Cause and Effect

A causal analysis explains a cause and effect relationship.  Causal analysis that focuses on causes will examine a situation in terms of its various causes such as the causes of the high drop-out rates among college freshmen.  A comparable causal analysis that focuses on effects might examine some of the long-term effects of poor academic performance in high school.  Generally a causal analysis paragraph or essay will focus on causes or effects but not both.

When selecting an appropriate topic for a causal analysis, it is best to determine whether the subject will lend itself better to an examination of causes or an examination of effects.  A simple brainstorming exercise will proved the answer for most writers, and the decision is likely to vary from writer to writer.  Take the subject of the surge in popularity of cooking programs in the United States for example.  Some causes are as follows:

These are only some causes and determining whether some of these are causes or effects may be as difficult and the age-old chicken and egg question. So let's look next at effects of the increase in popularity of cooking shows:

Because the answer to the chicken/egg question is not critical when examining the effects of the popularity of cooking shows, writing the effects paper seems to be the logical choice.

Before moving on to a sample essay, a couple of points regarding causal analysis demand emphasis.

  1. As with any other piece of expository writing, the analysis should have a point or purpose.  Some writing serves the purpose of providing information.  Other writings serve to entertain.  Still others serve to persuade.
  2. The cause/effect relationship should be valid.  Often a faulty cause and effect relationship is as obvious as the bad luck--black cat crossing the road relationship.  Sometimes, however, writers may inadvertently attempt to link two events that are not related.  For example, occasionally students will drop-out of school and will give as a reason for doing so that the teacher did not like them.  Only in the most uncommon of circumstances would there be truth in that cause and effect relationship.  More than likely the legitimate causes would be linked to the students being ill-prepared academically, socially, or emotionally for the rigors of the course.  Chances are the superficial cause stated in faulty cause and effect relationships will have a more deep-seeded origin.

Now let's examine the following causal analysis:

"Kick it up Another Notch!"

    The national pastime is changing.  No longer are Americans waiting on the Super Bowl or the World Series to stir their competitive juices; Kitchen Stadium offers sports drama that they can really sink their teeth into...literally.  Or maybe they like "Beakman's World" revisited in Alton Brown's "Good Eats."  Those with a taste for the truly exotic may prefer Tony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour."  And those who prefer good ole southern flavors will not want to miss "Paula's Home Cooking" or "Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee."   The ubiquitous reality shows of  this century must share the screen with shows like "30 Minute Meals" and "Emeril Live."  Move over Julia Child and Graham Kerr:  Mario Batali and Bobbie Flay are turning up the heat.  There's no doubt about it:  The nation's gone nuts about most anything that contains nuts...as well as where nuts are grown...and what nuts are best for tart crust and what nuts are best with bleu cheese, purple onion and arugula and..... The new focus on food is truly a phenomenon that will change America's culture forever.  That change translates into enterprise in the way of products, education, and jobs.
    Just ask the manufacturers of Le Creuset cookware what the impact an entire television network has had on their sales.  Cookware, however, be it enameled cast iron or fine-grade stainless is only a piece of the pie.  Super markets are experiencing great booms in sales of produce such as cilantro, leeks, mango, shallots, garlic.  If they have the time, these days, Americans want it fresh.  Lamb, veal, tuna, mahi mahi,  are replacing fried chicken and pork chops on American tables.  And the vegetable oil isle has more space devoted to olive oil than the traditional corn, safflower, and canola while the lard industry should buy stock in Emeril Lagasse.  Ten years ago most grocers' shelves offered up spaghetti, lasagna, elbow macaroni, and egg noodles as pasta choices.  Angel Hair was not to be found in smaller towns.  Nowadays orcchiette, fusilli, penne, and countless others in dried and fresh varieties taunt the low-carb fanatics, who, by the way, have their own pastas from which to choose. And what do Americans do with all these new choices?  Television teaches them all they need to know.
    Thanks to the popularity of cooking shows, Americans are learning about food.  Practically every cooking celebrity has his own cookbook filled with recipes and food trivia to unload.  We are learning about blueberries in Maine and chilies in Mexico.  Food TV has taught us that many American towns boast their own Little Italy, that peppercorns and nutmeg should be ground and grated fresh, that salt was the first seasoning, that dried herbs have a short shelf-life, that a Béarnaise begins with a Hollandaise, and most importantly that good food begins with good ingredients.  In addition, however, Americans are learning that being a cook is a noble occupation.  Food preparation is an art form, and television has made it a performing art.  The result:  Youth across the nation are choosing culinary schools to provide their higher education.  The work is hard, needless to say, but the results will melt in your mouth.
    So with all this food knowledge simmering in America's melting pot, are Americans abandoning their much loved recreation of dining out?  Absolutely not!  The restaurant industry is as big and varied as ever.  Food trends change almost monthly.  While restaurants must offer something special to stay ahead, one pearl in their oyster is that Americans are not only learning how to cook, but they are looking for jobs that permit them this labor of love.  And these jobs are only the tip of the iceberg--do I dare say--lettuce.  Catering, cookbook authoring, baking, serving, selling, teaching, all provide career opportunities for want-to-be gourmands and their associates.  Although the majority do not make it to celebrity chef status, those same chefs will tell them that if they work hard, the rise to prominence is fairly fast.
    Why, then, has food become such a fixation in America? Well, it's certainly more fun than the fitness craze of the 70s; smoking is, of course, passé; and, most of all, people have to eat.  Breaking bread is an ancient tradition.  Enjoying the bread is almost as ancient.  Will the trend pass?  Perhaps the cooking show trend will have its day and follow in the footsteps of the variety show or the western but probably not to that extreme.  After all, once you've had popovers, pop tarts® just aren't the same.

A couple of elements worth mentioning in regard to the above essay are the organization and the format.  The essay moves in a sort of climactic order, with the most important point saved for last.  Three major points were chosen for focus and each was given individual attention in its own paragraph.  Each major detail is supported with minor details that provide specific, concrete examples.  All topical (body) paragraphs contain topic sentences and concluding sentences.