67 Causal Essay Topics to Consider

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  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Research Papers
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A causal essay is much like a cause-and-effect essay , but there may be a subtle difference in the minds of some instructors who use the term "causal essay" for complex topics and "cause-and-effect essay" for smaller or more straightforward papers.

However, both terms describe essentially the same type of essay and the goal of each is the same: to come up with a list of events or factors (causes) that bring about a certain outcome (effect). The key question in such an essay is, "How or why did something happen?" It is important to make a clear connection between each cause and the ultimate effect.

Potential Causes

The most common problem students face in writing the causal essay is running out of "causes" to talk about. It is helpful to sketch out an outline before you begin writing the first draft of your outline. Your essay should include a strong introduction , good transition statements , and a well-crafted conclusion.

Topics to Consider

You can use a topic from this list, or use the list as inspiration for your own idea.

  • What conditions and events led to the Great Depression ?
  • What prompts a change in fashion trends?
  • Why do some people fear the dark?
  • How did some dinosaurs leave footprints?
  • What causes criminal behavior?
  • What causes people to rebel against authority?
  • What conditions lead to powerful hurricanes?
  • What developments led to regional accents in the United States?
  • Why do good students become truant?
  • What causes war?
  • What factors can lead to birth defects?
  • How are car insurance rates determined?
  • What factors can lead to obesity?
  • What can cause evolution to occur?
  • Why does unemployment rise?
  • Why do some people develop multiple personalities?
  • How does the structure of the Earth change over time?
  • What factors can cause bulimia nervosa?
  • What makes a marriage fail?
  • What developments and conditions led to the Declaration of Independence ?
  • What led to the decline of the automobile industry?
  • What factors led to the decline of the Roman Empire?
  • How did the Grand Canyon form?
  • Why did enslavement replace indentured servitude in the American colonies ?
  • How has popular music been affected by technology?
  • How has racial tolerance changed over time?
  • What led to the dot-com bubble burst?
  • What causes the stock market to fall?
  • How does scarring occur?
  • How does soap work?
  • What causes a surge in nationalism?
  • Why do some bridges collapse?
  • Why was Abraham Lincoln assassinated ?
  • How did we get the various versions of the Bible?
  • What factors led to unionization?
  • How does a tsunami form?
  • What events and factors led to women's suffrage?
  • Why did electric cars fail initially?
  • How do animals become extinct?
  • Why are some tornadoes more destructive than others?
  • What factors led to the end of feudalism?
  • What led to the " Martian Panic " in the 1930s?
  • How did medicine change in the 19th century?
  • How does gene therapy work?
  • What factors can lead to famine?
  • What factors led to the rise of democratic governments in the 18th century?
  • How did baseball become a national pastime in the United States?
  • What was the impact of Jim Crow laws on Black citizens in the United States?
  • What factors led to the growth of imperialism?
  • Why did the Salem witch trials take place?
  • How did Adolf Hitler come to power?
  • What can cause damage to your credit?
  • How did the conservationism start?
  • How did World War I start?
  • How do germs spread and cause illness?
  • How do people lose weight?
  • How does road salt prevent accidents?
  • What makes some tires grip better than others?
  • What makes a computer run slowly?
  • How does a car work?
  • How has the news industry changed over time?
  • What created Beatlemania ?
  • How did organized crime develop?
  • What caused the obesity epidemic?
  • How did grammar rules develop in the English language?
  • Where do political parties come from?
  • How did the Civil Rights movement begin?
  • 25 Essay Topics for American Government Classes
  • Cause and Effect Essay Topics
  • Writing Cause and Effect Essays for English Learners
  • Bad Essay Topics for College Admissions
  • Personal Essay Topics
  • 50 Argumentative Essay Topics
  • Expository Essay Genre With Suggested Prompts
  • High School Science Fair Projects
  • Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays
  • Ecology Essay Ideas
  • 50 Great Topics for a Process Analysis Essay
  • Composition Type: Problem-Solution Essays
  • Understanding the Progressive Era
  • MBA Essay Tips
  • 61 General Expository Essay Topic Ideas to Practice Academic Writing
  • Can Microevolution Lead to Macroevolution?

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5.8 Causal and Proposal Arguments

Anna Mills and Darya Myers

Causal arguments attempt to make a case that one thing led to another. They answer the question “What caused it?” Causes are often complex and multiple. Before we choose a strategy for a causal argument it can help to identify our purpose. Why do we need to know the cause? How will it help us?

 Purposes of causal arguments

  • To get a complete picture of how and why something happened: In this case, we will want to look for multiple causes, each of which may play a different role. Some might be background conditions, others might spark the event, and others may be influences that sped up the event once it got started. In this case, we often speak of near causes that are close in time or space to the event itself, and remote causes, which are further away or further in the past. We can also describe a chain of causes, with one thing leading to the next, which leads to the next. It may even be the case that we have a feedback loop where a first event causes a second event and the second event triggers more of the first, creating an endless circle of causation. For example, as sea ice melts in the arctic, the dark water absorbs more heat, which warms it further, which melts more ice, which makes the water absorb more heat, etc. If the results are bad, this is called a vicious circle.
  • To decide who is responsible: Sometimes if an event has multiple causes, we may be most concerned with deciding who bears responsibility and how much. In a car accident, the driver might bear responsibility and the car manufacturer might bear some as well. We will have to argue that the responsible party caused the event but we will also have to show that there was a moral obligation not to do what the party did. That implies some degree of choice and knowledge of possible consequences. If the driver was following all good driving regulations and triggered an explosion by activating the turn signal, clearly the driver cannot be held responsible.
  • To figure out how to make something happen: In this case we need to zero in on a factor or factors that will push the event forward. Such a factor is sometimes called a precipitating cause. The success of this push will depend on circumstances being right for it, so we will likely also need to describe the conditions that have to be in place for the precipitating cause to actually precipitate the event. If there are likely factors that could block the event, we need to show that those can be eliminated. For example, if we propose a particular surgery to fix a heart problem, we will also need to show that the patient can get to a hospital that performs the surgery and get an appointment. We will certainly need to show that the patient is likely to tolerate the surgery.
  • To stop something from happening: In this case, we do not need to describe all possible causes. We want to find a factor that is so necessary to the bad result that if we get rid of that factor, the result cannot occur. Then if we eliminate that factor, we can block the bad result. If we cannot find a single such factor, we may at least be able to find one that will make the bad result less likely. For example, to reduce wildfire risk in California, we cannot get rid of all fire whatsoever, but we can repair power lines and aging gas and electric infrastructure to reduce the risk that defects in this system will spark a fire. Or we could try to reduce the damage fires cause by focusing on clearing underbrush.
  • To predict what might happen in future: As Jeanne Fahnestock and Marie Secor put it in A Rhetoric of Argument, “When you argue for a prediction, you try to convince your reader that all the causes needed to bring about an event are in place or will fall into place.” You also may need to show that nothing will intervene to block the event from happening. One common way to support a prediction is by comparing it to a past event that has already played out. For example, we might argue that humans have survived natural disasters in the past, so we will survive the effects of climate change as well. As Fahnestock and Secor point out, however, “the argument is only as good as the analogy, which sometimes must itself be supported.” How comparable are the disasters of the past to the likely effects of climate change? The argument would need to describe both past and possible future events and convince us that they are similar in severity.

Techniques and cautions for causal argument

So how does a writer make a case that one thing causes another? The briefest answer is that the writer needs to convince us that the factor and the event are correlated and also that there is some way in which the factor could plausibly lead to the event. Then the writer will need to convince us that they have done due diligence in considering and eliminating alternate possibilities for the cause and alternate explanations for any correlation between the factor and the event.

Identify possible causes

If other writers have already identified possible causes, an argument simply needs to refer back to those and add in any that have been missed. If not, the writer can put themselves in the role of detective and imagine what might have caused the event.

Determine which factor is most correlated with the event

If we think that a factor may commonly cause an event, the first question to ask is whether they go together. If we are looking for a sole cause, we can ask if the factor is always there when the event happens and always absent when the event doesn’t happen. Do the factor and the event follow the same trends? The following methods of arguing for causality were developed by philosopher John Stuart Mill, and are often referred to as “Mill’s methods.”

  • If the event is repeated and every time it happens, a common factor is present, that common factor may be the cause.
  • If there is a single difference between cases where the event takes place and cases where it doesn’t.
  • If an event and a possible cause are repeated over and over and they happen to varying degrees, we can check whether they always increase and decrease together. This is often best done with a graph so we can visually check whether the lines follow the same pattern.
  • Finally, ruling out other possible causes can support a case that the one remaining possible cause did in fact operate.

Explain how that factor could have caused the event

In order to believe that one thing caused another, we usually need to have some idea of how the first thing could cause the second. If we cannot imagine how one would cause another, why should we find it plausible? If we are talking about human behavior, then we are looking for motivation: love, hate, envy, greed, desire for power, etc. If we are talking about a physical event, then we need to look at physical forces. Scientists have dedicated much research to establishing how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could effectively trap heat and warm the planet.

If there is enough other evidence to show that one thing caused another but the way it happened is still unknown, the argument can note that and perhaps point toward further studies that would establish the mechanism. The writer may want to qualify their argument with “may” or “might” or “seems to indicate,” if they cannot explain how the supposed cause led to the effect.

Eliminate alternative explanations

The catchphrase “correlation is not causation” can help us to remember the dangers of the methods above. It’s usually easy to show that two things happen at the same time or in the same pattern, but hard to show that one actually causes another. Correlation can be a good reason to investigate whether something is the cause, and it can provide some evidence of causality, but it is not proof. Sometimes two unrelated things may be correlated, like the number of women in Congress and the price of milk. We can imagine that both might follow an upward trend, one because of the increasing equality of women in society and the other because of inflation. Describing a plausible agency, or way in which one thing led to another, can help show that the correlation is not random. If we find a strong correlation, we can imagine various causal arguments that would explain it and argue that the one we support has the most plausible agency.

Sometimes things vary together because there is a common cause that affects both of them. An argument can explore possible third factors that may have led to both events. For example, students who go to elite colleges tend to make more money than students who go to less elite colleges. Did the elite colleges make the difference? Or are both the college choice and the later earnings due to a third cause, such as family connections? In his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, journalist Michael Pollan assesses studies on the effects of supplements like multivitamins and concludes that people who take supplements are also those who have better diet and exercise habits, and that the supplements themselves have no effect on health. He advises, “Be the kind of person who takes supplements — then skip the supplements.”

