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The Causal Essay requires you to look at a problem (your topic) and ask what causes this problem or what are the effects of this problem.
You’re answering the question “Why?” (For example: Why are traffic deaths so high on Texas roadways? Why is tuition high at some universities? Why is sexual assault a problem on college campuses?)
But causal essays are more complex than simply saying, “I missed my class because I overslept.” Usually there are other reasons or a chain of causes that made you oversleep: for example, maybe you worked until 11 pm the night before, and you work because you didn’t get financial aid, and you didn’t get financial aid because you didn’t get your forms in on time and that was because your parents are divorced. You see, the chain of causes could go back quite a way. I don’t mean to say that your parents being divorced is the reason you missed your class; there are necessary causes, contributing causes, and sufficient causes.
Let’s look at each:
A necessary cause must be present for the effect to occur. That means that your working until 11 pm every night is a necessary cause. It directly made the oversleeping occur.A contributing cause may determine a particular effect, but it cannot determine it alone. That means that your not getting financial aid is a contributing cause. It helped to make the oversleeping occur.A sufficient cause can determine a particular effect by itself, but the effect does not always follow as a result of the cause. Your job could be a sufficient cause to make you oversleep, but it may not be the only cause. Perhaps you partied all night the day before. Perhaps you stayed up after getting home from work to study.
Why am I going over these different “causes”? You will need to dig deep to determine your causes of a problem.
If your topic is “Why do Americans fear immigrants?” your causes could be many and various. The causal chain might look like this: Americans fear immigrants will take their jobs, and that would mean they’d be poor, and that would mean they’d lose their homes, and that would mean they’d be on the street. But the argument could just as easily go that Americans fear the loss of their culture as well as their sense of identity. It’s important to understand the different ways that causes occur.
However, my strongest advice in writing this essay is don’t look for the easy way out. That causal effect chain that I just described is full of potholes and complexities that you shouldn’t ignore. Don’t be afraid to explore the nuances of your topic. By that I mean, speculate, use your informed opinion, use your judgment, use your intuition, but try to find support for your ideas.
Some parting advice:
I cannot stress enough that YOUR argument is the most important aspect of this essay. Yes, you will use sources, but they are only to support your own, nuanced, informed opinion.I AM interested in HOW you use your sources.You are NOT trying to solve the problem. (That is what the proposal will do.)
Don’t forget the format for each body paragraph:
Topic SentenceEvidence (source: summary or quotation)Commentary/Interpretation/Response to the source
This essay is to be 800-1000 words, using 3 sources (use the library databases NOT Google or Wikipedia), and in MLA style. You will need in-text citations as well as a Works Cited page.