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What is Causal Analysis?



Causal Analysis tackles the causes and effects of a particular event, phenomenon, or situation. It deals with the study of the relationship between or among at least two happenings. It answers the questions “why” and “how.” Some keywords such as “therefore,” “because,” “following,”and”previously”give the reader a clue that Causal Analysis is used in a given piece of writing. A writer’s purpose for using Causal Analysis as his/her primary mode of paragraph development can largely be categorized into any—or all—of the following three: informative, which primarily explains; persuasive, which attempts to convince the reader to believe what the writer is saying; and speculative, which suggests possibilities.

A single cause does not usually yield to a single effect. Nor is a single effect usually made to happen by a single cause. A causal chain is a set of cause and effect that leads to multiple other sets—all happening one after the other. Take the example of acing an exam in a major subject. If treated as an effect, probable causes that come to mind are studying well, arriving early for the exam schedule, eating a full meal beforehand, and getting enough sleep the night before. On the other hand, if treated as a cause, probable effects that come to mind are feeling good for the rest of the day; receiving praises from the teacher, classmates, and parents as well; passing the subject itself; and maybe even landing you on the honour roll. Taking all of these interconnected events into consideration gives you a causal chain.

Causal chains are commonplace in an essay that uses Causal Analysis as one of its modes of paragraph development. However, it is important to identify first the primary and secondary causes and effects of the situation. This is to maintain order and coherence in your essay, and also to avoid losing focus. Concentrate on the immediate rather than the remote causes and/or effects of your paper. Take the situation of acing an exam again. A primary cause is studying well for the past few days as it can also be considered the root cause. Arriving early for the exam schedule can be considered an immediate cause as it happened closer to the situation of acing the exam than reviewing well. In terms of effects, an immediate one would be feeling good for the rest of the day, while a remote effect can be landing you on the honour roll. Acing an exam solely cannot guarantee you of receiving honours; however, it could lead you to getting a high mark in your majors’ subject and giving you a higher chance of acquiring high academic merit.

When dealing with Causal Analysis, be wary of the logical fallacy of faulty causality or propter hoc, ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”). Faulty causality happens when one assumes that event A is always the cause of event B, and/or event B is always the effect of event A. To concretize, consider the notion of “lucky charms.” A person wears a lucky charm, usually a piece of jewelry, in hopes of having luck on his/ her side when in a rather challenging situation. Let’s have the example of C. C had worn a wooden necklace when he took the entrance exam for a university. He passed the exam and credits this to his lucky charm—the wooden necklace, and so he wears this necklace for every other entrance exam he would take so he would pass them all as well. Faulty causality is when C believed that it is due to him wearing a wooden necklace that made him pass the exam. Just because you wore something during a test doesn’t automatically mean that it is the reason why you’d pass. There could be many other reasons like being able to review well, eating a full meal beforehand, or getting enough sleep the night before. What C wore had nothing to do with him passing the exam.

One very practical application of Causal Analysis is in Proposals, particularly those that focus on Problem-Solution. Problem solving depends on a questioning attitude (or critical thinking), imagination, and creative thinking. While logic and reason are primarily needed to solve a problem, creativity is also called upon for thinkers to come up with new angles, new perspectives, and new ideas to address equally new challenges. The proposal is one way of addressing the problem as it provides a possible solution to the issue at hand. In writing a proposal, the statement of the problem is almost always in the beginning; the rest of the paper deals with the writer’s proposal, together with pieces of evidence and reasoning to further support the writer’s solution in an attempt to solve the problem in the essay.

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