If we have two phenomena that are correlated and happen at the same time, it’s worth considering whether the second phenomenon could actually have caused the first rather than the other way around. For example, if we find that gun violence and violence within video games are both on the rise, we shouldn’t leap to blame video games for the increase in shootings. It may be that people who play video games are being influenced by violence in the games and becoming more likely to go out and shoot people in real life. But could it also be that as gun violence increases in society for other reasons, such violence is a bigger part of people’s consciousness, leading video game makers and gamers to incorporate more violence in their games? It might be that causality operates in both directions, creating a feedback loop as we discussed above.

Proving causality is tricky, and often even rigorous academic studies can do little more than suggest that causality is probable or possible. There are a host of laboratory and statistical methods for testing causality. The gold standard for an experiment to determine a cause is a double-blind, randomized control trial in which there are two groups of people randomly assigned. One group gets the drug being studied and one group gets the placebo, but neither the participants nor the researchers know which is which. This kind of study eliminates the effect of unconscious suggestion, but it is often not possible for ethical and logistical reasons.

The ins and outs of causal arguments are worth studying in a statistics course or a philosophy course, but even without such a course we can do a better job of assessing causes if we develop the habit of looking for alternate explanations.

Reflect on the following to construct a causal argument. What would be the best intervention to introduce in society to reduce the rate of violent crime? Below are some possible causes of violent crime.  Choose one and describe how it could lead to violent crime.  Then think of a way to intervene in that process to stop it.  What method from among those described in this section would you use to convince someone that your intervention would work to lower rates of violent crime?  Make up an argument using your chosen method and the kind of evidence, either anecdotal or statistical, you would find convincing.

Possible causes of violent crime:

  • Homophobia and transphobia
  • Testosterone
  • Child abuse
  • Violence in the media
  • Role models who exhibit toxic masculinity
  • Violent video games
  • Systemic racism
  • Lack of education on expressing emotions
  • Unemployment
  • Not enough law enforcement
  • Economic inequality
  • The availability of guns

Proposal arguments

Proposal arguments attempt to push for action of some kind. They answer the question “What should be done about it?”

In order to build up to a proposal, an argument needs to incorporate elements of definition argument, evaluation argument, and causal argument. First, we will need to define a problem or a situation that calls for action. Then we need to make an evaluation argument to convince readers that the problem is bad enough to be worth addressing. This will create a sense of urgency within the argument and inspire the audience to seek and adopt proposed action. In most cases, it will need to make causal arguments about the roots of the problem and the good effects of the proposed solution.

Common elements of proposal arguments

Background on the problem, opportunity, or situation

Often just after the introduction, the background section discusses what has brought about the need for the proposal—what problem, what opportunity exists for improving things, what the basic situation is. For example, management of a chain of daycare centers may need to ensure that all employees know CPR because of new state mandates requiring it, or an owner of pine timberland in eastern Oregon may want to make sure the land can produce saleable timber without destroying the environment.

While the named audience of the proposal may know the problem very well, writing the background section is useful in demonstrating our particular view of the problem. If we cannot assume readers know the problem, we will need to spend more time convincing them that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed.  For a larger audience not familiar with the problem, this section can give detailed context.

Description of the proposed solution

Here we define the nature of what we are proposing so readers can see what is involved in the proposed action. For example, if we write an essay proposing to donate food scraps from restaurants to pig farms, we will need to define what will be considered food scraps. In another example, if we argue that organic produce is inherently healthier for consumers than non-organic produce, and we propose governmental subsidies to reduce the cost of organic produce, we will need to define “organic” and describe how much the government subsidies will be and which products or consumers will be eligible. These examples illustrate the frequency with which different types of argument overlap within a single work.

If we have not already covered the proposal’s methods in the description, we may want to add this. How will we go about completing the proposed work? For example, in the above example about food scraps, we would want to describe how the leftover food will be stored and delivered to the pig farms. Describing the methods shows the audience we have a sound, thoughtful approach to the project. It serves to demonstrate that we have the knowledge of the field to complete the project.

Feasibility of the project

A proposal argument needs to convince readers that the project can actually be accomplished. How can enough time, money, and will be found to make it happen?  Have similar proposals been carried out successfully in the past? For example, we might observe that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Rutgers University runs a program that sends a ton of food scraps a day from its dining halls to a local farm. If we describe how other efforts overcame obstacles, we will persuade readers that if they can succeed, this proposal can as well.

Benefits of the proposal

Most proposals discuss the advantages or benefits that will come from the solution proposed. Describing the benefits helps you win the audience to your side, so readers become more invested in adopting your proposed solution. In the food scraps example, we might emphasize that the Rutgers program, rather than costing more, led to $100,000 a year in savings because the dining halls no longer needed to pay to have the food scraps hauled away.  We could calculate the predicted savings for our new proposed program as well.

In order to predict the positive effects of the proposal and show how implementing it will lead to good results, we will want to use causal arguments.

Sample annotated proposal argument

The sample essay “Why We Should Open Our Borders” by student Laurent Wenjun Jiang can serve as an example. Annotations point out how Jiang uses several proposal argument strategies.

  • Sample proposal essay “Why We Should Open Our Borders” in PDF with margin notes

Browse news and opinion websites to find a proposal argument that you strongly support.  Once you have chosen a proposal, read it closely and look for the elements discussed in this section.  Do you find enough discussion of the background, methods, feasibility, and benefits of the proposal? Discuss at least one way in which you think the proposal could be revised to be even more convincing.

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Rhetoric Matters: A Guide to Success in the First Year Writing Class Copyright © 2022 by Anna Mills and Darya Myers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The Oxford Handbook of Causal Reasoning

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25 Causal Argument

Department of Psychological Sciences Birkbeck, University of London London, England, UK

Institute of Philosophy and Political Science TU Dortmund University Dortmund, Germany

Department of Philosophy & Cognitive Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

  • Published: 10 May 2017
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This chapter outlines the range of argument forms involving causation that can be found in everyday discourse. It also surveys empirical work concerned with the generation and evaluation of such arguments. This survey makes clear that there is presently no unified body of research concerned with causal argument. It highlights the benefits of a unified treatment both for those interested in causal cognition and those interested in argumentation, and identifies the key challenges that must be met for a full understanding of causal argumentation.

Although causality is fundamental to human cognition in many different ways, a review of theoretical work in argumentation studies and cognitive science suggests that “causal argument” remains ill understood. This holds for both senses of the term “argument”: argument as a situated process of actors engaged in an actual dispute, on the one hand, and, on the other, the essential component of such a dialectical exchange, namely arguments as individual claims and reasons for those claims. In particular, surprisingly little psychological research has been devoted to how people construct, process, and evaluate causal arguments in this latter sense of “argument,” that is, arguments as abstract inferential objects comprising premises and conclusions.

Nevertheless, there are a number of independent strands of research involving causation and argument. The goal of this chapter is to bring these currently separate bodies of work together in order to provide a coherent basis for future empirical research on causal argument that elucidates the dialectical and inferential role of cause–effect relationships in reasoned discourse. Such a program has immediate implications for what is a central aspect of everyday argumentation, and thus a central aspect of our everyday lives. Consequently, an improved understanding of causal argument should benefit directly a range of areas such as reasoning, argumentation, learning, science comprehension, and communication, to name but a few.

However, insight into causal argument seems beneficial also for those projects within cognitive science aimed at understanding what “cause” actually is, both normatively and in laypeople’s understanding. Causal argument, we will seek to show, thus not only constitutes an important topic for research in its own right, but also can provide new impetus to the many, more familiar, aspects of human behavior and cognition concerned with causality, such as causal learning (see in this volume, Rottman, Chapter 6 ; Le Pelley, Griffiths, & Beesley, Chapter 2 ) or causal inference (see Griffiths, Chapter 7 in this volume).

“Because”: Reasons as Causes Versus Causes as Reasons

The comparative scarcity of research on causal argument relative to work on causal learning or causal inference may surprise, since few topics seem to be more intimately related than argumentation and causation. This is nowhere more apparent, perhaps, than in the term “because” itself. While it marks causal relations in the empirical world (e.g., “Socrates died because the jury had him drink poison”), the same term is used more generally to identify justificatory and explanatory reasons . Imagine, for example, an argument about whether or not Jones killed Smith. Questions about Jones might be answered by stating something like “we know it was Jones, not his wife, who killed Smith, because Miller saw him. …” In this case, the word “because” signifies a relation of evidential support. 1 To the extent that such evidential uses of “because” themselves imply a causal relation, that causal relation pertains to human beliefs and the relationships between them (i.e., knowledge of Miller’s testimony should change our beliefs), as well as between beliefs and world (e.g., Miller’s testimony “I saw Jones kill Smith” is putatively caused by Miller witnessing that Jones killed Smith). In short, causes can provide reasons, and reasons can provide causes.

Both of these aspects are central to an understanding of “causal argument.” The main function of argumentation as we use the term here is to effect changes in beliefs (e.g., Goodwin, 2010; Hahn, 2011 ; Hahn & Oaksford, 2012 ), specifically changes in beliefs that may be considered to be rational (as contrasted with “mere persuasion”). Understanding causal argument therefore involves both asking to what extent causal arguments should change people’s beliefs and how successful they actually are in changing people’s beliefs.

This chapter introduces relevant work on both of these questions. Understanding people’s responses to causal arguments, both from a normative and a descriptive perspective, requires understanding what those arguments typically are. The natural starting point for investigation is thus the typical argument forms that involve aspects of causation found in everyday life, and we describe present findings on this in the next section. The material of that section— “Arguments for Causes and Causes for Arguments” —reflects the reasons/causes duality just described, as people in everyday life both argue about causes and use causes as arguments for particular claims. This initial consideration of types of causal arguments is then followed by examination of what literature there is on how people actually respond to causal arguments. The chapter concludes with a research agenda for future work on causal argumentation.

Arguments for Causes and Causes for Arguments

When asked to provide reasons why something has happened, might happen, or should happen, the term “because” will soon arise. Similarly, we suspect, few disagreements (scholarly ones included) last longer than those about causes. In brief, causality is as ubiquitous in argumentation as it is difficult to understand fully the causal structure of the real world.

It seems reasonable to suppose that the language of causal arguments is intimately related to the cognition of causal relations in the world, and to the way people think about causal structure. As things stand, however, “[t]‌hough basic to human thought, causality is a notion shrouded in mystery, controversy, and caution, because scientists and philosophers have had difficulties defining when one event truly causes another” ( Pearl, 2009 , p. 401). A paradigmatic example of these difficulties is J. L. Mackie’s (1965) conceptual analysis of “cause” as “an insufficient but necessary part of an unnecessary but sufficient condition (INUS)”—which, at least on initial reading, seems as difficult to understand as the notion it is trying to unpack. 2 Such conceptual difficulties in clarifying the basic concept are likely to be reflected in actual discourse whenever “cause” and related terms such as “effect” are used argumentatively.

