opens with the spine and categories already on the drawing page.

  1. Click the spine, and then type the name of the event (or effect).
  2. Decide how many cause categories you need.
    • To add a category, drag a Category 1 or Category 2 shape onto the drawing page and position it so that the arrowhead is touching the spine.
    • To delete a category, click it, and then press DELETE.
  3. Click each category shape and type the name of the cause category.
  4. For each category, decide how many primary causes you need. For each primary cause:
    • Drag a Primary cause shape onto the drawing page and snap its arrowhead to the category line.
    • Click each Primary cause shape and type a description of the cause.
  5. If you want to add secondary causes to some primary causes:
    • Drag Secondary cause shapes onto the drawing page and snap the arrowheads to the primary cause lines.
    • Click each Secondary cause shape and type a description of the cause.
  6. Save and name your cause and effect diagram.

 Tip   You can change the direction of a secondary cause arrow. Click the arrow, point to Rotate or Flip on the Shape menu, and then choose the command you want.