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ENG 121: Academic Writing: Cause and Effect Essay

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One essay option for this assignment: Speculating About Causes

English 121—Crerand

Essay 5: Speculating About Causes


Write a paper speculating about the causes of an important or intriguing phenomenon or trend (not an event or a fad), explaining to an audience of your choice WHY it has occurred. Describe and identify your subject, demonstrate its existence with concrete evidence if necessary, and speculate about the possible causes of it. Your purpose is not necessarily to prove that all your proposed causes are scientifically true, but to convince your readers that your proposed causes are the major ones and that they are plausible. 




·         A phenomenon is something notable about the human condition or the social order (i.e. why people love horror movies).  A trend is a significant change extended over months or years, typically identified by some sort of measurable increase or decrease (i.e. the increase in adoptions over the past decade).  While a trend indicates a significant change, a phenomenon, then, is a more of a stable state. 


·         Choose a phenomenon or trend that you are interested in and write out a table of causes and analyses to see what you know about it.  List all the possible causes and select the most promising ones.  Do some research if you need more information.  With your readers in mind, decide how to arrange the causes you have selected in order to make the most convincing explanation of your subject.


·         The basic parts of this paper are: (a) an explanation of the phenomenon/trend in the introduction for context; (b) a presentation of two to three proposed causes with evidence for each; (c) a consideration of readers' objections, questions, or reservations to such causes; and (d) a consideration of alternative causes if possible in the conclusion.


·         If you think your readers know very little about your subject, begin your essay by demonstrating the existence of the phenomenon or trend with evidence.


·         While arguing for your proposed causes, you do not have to prove that your explanations are scientifically true, but you must convince the readers that they are plausible or believable. To achieve this, you must present evidence in support of each proposed cause and organize your causal arguments in a logical order that will be easy for your readers to follow.  Remember our in class discussion of maps vs. tours of your houses in relation to Writer Based Prose.  You want to give your audience a map of the essay first in your introduction and thesis statement. 


·         You can present some obvious causes to establish common ground with your readers as King did in his essay.  However like King, in order to be successful in speculating about the causes, you have to be creative enough to come up with at least one not-so-obvious or “hidden” cause so as to show that you have the ability to make your readers look at the phenomenon or trend in a new way, and to challenge them to think more deeply and to experience explanations beyond the obvious and familiar ones.


·         Finally, be sure to take your readers’ values and beliefs into account, deal with some possible alternative causes, and anticipate any possible objections to and questions about your proposed causes by either accommodating or refuting them as you see fit. In other words, include a counterargument!