In order to examine causal argument, however, one need not start with a clear theoretical notion of “cause.” Instead, studying causal argument may itself be informative of laypeople’s underlying conception of “cause,” and thus provide raw material for both theoretically refined notions of “cause” and for the psychology of causal cognition. Rather than first elucidate the notion of cause in an abstract manner, we thus start from a survey of causal argument types arising in everyday discourse as they have been identified both through corpus analysis and in the argumentation literature. Only with a sense of the range of kinds of causal arguments is it possible to start addressing questions of their cogency and actual persuasiveness, and to examine possible implications of causal argument for an understanding of the notion of “cause” itself.

Causal Argument Patterns from Corpus Analysis

Based on an analysis of corpora of natural language text, Oestermeier and Hesse (2000) provided an extensive typology for causal argument. Their categories rest on “the basic argumentative moves of defending, attacking, and qualifying claims” (p. 68). For each type, this typology

specifies three types of premises involved in causal arguments: Observational (i.e. spatial, temporal, or episodic), explanatory (i.e. intentional or causal), and abstract knowledge (i.e. conceptual knowledge about criteria for causation) […] [along with] the inference patterns which are needed to come up with a causal conclusion, namely, inferences from observations, generalizations, comparisons, mental simulations, and causal explanations. (2000, p. 68)

Figure 25.1 shows Oestermeier and Hesse’s basic typology (stripped of the examples and historical references they provide). This typology features 11 pro types (arguments offered in defense of a causal claim), 10 con types (arguments that attack a causal claim), and 6 qualifying types (which refine a causal claim). For example, “wrong temporal order” is a type of argument advanced against a causal claim. The premises of such an argument consist of episodic knowledge about the observed temporal order of the events A and B . These premises support an inference to the effect that A has not caused B because A happened after B , as in the example, “The server problems have not caused your system crash, the server problems occurred afterward” (for examples of all types listed in Figure 25.1 , see Oestermeier & Hesse, 2000 ).

In the texts analyzed by Oestermeier and Hesse, these types varied considerably in prevalence. The vast majority of instances of causal argument in the corpora analyzed by Oestermeier and Hesse were of the causal mechanism type (78.2%). These are arguments that cite, and so seek to explain through, a causal mechanism. Structurally, these take the form “ A caused C because A led to C via the process/mechanism B ”; for example, “His anger caused the accident. It affected his concentration.”

After causal explanations, the next most numerous type accounts for a mere 3.9% (!) of the total number of causal arguments in their corpus ( Oestermeier & Hesse, 2000 , p. 76). Given the pervasiveness of the causal mechanism type, one might ask whether Oestermeier and Hesse’s typology is fine-grained enough, or whether causal mechanism arguments should be further divided into subtypes. At the same time, however, Oestermeier and Hesse’s notion of causal argument (and hence their typology) is limited to causal claims or conclusions (e.g., “smoking causes cancer”) and the premises (reasons) offered to support those causal claims (e.g., “because smokers have a much higher risk of getting cancer”). However, research within argumentation theory, described next, shows that everyday discourse features not only arguments about causes, and causal explanations, but also arguments from causes.

Scheme-Based Approaches

A long-standing tradition within argumentation theory has sought to devise a typology of causal argument, though based on less systematic descriptive procedures than Oestermeier and Hesse’s (2000) corpus analysis. Argument types, in this tradition, are referred to as schemes . The specific schemes identified by this tradition overlap only partially with those identified by Oestermeier and Hesse, so that a complete typology will need to consider both.

Types of arguments for causal claims (pro, con, qualifier); italicized terms name types of pro-evidence (circumstantial, contrastive, causal explanatory), types of con-evidence ([circumstantial] counter-evidence, alternative explanation, insufficient evidence), and types of qualifiers (causal complexities, causation without responsibility).

In contrast to basic corpus analysis, the so-called scheme-based approach to argumentation not only seeks to describe different types of informal argument schemes, but also pursues normative questions concerning their use. In other words, it seeks to provide guidance on which arguments should convince (on normative foundations for argumentation theory, see Corner & Hahn, 2013 ). Hence, much of the extant work on causal argument in argumentation theory has remained tightly connected to classical fallacies such as post hoc propter hoc (inferring cause from correlation) and slippery slope argument (more on these later). To provide normative guidance, authors typically associate “critical questions” with schemes in order to allow evaluation of the quality of particular instances. This tradition thus feeds directly into the burgeoning, applied literature on critical thinking (e.g., Inch & Warnick, 2009 ; but see also Hamby, 2013 , and Willingham, 2007 , for a critical perspective on this literature).

The central status of causal argument in everyday argument is reflected in the typologies of the scheme-based tradition. For instance, Garssen (2001) views causal arguments as one of three top-level argumentation schemes (“symptomatic argumentation,” “argumentation by analogy,” and “causal argumentation”), and maintains that all other schemes found in everyday informal argument are reducible to these three. 3 However, the scheme-based tradition itself is fairly heterogeneous and has produced a number of competing classification schemes that vary considerably in the number of basic schemes (argument types) assumed, ranging from 3 (as in Garssen, 2001 ) to 60 (in Walton, Reed, and Macagno, 2008 ).

Walton et al.’s (2008) volume is certainly the most comprehensive treatment within the scheme-based approach, and has sought to amalgamate all individual schemes found in the prior literature, yet Oestermeier and Hesse (2000) include schemes not found in that treatment. There are thus continuing theoretical questions about what should constitute a separate argument scheme and how many distinct schemes there are, a question that is unlikely to be independent of the intended use of the typology (see also Hahn & Hornikx, 2015 , for discussion of principled scheme typology).

In the following, we provide a brief overview of the causal schemes identified within the scheme-based literature, following, by and large, Walton et al. (2008) .

First, the seminal work in the scheme-based tradition, Hastings (1962) , distinguishes two basic types of causal argument: argument from cause to effect , and its converse from effect to cause . Hastings sees both as involving further sub-schemes. For the first type, cause to effect, he distinguishes the sub-schemes “prediction on the basis of existing conditions,” referring to an argument whose conclusion states that certain events will occur, and “causal argument based on a hypothetical,” which concerns conclusions that would or will obtain (e.g., “if we were to adopt the proposal, the budget would be overdrawn”). As Hastings notes, the hypothetical sub-scheme appears to be the more common version of the argument, and hypothetical causal arguments are particularly prevalent in policy debates.

For the second basic type of causal argument, effect to cause, a close relation obtains to two sub-schemes that Hastings calls “sign reasoning” (e.g., “there are bear tracks, so there is a bear around”), and “argument from evidence to a hypothesis,” both of which typically involve causes. From this very general perspective, then, most arguments about facts are likely to be causal arguments.

For the argument from cause to effect, Hastings (1963, p. 74) states four critical questions that are assumed to be relevant regardless of the specific sub-type:

Does the cause have a valid causal relation with the effect? That is, is it the true cause?

How probable is the effect on the basis of the correlation?

Is the cause a sufficient cause to produce the effect?

Are any other factors operating to interfere with the production of the cause?

These questions reflect Hastings’ view, formed on the basis of text analysis, that real-world causal arguments are typically complex, involving many causal and correlational sub-components. It is also for this reason, or so Hastings speculates, that causal generalizations invoked in real-world causal arguments are rarely provided with explicit argumentative support. He consequently describes an assertion such as “if the government nationalised industries, poor planning of the operation of those industries will ensue,” for instance, as a claim with “many elements with varying probabilities” (1962, p. 72), rather than a claim about a fully fleshed out causal model. It may be that in many, or even most, real-world contexts, people’s causal models are rather sparse. This aspect seems important to any more detailed normative considerations about causal arguments in everyday life.

We next describe in more detail different types of causal argument schemes both for cause-to-effect and effect-to-cause.

From Cause to Effect

Since Hastings, many authors have included some form of argument from cause to effect within their basic classification of argumentation schemes (e.g., Grennan, 1997 ; Kienpointner, 1992 ; Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969 ; Prakken & Renooij, 2001 ; van Eemeren & Kruiger, 1987 ; Walton, 1996 ). What varies across these authors’ work is their characterization of the nature of the scheme and how, if at all, it may be formalized.

Hastings (1962) , Walton (1996) , and Grennan (1997) , for instance, use Toulmin’s (1958) framework to characterize informal argument, which has been popular also in the context of studying the development of argumentation skills ( Kuhn, 1991 ). Toulmin’s framework rests on the insight that classical logic has little to say about everyday informal argument, which must typically deal with uncertainty. As a more appropriate model, Toulmin suggested the inherently dialectical argumentation between two opposing parties in a courtroom. 4 Following from this, Toulmin outlined a general format for representing arguments (Figure 25.2 ). Arguments are broken down into the basic components of “claim” (the conclusion to be established), “data” (the facts appealed to in order to support of the claim), “warrants” (reasons that support the inferential link between data and claim), “backing” (basic assumptions that justify particular warrants), “rebuttals” (exceptions to the claim or the link between warrant and claim) and, finally, “qualifiers” (indications of the degree of regularity with which claim may be stated, such as “certain,” “highly probable,” “rare”).

Figure 25.2 shows an example argument from cause to effect analyzed by Hastings (1962 , p. 67) in this way. This argument, taken from a speech by US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, runs as follows:

Europe cannot attain the towering material stature possible to its people’s skills and spirit so long as it is divided by patchwork territorial fences. They foster localized instead of common interest. They pyramid every cost with middlemen, tariffs, taxes, and overheads. Barred, absolutely, are the efficient division of labor and resources and the easy flow of trade. In the political field, these barriers promote distrust and suspicion. They served vested interests at the expense of peoples and prevent truly concerted action for Europe’s own and obvious good. (quoted in Hastings, 1962 , from Harding, 1952 , p. 532)

This framework provides a potentially useful way of identifying the various components of an overall argument, and has consequently been widely used in psychological research on the development and pedagogy of argument skills (see e.g., van Gelder, Bissett, & Cumming, 2004 ; von Aufschaiter, Erduran, Osborne, & Simon, 2008 ). On its own, however, it does little to provide an evaluative framework for everyday informal argument that might rival classical logic. Arguably, an argument might be better if a warrant is provided, than if it is not (see Kuhn, 1991 , and later in this chaper), but the Toulmin framework itself offers no grounds for a judgment on whether the warrant itself is more or less compelling.

