Teaching Notes: Cause-and-Effect Analysis

For Freshman English A (first semester first-year writing)

Corresponds to Chapters 9 of The Student Writer

  • Definitions:
    • Cause = the “why” of an event, trend, situation, phenomenon
    • Effect = the “what happened” of a cause
    • Analysis = evaluation; a close, detailed, critical, focused consideration
  • Two Types – both types discuss both causes and effects but …
    • Focus on causes – the known, unknown, speculated, unexpected, etc. causes
      • Analysis of the why people get skin cancer (the causes of skin cancer)
    • Focus on effects – the expected, unexpected, unlikely, etc. effects
      • Analysis of what would happen if campus closed a parking lot (the effects of parking lot closure)
    • Purposes of cause-and-effect analyses:
      • To inform or share
      • To entertain
      • To persuade (probably most common)
    • Can be combined with any of the other patterns of development: exemplification, description, compare/contrast, etc.
    • More definitions: Types of causes
      • Underlying = base, hidden, not as readily recognized; sometimes the “why” of the “why”
        • Cause of divorce = two-career marriage. But why? Less time together, more stress = these are underlying causes
      • Immediate = right now; occurs at or close to time of effect
      • Remote = far away; occurs at distant time to time of effect
      • Causal chain = a linear tracing of the causes to effects where effects are causes to something else
        • Low tire caused blowout, blowout caused wreck
      • Tips for writing:
        • Don’t exaggerate causes or effects
        • Do identify/explain several of both
        • Don’t omit causes or effects
        • Must address why something isn’t a cause or effect
        • Give credit where due
      • Structure:
        • Intro = must engage interest in way that tells reader why important problem, and include thesis that indicates type (focus)
        • Body = variety of ways: paragraph for each cause/effect, all causes then all effects, etc. (depends on type and topic)
        • Conclusion = summarize points, restate thesis, look ahead (remind why problem, what will happen if not dealt with)

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