When we talk about Cause and Effect, or “causality”, we are basically talking about the relationship between two or more items. This relational quality can pertain to pretty much anything, literary texts, physical bodies, chemical compounds, and so on. Hence we can talk, in a very literal sense, about the causal relationship between the Earth and the Moon, in which the “effect” of the moon orbiting the Earth results from the “cause” of the Earth's gravitational pull. Likewise, though in a more abstract vein, we can observe how the “effect” of a particular poet's style is “caused” by the influence by a precursor poet.
So, Cause and Effect is relevant in many different contexts. Whatever the context may be, though, the general principle remains constant: to identify determinant relationships (the way one thing determines the actions of another thing). As a result, identifying causality is a primary concern of analysis. Analysis pulls things apart in order to explain the various components and how they (causally) relate to one another. Causality is also at the forefront of argumentation, whereupon premisses and conclusions must share a valid causal relationship.
When composing a Cause and Effect Essay, you want to be clear about your process and intentions. Tell the reader what you are doing; that you are seeking to identify causal relationships between the items under discussion.
Causality is relevant in every essay, in one way or another. Say for example you were writing a Sociology essay which asked you to discuss the relationship between poverty and crime. This kind of “Discussion” essay is very common at undergraduate level – and represents a fantastic opportunity to examine cause and effect. A great place to start in such instances would be to consider causality. You could start by making general notes, looking at the ways in which poverty and crime might be connected. You would do this by breaking the topics down into simpler components. Crime, then, could be considered as an effect of poverty. Thus we might look at the particular types of crime (theft for example), examining this as a specific effect of poverty. We could take this line of approach further and look into the particular kinds of poverty, how it manifests. Next, digging deeper, we could look at poverty as an effect, then seek to trace its cause. Perhaps poverty is the effect of a political, economic, social or cultural cause.
Note that by locating causal relationships between various items and phenomena, we quickly begin to open the subject up and gain both a broader and more detailed picture of the overall topic, which is exactly what we want. By thinking about issues in terms of cause and effect, we train our lens on the cement which binds things together. In so doing, we start to understand how interrelations govern a good deal of the world around us.
Some causal relationships are very obvious while some are quite obscure. It goes without saying that the student who scores top marks will be he or she who identifies the less obvious cause and effect connections.
If we were writing an astrophysics essay on the gravitational relationship between the Moon and the Earth, it will not suffice merely to observe that the former orbits the latter. You will want to seek out deeper, more insightful causal connections. Perhaps the Earth's far higher orbital velocity has specific effects on the orbital pathway of the Moon and this enables us to infer more precise causal determinants – then again, perhaps not. By scrutinising cause and effect, we can answer such questions.
You may wish to take a contrary approach, to disprove causality. For example, if you were composing a Journalism essay on the topic of immigration, you might attempt to disprove tabloid assertions that the “cause” of immigration is having the “effect” of a massive burden on the national welfare system. You would still be working with causality, only in the reverse formation.
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