Hastings’s (1962) Toulmin diagram of an argument from cause to effect taken from a speech by Dwight Eisenhower. Full quote appears in text.

It is clearly desirable to have a normative account of argument, that is, an account that tells us how we should argue, and what arguments we, as rational agents, should find compelling and which ones weak. Classical logic sought to provide such a normative standard for “good argument”; Toulmin’s diagnosis of its weakness in the context of everyday argument is right, but his framework does not provide a more suitable replacement. Somehow, an evaluative, normative perspective must be able to engage with the actual content of claim, data, warrant, and backing, not just their structural relationships per se. Indeed, in its structural orientation, Toulmin’s model ultimately shows the same limitations as the framework of classical logic that it seeks to replace.

Subsequent authors have therefore tried to introduce a stronger normative component via critical questions. They have also tried to formalize adequately the type of inference involved in order to bring out more clearly normative aspects of causal argument. Within the scheme-based tradition, the point of departure for such attempts has typically again been a dialectical perspective. Such a perspective tries to bring together the two different senses of “argument” identified at the beginning of this chapter in order to evaluate arguments. It maintains that argument must be understood in the context of wider, dialectical exchange; that is, “argument,” in the narrow sense of an inferential object, can be evaluated properly only by reference to the wider argumentative discourse (“argument” in the wider sense) in which it occurs (e.g., van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 2004 ).

More specifically, the basic premise underlying much of the more recent work within the scheme-based tradition is that an argument such as that from cause to effect can be treated as containing a defeasible generalization ( Walton, 1996 ; Walton et al., 2008 ), as indicated by the quasi-quantifier “generally” (echoing Hastings’s point that causal generalizations are typically not references to fully fleshed out causal models):

Generally, if A occurs then B will (might) occur. In this case, A occurs (might occur). Therefore, in this case, B will (might) occur.

From a formal perspective, however, this is not to be read as a probabilistic modus ponens (as in, e.g., Edgington, 1995 ; Evans & Over, 2004 ; Oaksford & Chater, 1994 ; a more detailed discussion of probabilistic modus ponens will follow). Instead, authors within the scheme-based tradition take this to be a defeasible argument (in the narrow sense) that is embedded in a (potential) series of dialectical moves (i.e., an argument in the wider sense) where, once a proponent has raised the argument, it is the respondent’s task to reply either by challenging a premise, asking an appropriate critical question, or accepting the argument. Whether or not an argument ultimately “goes through” depends crucially on the allocation of the burden of proof (see, e.g., Walton, 1988 ; but also Hahn & Oaksford, 2007b ). Raising critical questions may shift the burden of proof, so that the defeasible conclusion can no longer be maintained unless further evidence is provided.

While this provides a semi-formal rendition, at best, work in artificial intelligence (AI) over the last decade has sought to embed such an approach within more well-defined systems of non-classical logic (e.g., Gordon, Prakken, & Walton, 2007 ; Prakken & Renooij, 2001 ). Much of this computational work on defeasible reasoning and argumentation has been driven by the belief that a probabilistic approach would be inadequate or impossible. This work has generally ignored probabilistic treatments of conditional inferences such as m odus ponens (e.g., Oaksford & Chater, 1994 ). However, these burden of proof–based approaches have recently been explicitly contrasted with Bayesian, probabilistic approaches to argumentation more generally (e.g., Hahn & Oaksford, 2006 , 2007a ; Hahn, Oaksford, & Harris, 2013 ; Hahn & Hornikx, 2015 ), and we will see positive examples of probabilistic treatments of such generalizations in the following.

Concerning the nature of the generalization from which a defeasible argument about causation is to unfold, Walton et al. (2008) provide several alternative bases for that generalization (where Si is the cause and Sj the effect):

Regularity : Sj regularly follows Si.

Temporal sequence : Si occurs earlier than (or at the same time as) Sj.

Malleability : Si is changeable/could be changed.

Causal status : Si is a necessary or sufficient or INUS condition of Sj. 5

  Pragmatic status : Pragmatic criteria, like voluntariness or abnormality, may single out a cause.

The purpose of these clauses is to serve as operative criteria in reasoned discourse such that

in any given case, the proponent of a causal argument can select one of these clauses as representing the kind of rule [s]‌he has in mind as representing the sort of claim [s]he is making […]. [I]t should be possible to make all or any of these claims, and so the analysis of causal argumentation schemes should permit all three possibilities. ( Walton et al., 2008 , 185)

Notice that clause 4 allows for causal overdetermination, that is, cases where causes are sufficient but non-necessary for their alleged effects, that is, the effects may be brought about by one or more of several sufficient causes. Here, at the very least, it becomes clear that the normative project concerning the evaluation of causal arguments must necessarily engage in the question of what a cause is.

While clauses 1–4 more or less repeat standard criteria from work on causation within the philosophy of science, clause 5 references pragmatic factors to also include the wider context of causal argument. Walton et al. (2008) motivate this by reference to causal argument in law (e.g., Hart & Honore, 1985 ) where particular types of causes are most relevant, most notably voluntary human actions, which are singled out from the overall causal chain of events in order to assign various responsibilities to agents. This echoes Pearl’s (2009 , p. 401) observation that, at least since Aristotelian scholarship, causality has served a dual role: causes are both “the target of credit and blame,” on one hand, and “the carriers of physical flow and control on the other.” Both aspects figure prominently in causal arguments. Indeed, it presently remains unclear whether there is a single, unitary notion of causality that suffices for both aspects, or whether seemingly competing accounts of causation such as counterfactual accounts ( Lewis, 1973 ; see Bennett, 2003 , for a review) and generative accounts ( Dowe, 2000 ; Salmon, 1984 ) are in fact both involved in human causal judgments, albeit to different ends (see also Walsh, Hahn, & DeGregorio, 2009 ; Illari & Russo, 2014 ). Similarly, it is unclear whether domains such as law posses notions of causality that differ from those of the physical or social sciences (see, e.g., Honore, 2010 , for discussion and further literature; see also Lagnado & Gerstenberg, Chapter 29 in this volume). Closer textual analysis of real-world arguments, in law and elsewhere, should be informative here.

Argument from Consequences

Finally, there is a type of argument from cause to effect that seems both practically important and prevalent enough to be discussed separately: namely the so-called argument from consequences. The argument from consequences is a type of what Hastings (1963; see earlier discussion) calls “hypothetical causal argument.” Such an argument seeks to promote or deter from a particular course of action on the basis of that action’s putative consequences. This type of argument forms the basis of much practical reasoning, that is, reasoning about what to do:

Argument from consequences Premise: If A is brought about, good (bad) consequences will plausibly occur. Conclusion: Therefore A should (should not) be brought about.

Within the scheme-based tradition, a number of closely related practical reasoning schemes are distinguished, such as a general scheme for “practical inference” (I have goal X, Y realizes X, I should carry out Y; see Walton et al., 2008 , p. 323; or similarly, the “argument from goal,” Walton et al., 2008 , p. 325; Verheij, 2003 ), and a number of special cases of the argument from consequences feature prominently in the traditional catalogue of fallacies, such as the argumentum ad misericordiam (see, e.g., Hahn & Oaksford, 2006 ), which uses an appeal to pity or sympathy to support a conclusion, or the argumentum ad baculum , an argument from threat (see also Walton, 2000 ), or slippery slope arguments (more on these later). For the argumentation theorist, these different subtypes may each hold interest in their own right (or at least it will be of interest whether or not these subtypes do, in fact, merit conceptual distinction because they actually raise normative and empirical issues of their own; see also Hahn & Hornikx, 2015 ).

Common to consequentialist arguments is that valuations are central to their strength. Consequentialist arguments (see, e.g., Govier, 1982 ) about the desirability of a particular event, policy, or action rest not only on the probability with which a cause (a hypothetical action) will bring about a particular consequence (the action’s effect), but also on the utilities of both the action and the desired/undesired future consequence. The strength of an argument from consequences, therefore, is properly determined by considerations of probability and utility. For example, when the relevant consequence of a given action under debate is (perceived to be) more or less neutral, this gives few grounds to in fact take that action, even if the consequence itself is almost certain to obtain. Likewise, if the consequence of an action is highly undesirable, that is, has a high negative utility, this will give few grounds to not avoid the action, even if the probability that this consequence will obtain is almost zero.

Given that consequentialist arguments are about action, it is unsurprising that they align well with Bayesian decision theory ( Ramsey, 1931 ; Savage, 1954 ), which identifies optimal courses of action through the multiplicative combination of probability and utility. A number of authors have pursued a decision-theoretic approach to consequentialist argument (e.g., Elqayam et al., 2015 ; Evans, Neilens, Handley & Over, 2008 ; Hahn & Oaksford, 2006 , 2007a ), including empirical examination of people’s subjective valuations of argument strength for such arguments. This work will be described in more detail in our survey of experimental work.

From Effect to Cause

What then of arguments from effects to causes? As noted earlier, a number of schemes concerning inference from data to a hypothesis are pertinent here, whether the hypothesis be a causal generalization or an individual event. Most authors in the scheme-based tradition have included some form of “argument from sign” and/or from “evidence to hypothesis” (see Walton et al., 2008 , for further references). At the most general level (where the hypothesis may be of any kind, causal or otherwise) such arguments seem well-captured by Bayesian inference (see also Hahn & Hornikx, 2015 ), though there are also theoretical and empirical questions here about the relation of such inference to abduction and inference to the best explanation (e.g., Lombrozo, 2007 ; Schupbach & Sprenger, 2011 ; van Fraassen, 1989 ; Weisberg, 2009 ; Lombrozo & Vasilyeva, Chapter 22 in this volume). The fact that these inferences concern putative causes, however, puts them in the remit of causal learning (see, e.g., Rottmann, Chapter 6 in this volume). An important project would thus be to square psychological results on causal learning with the types of arguments people entertain when seeking to identify putative causes. Chief among the “specialist” arguments seeking to identify causation is the classic fallacy of “inference from correlation to cause,” which we discuss next.

Correlation and the Bayesian Approach to Argument Strength

Putative fallacies, or “arguments that seem correct but are not” ( Hamblin, 1970 ), or that “seem to be better arguments of their kind than they in fact are” (e.g., Hansen, 2002 ; Walton, 2010 ), pervade everyday informal argument. Catalogs of fallacies (originating with Aristotelian scholarship) have been the focus of long-standing theoretical debate, and a full understanding of the fallacies has remained a central concern to philosophers, communication scholars, logicians, rhetoricians, and cognitive scientists interested in argument.

