Rhetorical Strategy of Cause-and-Effect Analysis

A cause and effect relationship can be best described as something that enables an event to occur. For example, “Upon seeing that his daughter’s boyfriend had rutted up the yard, Marcus was seething with rage.” Here, the cause is the boyfriend rutting up the yard and the effect is the father simmering with rage. Authors will sometimes use this strategy to speculate on possible effects of a particular cause, or maybe which event caused specific effects that we now see.

Rhetorical Strategy of Cause-and-Effect Analysis

“Why did the chicken cross the road?… To get to the other side!”

This terrible but well-known joke is an example of cause and effect. A better example might be: “When people smoke more cigarettes, they are more likely to have lung cancer.” People smoking more is the cause and having an increased risk of lung cancer is the effect. But how do you convince someone of a cause and effect in an essay?

When an author is engaged in a cause and effect analysis, the author is primarily concerned with explaining why something happens or describing the consequences of something. Authors have different goals of a cause and effect analysis, but there are three common goals that most share:

One is to “outline previously unknown consequences of a familiar event.”

Another is to “speculate about possible causes for a known problem.”

The third common reason is to “show how one thing influences another.”

A writer may pick any of these reasons to write a cause and effect analysis.

An example of the first type would be something like: “Eating too many carrots can make your skin look orange.” Eating carrots is a familiar event, but having your skin turn orange is certainly an unknown consequence. You would have to back up your assertion with research or even a photo in this case. Eyewitness testimony might work, as long as there were multiple eyewitnesses or the witness was well known as an expert on the subject.

For the second type, an example might be: “Persistent falling and lack of balance among senior citizens can be caused by multiple issues; from simple things like ear infections and colds to larger issues like a stroke, neuropathy, or visual impairment.” The known problem, falling and lack of balance, can be attributed to many possible causes. You can argue for prevalence in one, like vision impairment if you are trying to sell something like glasses, or can simply state the different conditions that caretakers should be on the lookout for when there has been a fall.

For the third type, an example is: “Life imitates art.” This common saying can be backed up by many references. You could go through a history of science fiction and how it influenced our lives today. An example might be the technology in Star Trek. Long before cell phones and iPads, Star Trek had wireless communicators, video phones, and portable computer tablets. What was once science fiction has now become science fact. But how much influence did this popular show have on the technology of today? That’s something you as a writer would have to convince the reader of.

It’s not necessary for the author to assert a firm conclusion in a cause and effect analysis; often just asking some pointed questions would be enough. Your goal is to guide the reader toward your point of view. Sometimes even you as the author are not certain about the final answer, but just having the presence of mind to think about possibilities can help your reader understand more about a subject and show some possible cause and effect relationships that they might not have thought of before.

The reader also has some responsibilities when reading a cause and effect analysis. It’s important that the reader always considers whether the arguments made by the author are both sensible and coherent. Do the assertions made make sense? Are they backed up by facts or is everything just the author’s opinion? Lastly, do you feel convinced one way or another, or are you at least curious to look into the subject more yourself? That is the ultimate goal of the rhetorical strategy of a cause and effect analysis.

Thanks so much for watching. See you guys next time and, as always, happy studying!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: August 14, 2019