A staple of the traditional fallacies catalog is the inference from correlation to cause, also known as the post hoc fallacy, as in post hoc, ergo propter hoc (which roughly translates as “after this, hence because of this”), or relatedly, the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (Latin for “with this, therefore because of this”). In more modern terms, this is normally stated as “there is a positive correlation between A and B (premise), so A causes B (conclusion).” As a (fallacious) example, one may consider the (now debunked) claim that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination causes autism—a spurious link that could arise due to the temporal nature of MMR vaccination and the emergence of overt signs of autism.

The relevant argument scheme has been associated with the following critical questions (see Walton et al., 2008 ):

CQ1: Is there really a correlation between A and B? CQ2: Is there any reason to think that the correlation is more than a coincidence? CQ3: Could there be some third factor, C, that is causing both A and B?

These critical questions reflect the general appreciation that, although they are not deductively valid (i.e., their conclusions are not logically entailed by the premises), such arguments nevertheless can be, and often are, reasonable inductive inferences. Such arguments, then, need not be “fallacious” in any stronger sense than lack of logical validity (and logical validity itself is no guarantee that an argument is strong, as the case of circular arguments demonstrates; see, e.g., Hahn, 2011 ). Moreover, this lack of logical validity is a feature that they have in common with the overwhelming majority of everyday arguments, since informal argument typically involves uncertain inference. The argument scheme approach thus highlights a characteristic aspect of most fallacies within the catalog: depending on their specific content, instances of these arguments often seem quite strong in the sense that their premises lend inductive support to their conclusions.

Exceptions and content-specific variation have generally plagued theoretical attempts to provide a comprehensive formal treatment that explains why fallacies make for “bad” arguments of their kind on specific occasions of their use. The logical structure of these arguments cannot be the key, however, because versions of the same form of argument (and hence the same logical structure) differ in relative strength. Variations in strength must be due to content-specific variation, and so require a formal framework such as probability theory (as an intensional formal system; see Pearl, 1988 ), which makes reference to content. From a probabilistic perspective, then, the allegedly fallacious arguments that were historically tabulated as fallacies are typically not fallacious per se. Rather, specific instances are weak due to their specific content, and probabilistic Bayesian formalization brings this to the fore (see, e.g., Hahn & Oaksford, 2006 , 2007a ; Oaksford & Hahn, 2004 ; and, specifically in the context of logical reasoning fallacies, Korb, 2004; Oaksford & Chater, 1994 ).

For the argument from correlation to cause, a probabilistic perspective can go beyond the three simple critical questions offered in the scheme-based tradition. Specifically, a wealth of statistical techniques for inferring causation from essentially correlational data have been developed: learning algorithms for causal Bayesian Belief Networks and structural equation modeling (see, e.g., Pearl, 2000 ) provide salient examples (see also, Rottman, Chapter 6 in this volume). These techniques seek to learn causal models from data and, as part of this, provide evaluation of how good a given causal model is as a description of available data, thus providing measures of how convincing a particular inference from correlation to cause actually is.

An important, practical project for future work would be to try to distill insights from such techniques into “critical questions” that can be readily communicated in everyday settings.

In concluding the overview of types of causal arguments, it is worth drawing attention to several aspects of present typology. First, it is notable how varied and diverse causal argument is, reflecting the central role that considerations of causality take in human thinking. Notable also are the differences between attempts at systematization: the typology drawn from corpus analysis (see section “Casual Argument Patterns from Corpus Analysis” ) is much richer than the scheme-based literature concerning evidence for causes themselves. At the same time, the scheme-based tradition makes clear how much arguing from causes there is, and that causal argument is not only often hypothetical or counter-factual, but also makes reference to the utilities of putative outcomes in the service of deciding on courses of action. This suggests that a predominant focus within the causal cognition literature on causal learning will arguably miss important aspects of causal cognition, and it sits well with recent attempts to move the focus of psychological research on causal cognition beyond some of the dichotomies that have dominated the field in the past (see also Oaksford & Chater, Chapter 19 in this volume, and Lagnado & Gerstenberg, Chapter 29 in this volume).

At the same time, it is clear that much work remains to be done at the theoretical level of typologies. For one, a single, integrated typology of causal argument would seem desirable. It is only when one has a clear overview of a target phenomenon that one can hope to build adequate theories of it. Typologies aim at both completeness and systematization. The former determines the scope of a theory, the latter goes hand in hand with theory development itself, because systematization is about discerning patterns or crucial dimensions of variation across cases. Consequently, the mere fact that there is no comprehensive, systematic typology of causal argument illustrates that causal argument is still poorly understood. Both traditions surveyed here still appear to underappreciate the variety of causal argumentation “out there”: the fact that there is comparatively little overlap between Oestermeier and Hesse’s (2000) analysis and the large, scheme-based compendium of Walton et al. (2008) raises the possibility that there are further types of causal argument that both have missed.

Finally, it is apparent that much of the research on types of causal argument also has explicitly normative concerns. Normative considerations are valuable, not only because they afford standards of comparison for rational, computational analysis of human behavior (see, e.g., Anderson, 1990 ; and in the context of causation specifically, e.g., Griffiths & Tenenbaum, 2005 ; Sloman & Lagnado, 2005 ), but also because the quality of people’s everyday thinking and arguing is of immediate practical concern. The emphasis within the scheme-based tradition on “critical questions” and the explicit links to improving critical thinking and argument reflects a worthy goal. At the same time, however, the preceding survey makes clear the diversity of normative approaches that presently obtains, ranging from the informal to formal, and spanning non-classical logics as well as probability theory. A unified perspective would clearly be desirable. Before returning to normative issues in the final section of this chapter, however, we next survey the extent of empirical work on causal argument.

Causal Argument and Cognition

While there is little empirical work under the header of “causal argument” per se, the breadth of causal argument types identified earlier and the importance of causality to our everyday reasoning suggest that there should nevertheless be considerable amounts of relevant psychological research. And, on closer inspection, there is a sizable body of research whose investigative topic is reasoning or argumentation that happens to involve causality. In particular, investigations of causal arguments and people’s ability to deal with them are reported in the literature on the development of argumentation skills, on science arguments, and on consequentialist argument and reasoning. In the following we provide brief examples of each.

Causal Conditionals

Reasoning with conditionals, particularly logical reasoning with conditionals, is a topic of long-standing research within cognitive psychology (see, e.g., Oaksford & Chater, 2010a , for an introduction). Within this body of work one can find a number of studies investigating conditionals (i.e., “if … then statements”) and potential logical inferences from these for specifically causal materials.

Most of this research has centered on four argument forms: modus ponens (MP), modus tollens (MT), affirming the consequent (AC), and denying the antecedent (DA)—exemplified in Table 25.1 . Only two of these—MP and MT—are logically valid, that is, when their premises are true, the truth of their conclusions follows by logical necessity. However, the long-standing finding is that people fail to distinguish appropriately between the different schemes when asked about logical validity (e.g., Marcus & Rips, 1979 ). Moreover, for conditional inference and other forms of logical reasoning such as syllogistic reasoning, there are countless demonstrations that people’s inferences are affected not just by the formal (logical) structure of the inference, which is the only relevant aspect for their validity, but also by specific content (e.g., Evans, Barston, & Pollard, 1983 ; Oaksford, Chater & Larkin, 2000 ).

Much of the empirical and theoretical debate about conditional reasoning has focused on the issue of the appropriate normative standard against which participants’ responses should be evaluated. Classical logic renders natural language “if … then” as the so-called material conditional of propositional logic, and much early research on logical reasoning within psychology adopted this normative perspective (e.g., Wason, 1968 ). Both philosophers (e.g., Edgington, 1995 ) and psychologists (e.g., Evans & Over, 2004 ; Oaksford & Chater, 1994 ), however, have argued that this is an inappropriate formalization of what people mean with natural language “if … then,” both conceptually and empirically. This has given rise to alternative, in particular probabilistic, interpretations of the conditional (in which case, factors such as believability need no longer constitute an inappropriate bias).

One aspect that has figured here is that natural language conditionals often involve causal connections (see also Oaksford & Chater, Chapter 19 in this volume). Cummins et al. (1991) examined specifically how participants’ judgments of the conclusion of a conditional argument differed systematically as a function of the number of alternative causes and disabling conditions that characterized the causal relationship (as benchmarked in a pretest with different participants) and did so in potentially different ways for each the four classic forms: MP, MT, AC, and DA. For example, people were presented with arguments such as

“If my finger is cut, then it bleeds. My finger is cut. Therefore, it bleeds.” or “If I eat candy often, then I have cavities. I eat candy often. Therefore, I have cavities.”

Here (so Cummins et al., 1991 ) it is presumably easier to think of disabling conditions for the second example (cavities) than it is for the first (bleeding finger), and one might expect people’s judgments of conclusion strength to be sensitive to this. In keeping with this, participants’ judgments were found to vary systematically with the number of alternative causes and disabling conditions. Conclusions of arguments based on conditionals with few alternative causes or few disabling conditions, in particular, were more acceptable than conclusions based on those with many. Moreover, Cummins et al. showed that both the number of alternative causes and possible disabling conditions affected the extent to which the conditional (if … then) was interpreted as a bi-conditional (if and only if), or not.

Subsequent work has also attempted to distinguish competing accounts of logical reasoning using specifically causal materials (e.g., Ali, Chater & Oaksford, 2011 ; Quinn & Markovits, 1998 ; Verschueren, Schaeken, & d’Ydewalle, 2005 ; for an overview, see also Oaksford & Chater, 2010b ).

Recent work, particularly the sophisticated analyses provided by Singmann, Klauer, and Over (2014) , finds robust evidence only for an interpretation of the conditional as a conditional probability, but finds no evidence that participants’ judgments of conclusion probability are sensitive to “delta P” ((P(q|p) − P(q|¬p)), a quantity that has figured prominently in accounts of causal learning (see. e.g., Over, Hadjichristidis, Evans, Handley & Sloman, 2007 ; Sloman, 2005 ; see also Over, Chapter 18 in this volume). Whether this result will prove robust in subsequent work remains to be seen, but it highlights the potential for work on causal argument to complement the results from other, more familiar, paradigms for investigating the psychology of human causal learning and causal understanding. Argument evaluation tasks may provide independent evidence in the context of rival accounts of laypeoples’ understanding of causation as found in decades of causal learning studies. 6

Consequentialist Argument

Recent years have also seen increasing empirical interest in another form of conditional, namely consequentialist, arguments. Evans, Neilens, Handley, and Over (2008) investigated a variety of conditionals expressing conditional tips, warnings, threats, and promises. For example, “If you go camping this weekend ( p ) then it will rain ( q ),” is a clear warning not to go camping. From the decision-theoretic perspective mentioned earlier, the higher P(q|p ), and the more negative the utility associated with the consequent, U( q ), that is, rain, the more persuasive should be a conditional warning to the conclusion that action p should not be taken (¬ p ), that is, you should not go camping. Evans et al. found that participants’ judgments of persuasiveness varied in the predicted way as a function of costs and benefits of antecedent ( p ) and conclusion ( q ), as well as the conditional probability ( P(q|p )) linking the two. These effects held for both positive (tips, promises) and negative (warnings, threats) consequentialist arguments.

Corner, Hahn, and Oaksford (2011) provided an empirical examination of a particular type of consequentialist argument: slippery slope arguments such as “if voluntary euthanasia is legalized, then in the future there will be more cases of ‘medical murder.’ ” Slippery slope arguments are a type of warning and are distinct merely in the type of (implied) mechanism that underlies P( q | p ). In particular, for many slippery slope arguments a gradual shift of category boundaries is at play (on other forms of slippery slope arguments, see, e.g., Volokh, 2003 ): The act of categorizing some instance (say, voluntary euthanasia) under a more general predicate (here, legal medical intervention) is assumed to lead inevitably to other items (e.g., involuntary euthanasia or “medical murder”) eventually falling under the same predicate.

Corner et al. (2011) examined not only the effects of utility on the perceived strength of slippery slope arguments, but also examined a specific mechanism underlying the conditional probability P(q|p ). Specifically, they examined the causal mechanism involved in “sorites”-type slippery slope arguments, namely “category boundary reappraisal”: Current theories of conceptual structure typically agree that encountering instances of a category at the category boundary should extend that boundary for subsequent classifications, and there is a wealth of empirical evidence to support this (e.g., Nosofsky, 1986 ). Building on this, Corner et al. (2011) showed how people’s confidence in classifications of various acts as instances of a particular category was directly related to their degree of endorsement for corresponding slippery slope arguments, and that this relationship is moderated by similarity. Slippery slope arguments from one instance to another were viewed as more compelling, the more similar the instances were perceived to be.

The Corner et al. studies demonstrate how the conditional probability P(q|p ) that influences the strength of consequentialist arguments as a type of cause-to-effect argument may be further unpacked. The same is true for a recent study by Maio et al. (2014) that experimentally examined a particular type of hypothetical consequentialist causal argument that appeals to fundamental values. Specifically, Maio et al. investigated “co-value argumentation,” which appeals to furthering one value because doing so will further another. The following quote by George W. Bush provides an example: “I will choose freedom because I think freedom leads to equality” (see Anderson, 1999, as cited in Maio et al., 2014 ).

Numerous examples of this argument type are found, ranging from Plato—“equality leads to friendship”— to Howard Greenspan, who argued that “honesty leads to success in life and business” (examples cited in Maio et al., 2014 ).

“Success,” “freedom,” “equality,” and “honesty” are terms that exemplify what social psychologists consider to be instances of fundamental values that are universally used to guide and evaluate behavior ( Schwartz, 1992 ; Verplanken and Holland, 2002 ). As consequentialist arguments, their strength should depend both on the strength of the causal connection between antecedent and conclusion value, and the antecedent value’s importance.

With respect to causal connections, psychological research on fundamental values has provided evidence that our value systems are structured, that is, they display internal ordering. This ordering is based on the fact that actions taken in pursuit of a particular value will have psychological, practical, and social consequences that may be either compatible or incompatible with the pursuit of another value (for empirical evidence concerning the psychological relevance of this structure, see, e.g., Schwartz, 1992 ; Schwartz & Boehnke, 2004 ; Maio et al., 2009 ).

From this, one can derive predictions about the strength of arguments that combine values. Opposing values are classed as such because the actions taken in their respective pursuit may conflict, that is, pursuing one of two opposing values likely impinges negatively on the pursuit of the other. Conversely, values that fulfill similar motives will be positively correlated in terms of the consequences of actions one might take in their pursuit. Finally, values that are orthogonal will be more or less independent.

These relations—comparative incompatibility, compatibility, and independence—translate directly to systematic differences in causal relatedness and hence conditional probabilities: two opposing values will be negatively correlated, similar values will be positively correlated, and orthogonal values will be independent. Expressed in probabilistic terms, a causal perspective can thus provide clear predictions about the relative convincingness of different consequentialist arguments that combine any given two values. Co-value argumentation involving opposing values should give rise to less convincing arguments than using orthogonal values, and similar values should be even more convincing. In keeping with the causal basis, Maio et al. (2014) found this pattern confirmed both in ratings of argument persuasiveness and in proclaimed intention to vote for a political party on the basis of a manifesto that had manipulated co-value argument. These results not only underscore the importance of causal considerations to people’s evaluation of everyday arguments in the practical domain of values. They also provide an extreme example of the degree of abstraction in causal argument and the sparsity of the underlying causal models that people are willing to engage with in arguments about real-world relationships.

Causal Argument and Causal Thought: Kuhn (1991)

Finally, we discuss what is arguably the central study on causal argument to date, even though it is not explicitly billed as an investigation of causal argument. Kuhn’s (1991) monograph The Skills of Argument is a landmark investigation of people’s ability to engage in real-world argument, across the life span and across different levels of educational background. Kuhn’s fundamental premise is that thinking ability is intrinsically tied to argumentation ability, to the extent that reasoning may just be seen as a kind of “arguing something through with oneself.” Furthermore, Kuhn maintains that thinking (and with it argumentation) abilities are far less well understood than one might expect. This is because of the focus within most of cognitive psychology on lab-based experimentation, frequently involving highly artificial, stylized materials, which leave unanswered questions about how people fare in actual everyday argument. These limitations are compounded by the fact that participants are typically drawn from undergraduate samples. Kuhn’s (1991) study of argument skills sought to redress this balance by getting people from a range of backgrounds (with both college- and non-college-level education) and a range of ages (teenagers, 19–29, 40–49, and 60–69 years of age; for studies of younger children, see Kuhn, Amsel, & O’Loughlin, 1988 ) to engage in argument generation and evaluation for a series of real-world topics that would actually matter to them, but for which they would also have varying levels of expertise. Crucially, from the perspective of the researcher interested in causation and causal arguments, all three topics concerned causes: what causes prisoners to return to crime after they are released; what causes children to fail school; and what causes unemployment.

In a series of structured interviews, Kuhn and colleagues asked participants to provide an initial causal explanation or theory of the phenomenon in question. They then asked participants to provide evidence for those theories, but consider also alternative causes and what kinds of evidence would count for or against them. Responses were coded with a modified version of the Toulmin framework described earlier into “theories,” “supporting evidence,” and “opposing argumentation” (alternative theories, counterarguments, rebuttals).

Kuhn found considerable variation in argument skill across participants. In particular, a sizable number of participants were unable to generate genuine evidence for any of their theories across the three topics (29%) or to generate an alternative theory (8%). Furthermore, where there were failures to generate real evidence, evidence was poorly differentiated from the theory itself.

Where participants supplied causal arguments for their preferred theories, only a minority offered genuine evidence that makes reference to covariation. Other forms of genuine evidence found were evidence from analogy, causal generalizations, and discounting or elimination of alternative causes. At the other extreme (non-evidence), participants seemed willing to treat the effect itself as evidence of the cause, or even to deny the need for evidence altogether.

This serves to underscore earlier points about the sparsity of causal models in (at least some contexts) of real-world argument, and Kuhn’s findings seem reminiscent of Keil’s work on the “illusion of explanatory depth” (see, e.g., Keil, 2003 ). At the same time, it is striking that comparatively few participants showed clear insight into the importance of manipulation in establishing causal relationships in the arguments they supplied.

Limitations were apparent also in participants’ evaluation of evidence given to them. In a second session, the same group of participants was presented with evidence designed intentionally to be largely non-diagnostic. Examples are given in Table 25.2 .

The evidence in Table 25.2 contains descriptions with little information that could be used to infer causal relationships. Though this was recognized by some participants (Question: “What do you think is the cause of Peter’s return to crime?” Response: “there’s nothing in here that suggests a cause”; p. 207), sizable numbers of others did perceive the passages to be evidence for a particular causal mechanism, and possibly even more surprisingly, expressed great certainty concerning their preferred cause.

In all of this, participants showed variations across topics, seemingly as a function of familiarity with the domain, but there was greater consistency in performance than would be expected by chance. In particular, there was consistency also with what Kuhn and colleagues deemed “epistemological perspectives,” that is, more general beliefs participants had about knowledge, and the extent to which different people might reasonably hold different views, without endorsing a relativism so total that all knowledge is seen as “mere opinion.” Finally, for both epistemological perspectives and argument skills, there was statistical evidence of influence only from educational background, not gender or age.

Follow-up research by Sá, Kelley, Ho, and Stanovich (2005) that again examined self-generated causal theories for the crime and education topics, elicited in a similar structured interview, confirmed the sizable variation in participants’ argument skills.

Causal Argument: A Research Agenda

From our survey of extant research it should be clear that causal argument presents a rich field of inquiry, but one that is presently still underdeveloped. In the final sections, we draw together what appear to us to be the main themes and strands for future research.

One strand, on which much else rests, is the issue of typologies of causal argument. The first thing to emerge from the survey of types of causal arguments identified in the literature is the extraordinary richness of causal argument. People argue daily both about causes and from causes, and these arguments concern not just the way things presently are, but also future possibilities and actions. This also gives many causal arguments an intrinsic link with utilities and valuations.

For the argumentation theorist, there is clearly more work to be done here: it is unclear whether even the extensive list drawn up in this chapter exhausts the range of different types of causal argument to be found in everyday and specialist discourse. This question of typology (and its completeness) matters because only with a full sense of the many different ways in which causes figure in argument, and thus in everyday life, can one hope to have a complete picture of the psychology of causal reasoning.

The case for an intimate connection between reasoning and argumentation has been well made ( Kuhn, 1991 ; Mercier & Sperber, 2011 ), and argumentation not only provides a window into reasoning abilities, it may also be a crucial factor in shaping them. In the context of typologies, important theoretical questions remain about what should count as a distinct “type” of argument, both normatively and descriptively, and why (see Hahn & Hornikx, 2015 ).

Much work also remains to be done with respect to the normative question of what makes a given type of causal argument “good” or “strong.” This matters to researchers who are interested in the development and improvement of skills—argumentation theorists, developmental and educational psychologists, or researchers interested in science communication, to name but a few. It matters also to anyone concerned with human rationality, whether from a philosophical or a psychological perspective. Finally, given the benefits of rational analysis and computational level explanation to understanding human behavior (e.g., Anderson, 1990 ), it should matter also to any psychologist simply interested in psychological processes (see also Hahn, 2014 ).

As seen in the section “Arguments for Causes and Causes for Arguments,” there is presently no fully worked out, coherent normative picture on causal argument. The literature is fragmented in terms of both approach and preferred formalism (or even whether formal considerations are necessary at all). The notion of “critical questions” has educational and practical merit, but the present depth of such critical questions falls considerably behind what could be developed on the basis of extant formal frameworks such as causal Bayesian networks (e.g., Pearl, 2000 ).

A comprehensive normative treatment of causal argument seems a genuine cognitive science project that will need contributions from a number of fields, including artificial intelligence and philosophy. It offers also the possibility of a more comprehensive and more effective treatment of causal argument in computational argumentation systems (see, e.g., Rahwan & Simari, 2009 ; Rahwan, Zablith & Reed, 2007 ). At the same time, it must be stressed that there is a considerable amount of work required before anything like a comprehensive normative treatment of causal argument might be achieved. There are aspects, such as causal inference, for which there already exist formal approaches that have a reasonable claim to normative foundations, such as causal Bayesian networks. However, these presently still leave many factors relevant to causal argument largely unaddressed. In particular, only recently have researchers started to concern themselves with normative questions involved in the transition between causal models, as become necessary, for example, on learning new conditionals (Hartmann, submitted).

Only with a clear normative understanding can questions of human competence in causal argument be fully addressed. At present, the evidence on human skill in dealing with causation is rather mixed. While humans may do very well in lab-based contingency learning tasks (but see also Kuhn, 2007 ), and do rather well in causal inference involving explicit verbal descriptions such as those presented in causal conditional reasoning tasks, thinking and arguing about complex real-world materials (even frequently encountered ones for which people possess considerable amounts of relevant knowledge) seem to be another matter, as Kuhn’s (1991) study shows.

Both the sizable individual differences in Kuhn’s (1991) study and her finding that, although there is consistency, the degree of competence expressed seems to vary with familiarity of topic and materials, suggest that skills are more or less readily expressed according to context. So a fuller understanding of causal reasoning should understand also what particular aspects contribute to success or failure.

Kuhn’s (1991) study also highlights a distinction that has been drawn elsewhere in the literature on causal reasoning, namely that between causal structure and causal strength ( Griffiths & Tenenbaum, 2005 ). Examination of competence in dealing with causality needs consideration not only of the circumstances under which people draw inferences about causal structure, but also how strong they consider causal relations (and the supporting evidence) to be.

In generating and evaluating causal arguments, there are three distinct ways in which reasoners might go wrong, exemplified in Figure 25.3 . Specifically, causal arguments should be evaluated with respect to how well they align the causal-premises (of the argument) with a causal-model and a subjective degree of support (Figure 25.3 ).

Kuhn’s study suggests that, for some people at least, judgments of causal strength may be considerably exaggerated, in that individual aspects of what are clearly complex multifactorial problems (such as unemployment) are selectively picked out and treated as “the cause.” Even more worrying, however, are the high levels of certainty that many of Kuhn’s participants exhibit, even in the face of largely undiagnostic evidence, suggesting also that failures with respect to “degree of support” may be more prevalent than one would wish.

In all of this, it remains to be fully understood what features people attend to in both establishing and manipulating causal models, what role argument plays in this (given also that much of our knowledge derives from the testimony of others; Coady, 1994 ), and what weight people attach to these. It also seems important to understand how detailed or sparse people’s causal models are in many real-world contexts, and how this interacts with argument evaluation. To achieve this, there is a need for integration of research on causal learning, causal inference, and causal argument.

Schematic representation of the alignment between causal-premises, causal-model, and a subjective degree of support. Perfect alignment of all three elements maps onto a equilateral triangle, as shown here, while imperfections gives rise to angles deviating from 60° angles.

At the same time, as we have stressed throughout this chapter, the study of causal argument offers unique opportunities for insight into causal cognition, and work on causal argument offers methodological approaches that complement lab-based studies in a number of important ways. Examination of real-world argument is possible, not just through structured interviews such as those of Kuhn and colleagues, but also through the direct analysis of corpora of extant speech and text.

Since argumentation is a pervasive linguistic activity and causal reasoning is frequent in arguing, linguistic data for the study of causal reasoning are readily available, for instance in a number of freely accessible linguistic text corpora (for an overview of such corpora, see Xiao, 2008 , or Lee, 2010 ). As Oestermeier and Hesse’s (2000) study illustrates, corpus analysis does not require a prior determination of variables, and is thus well-suited for explorative research into natural language argumentation. In particular, corpora may be assumed to provide a fairly unbiased empirical basis for specific research questions probed because they have been recorded independently of those questions (see Schütze, 2010 , p. 117). Thus, language corpora could be used to study linguistic behavior in more or less natural environments.

Linguistic text corpora also come in many shapes and sizes. Some are restricted to written language (and, as in the case of books and articles, may reflect repeated careful editing), while others contain spoken language. Corpora thus not only make available argumentation in more or less natural environments, but also contain argumentation more or less produced “on the fly.”

Two general strategies for making use of text corpora can be distinguished. Corpus- driven research uses them in explorative fashion under minimal hypotheses as to the linguistic forms that may be relevant to a given research question (also known as “letting the data speak first ”); corpus- based research, in contrast, uses them to verify or falsify specific hypotheses regarding the use of natural language on the basis of extant theories of linguistic forms (see Biber, 2010 ).

While it is fairly straightforward to use corpora to gain access to some data that may well exhibit a larger slice of the real-world use of the language of causality, there are limits to studying causal argumentation in this way. First, an exhaustive list of the linguistic means to express causality is unlikely to be forthcoming, as there are several ways to express a causal connection through coordination with terms not specifically marked for expressing causality (exemplified in this very sentence through the use of “as,” which may be read causally, or not). As Oestermeier and Hesse observe, “In verbal arguments, reasons and conclusions can be easily distinguished if connectives like ‘because,’ ‘therefore,’ ‘so’ or other explicit markers are used” ( Oestermeier & Hesse 2000 , p. 65). However, the sheer number of such markers testifies to an astonishingly wide variety of linguistic forms that can be employed to express some sort of causal connection, and thus figure in causal reasoning. The perhaps most frequent linguistic form is the subordination of clauses by means of (linguistic rather than logical) conjunctions such as “because,” “since,” “as,” and so on (see Altenberg, 1984 ; Diessel & Hetterle, 2011 ). But a variety of causative verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions can also be used to express causal connections (for an overview, see Khoo, Chan, & Niu, 2002 ).

Moreover, causality can also be encoded in text organization, and so pertains to organizational principles that are reconstructable only at levels of discourse higher than the sentence level ( Achugar & Schleppegrell, 2005 ; Altenberg, 1984 ). Not only may causal premises thus be left implicit (see the section “Casual Argument Patterns from Corpus Analysis” ), the relevant causal connection itself need not be evident on the linguistic surface. Accordingly, we lack sufficient criteria to trace all causal phenomena contained in a given corpus through software that queries corpora for linguistic forms or structures. So, one retains an unknown number of false negatives among the results, and conversely, as is the case with “because” itself, some of the linguistic means for indicating causal relationships also have other roles than simple causal connection.

Nevertheless, corpora make for an excellent tool in studying natural language argumentation. Specifically, we think it worthwhile to examine further the communicative circumstances that are typical of different argument schemes. This would provide an entry point for investigation of the extent to which causal arguments in actual discourse meet the norms of the causal argument schemes they might be thought to manifest. It might, arguably, also provide information about the persuasiveness of different types of causal argument. In particular, the frequency of the causal mechanism argument type (see Oestermeier & Hesse, 2000 , and the section “Causal Argument Patterns from Corpus Analysis” in this chapter) may well be indicative of the prevalence of a certain model of causality that laypeople endorse. Corpus data might then, for example, provide an empirical basis for establishing whether the mechanistic argument type is in fact associated with a specific model of causality, and to examine the association of other argument types with specific causal models.

In short, corpus analysis may provide a valuable complement to both the experimental and interview-based methodologies that empirical studies of causal argument have seen.


Causal argument, we hope the reader is now convinced, represents an important topic in its own right: the practical relevance of argumentation to everyday life is enormous, and, theoretically, a good case has been made that argumentation skills are deeply interconnected with reasoning skills (e.g., Hahn & Oaksford, 2007a ; Kuhn, 1991 ; Mercier & Sperber, 2011 ). Given further the breadth of argument involving causation that can be seen in everyday life (as surveyed in the discussion of typologies), causal argument deserves far more consideration than it has, to date, received. Last but not least, a greater understanding of causal argument, both theoretically and empirically, is likely to provide new impetus to the understanding of causal cognition.

This duality—of reasons as causes for belief, and causes as reasons in argumentation—is not limited to English, and can also be discerned in other languages such as German “weil”; Swedish “darför,” French “parce que,” Italian “perque,” Spanish “porque,” Polish “ponieważ,” Russian “potomú čto,” Chinese “yīn,” Japanese “kara,” and so on.

Mackie’s statement reflects a widely shared understanding of causes as partial conditions of their contingent effects, and seeks to convey—in a great hurry—that (i) causes bring their effects about only under suitable background conditions, so that causes alone are not sufficient for their effects; (ii) that an effect cannot occur without its cause, so that causes are nevertheless necessary; (iii) that cause plus background conditions (and perhaps other things) together constitute a condition, C, yielding the effect—thus making C a sufficient condition, since C cannot be a necessary condition, (iv) as contingent effects can be alternatively conditioned.

These three types, and with them the critical questions associated with each, may partially overlap. For instance, as Hitchcock and Wagemans (2011 , p. 193) point out, a fever can be viewed both as an effect and as a symptom of the infection that causes it. Hence, an argument from effect to cause—here, from fever to infection—may instantiate the symptomatic or the causal argumentation scheme, and possibly even both at the same time.

For a critical evaluation of the import of legal concepts into argumentation theory, in particular the central notion of “burden of proof,” see Hahn and Oaksford (2007b) .

Clause 4 gives three different kinds of conditionals, or rules of inference or warrant, each of which is hedged by a ceteris paribus clause. The necessary condition is: if Si would not occur, then Sj would not occur; the sufficient condition states: if Si would occur, then Sj would occur; and the INUS condition reads: if Si would occur within a set of conditions, each of which is necessary for the occurrence of Sj, then Sj would occur (see note 2 on Mackie’s INUS condition).

It should be noted in this context that Sloman and Lagnado (2005) have argued for qualitative differences between conditional and causal reasoning. However, Oaksford and Chater (2010b) argue that the seeming empirical differences observed by Sloman and Lagnado (2005) are due to inadvertent differences in causal strength. The results of Ali et al. (2011) are in keeping with that suggestion.

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How To Write A Causal Analysis Essay: Topics, Structure, Tips, Samples

causal analysis

Tia - The Writer Expert

It is unlikely for any action to miss a resultant effect. In fact, everything that a human being does impacts in one way or another if not in the present day, in the coming years. Concerning that statement, the action that enables the realization of something else is the cause while the impact is the effect. Essays seek to analyze different subject matters. The ones that relate an outcome of a particular event and shows the connection between concepts with origin is a causal analysis essay. In other terms, the compositions are also called cause-effect analysis and follow a particular procedure to write. Our essay writing service experts will help you to learn more about this topic.

what is a causal argument essay

‍ Check out another articles: cause and effect essay , and how to write an analytical essay at EssayHub blog.

What Is A Causal Analysis Essay?

Causal analysis essay definition hides within its name. It also could be referred to as a cause-and-effect study. This type of academic writing aims to define and highlight causal relationships between two or more events, actions, or patterns. Moreover, the author needs to illustrate the causal relationships in the text with relevant examples and argue the conclusions. The trick is to see the subtle connections between instances that may have little or nothing in common at first sight. If the suggested topic is Impact of Urbanization on Rainforests, then the author needs to focus on how these phenomena relate to each other. This is what a causal analysis essay is all about.

Causal Analysis Essay Topics

Causal analysis essay topics vary depending on the discipline. Yet, the ultimate goal and their structure remain the same. If there is a choice of topics from a suggested list, always pick the most relevant issues on the agenda, unless you want to go through tons of old data looking for inspiration. Our write my essay service professionals have praped for you topics of current interest in 2023. Picking the right causal analysis essay topic is half the work.

  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the IT job market.
  • Cause-and-effect study of education digitalization.
  • Origins and consequences of smart-homes use.
  • Influence of everyday Instagram use on adolescent people.
  • Impact of the information technologies' development on a cybercrime wave.
  • Effect of social media on children's safety.
  • How do e-money and cryptocurrencies impact traditional shopping experiences?
  • Rapid emergence of new internet platforms and their influence on e-marketing trends.
  • Cause-and-effect analysis of YouTube's new wave of popularity in 2020.
  • Effect of Data Science progress on the war on crime in the United States.

Environment Topics

  • Effect the forest fires in the United States had on the economies of the affected states.
  • Impact of the 2020s lockdowns in Europe on the environment.
  • Role of environmental factors in XXI century economic development.
  • Detrimental influence of environmental pollution.
  • Consequences of offshore mining.
  • Role of social media in the success of new environmental initiatives.
  • Role of recent recycling trends in the urban areas’ evolution.
  • Reasons for and positive aspects of cattle artificial breeding.
  • Cause-and-effect analysis of new wastewater treatment methods.
  • Reverberations of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in present-day Japan.

Educational Topics

  • Roots of decline in popularity of higher education in XXI century.
  • Why do children under 10 learn faster while playing?
  • What are the negative aspects of distance learning?
  • How did the internet make education more accessible?
  • Debate about school uniform – pros and cons.
  • In what ways financial education helps children adapt to life?
  • Psychological assessment in schools and its impact on social wellbeing.
  • The role of YouTube and TikTok in the modern educational process.
  • How do social trends impact the quality of education?
  • Positive aspects of parents' involvement in educational activities.

Social Topics

  • The role of Yves Saint Laurent in fashion and shifts in beauty standards.
  • LGBTQ rights movement and its role in modern society.
  • Growing panic attacks statistic and high social standards.
  • Sports activities' role in the decrease of petty hooliganism.
  • Cause and effect of the increase in psychological help interest.
  • Shifts in gender roles and their impact on the job market.
  • Socio-cultural analysis of communist ideology in North Korea.
  • Bullying at the workplace. Its roots and consequences for companies.
  • Changes in traditional relationships and dating paradigms in the XXI century.
  • Paternity leaves. Causes for shaming and the future of the trend.

causal analysis

Causal Analysis Essay Outline

Once you've picked your causal analysis essay topic it's time to move to the next step in writing your causal essay. The structure of a causal analysis essay is typical for this type of writing – introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion. In this type of academic paper, the body paragraphs should follow a strong logic chain. Just like other papers, it requires a valuable argumentative topic and a clear thesis statement (the idea you are going to (dis)prove).

analysis outline


The introduction of a causal analysis essay should set the focus on the idea to be discussed further in the paper. Analytical papers’ introduction implies an explanation of the main terms or events mentioned in the title. In causal analysis essays, this part briefly describes the elements without dwelling on the correlation between them. As a rule, the introductory paragraph is 30-50 words long. Although it is pretty short, it sets the tone for the rest of your essay writing and can make a break a causal essay.

Thesis Statement

When writing a thesis statement for a causal analysis essay remember that it sets the tone for the rest of the paper. The causal analysis essay thesis should be succinct. Yet, it should not merely state the author’s viewpoint or list the arguments. For example, the thesis statement “environmental pollution is bad for the rainforests” sounds too simple and opens no way to argumentation. Thus, the thesis statement needs to reveal the contradictory nature of the analyzed aspect. A quality example of the thesis could be “Decrease in diesel-fueled cars popularity could lower the water acidity levels and save rainforests." Remember, it should be concise and leave space for causal analysis, examples, and argumentation.

Body Paragraphs

In logical order, the causal analysis essay body reveals the causes and effects (results) of any actions, events, or processes introduced by the topic and thesis statement. It is necessary to highlight paragraphs and establish a logical connection between them – this guarantees the integrity of the text. Think carefully about the first paragraph that needs to catch the reader's eye. Not everyone is ready to devote time to irrelevant information and non-relatable problems. The final piece of the body part should give a comprehensive causal analysis to help the readers see why the author picked a particular position and stood behind it.

The causal analysis essay conclusion should sum up all the arguments presented in the body part. Finish the text with a topic-related thought-provoking conclusion. In the example of the water pollution topic used above, the paper could end off by stating that lower water acidity may hurt some species in the rainforest area. This sums up your causal analysis essay outline.

Writing Tips

  • Look up causal analysis essay examples and use them as inspiration.
  • Outline the structure. It will help maintain the logical relations in the text, make it clear and coherent. A solid writing plan alleviates the risk of forgetting some essential aspects. Yet, this structure should be visible only to the author, while the reader should see smooth and coherent text. So, there should be no headings clearly showing that now the reader moves on to the body paragraphs. Subheadings, if any, should give hints regarding the content, not blatantly state "Introduction" or "Conclusion."
  • Decide on the mood of your causal essay. Your writing style is a prime factor in making the text attractive to the reader.
  • Avoid any confusion in a cause-effect relation. You may be surprised how often this happens when an essay analyzes more than one of each type. Pick a direction of your causal essay and stick with it.
  • Mix short and long sentences to avoid the monotonous effect in your causal analysis. Long sentences and an abundance of complex linguistic means distract the readers from the essence of the text. The easier your causal analysis essay is to read - the better. Conciseness and clarity are the marks of an excellent causal analysis essay.
  • Always back the arguments up with relevant examples that fit the topic of your causal analysis essay. Use real-life examples instead of metaphors. The latter make causal analysis essays stodgy.
  • If you have any doubts regarding your causal analysis paper quality or relevance of the examples, just get help from our essay writer . This will save you from the challenges of the writing process altogether.

Causal Analysis Essay Example

"Graphic novels impact on young people" ‍

Drawings have accompanied written words for a long time. The former often even replaced the latter. Sometimes, it is the drawing that allows conveying the idea in an intelligible form. This is why comics, and more recently, graphic novels, became the voices of the new generation and their problems.

The popularization of graphic novels allowed young artists to speak the truth about the modern problems no writer would dare to voice.

Virtually, all of these novels have a multifaceted plot that unfolds gradually and makes them even more interesting to read. Do not mistake graphic novels for comic books. As a rule, the latter are small individual stories of about 30 pages, but a graphic novel is always a finished story on 60-120 pages. Yet, the main difference is the topics they cover. The majority of graphic novels raise quite complex and pressing social problems. Most of the graphic novels for teenagers are rated 16+ or even 18+. For example, the “Watchmen” by Alan Moore can hardly be called a childish story.

The popularity of pictures-based readings is growing. One of the reasons for it is that modern culture is about escape and fantasy. Natural disasters, news on airplane crashes and wars, tense political agenda, and other similar factors stimulate anxiety disorders. People are looking for some alternative ways to find safe places and self-realization. Accordingly, graphic stories offer one of the options to fulfill those needs.

The readership of graphic novels is growing by the day. In young people, such interest also may be related to mosaic thinking. This type of perception developed due to a large information flow that accompanied the last couple of decades. Graphic novels engage readers by stimulating four senses out of five while the old-fashioned books manage to tingle only three of them. The faster the lives of these people, the more they need fast food, fast fashion, and fast reading. Most of these books are like storyboards, so reading them, you will feel like you are watching an actual movie.

There is a positive aspect to graphic novels as they do make young people read. It is hardly possible to make teenagers interested in reading books, while they prefer devices like laptops, tablets, X-Box, and PlayStation. Short pieces of text set in the framework of photo scripts resemble elements of popular movies and cartoons. For example, the novel Persepolis tells the painful story of an Iran refugee Marjane Satrapi. It is doubtful that young people would have taken a keen interest in a thick book with detailed descriptions of characters’ appearances and historical events of the Islamic Revolution. A graphic-novel form, in its turn, does not make the readers trudge through voluminous sentences and flowery language.

The genre responds to changes in society, even very often goes ahead of them. Graphic novels dwell on feminism, gender equality, and racism. From the viewpoint of a mass culture researcher, graphic novels are perhaps the best medium that speaks in different ways to and in the name of young people.

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Complete Guide on Causal Analysis Essay Writing

what is a causal argument essay

Don’t worry if you have been given a causal analysis essay to write and have no idea how to start. We have put together an easy to follow guide for you on our essay service to be done as fast as possible!


What is Causal Analysis Essay?

The aim of a causal analysis paper is to show either the consequences of certain causes and effects and vice versa. This is best explored through an essay in which the question " why? " is answered.

The overall conclusion is usually intended to either prove a point , speculate a theory or disprove a common belief .

This could also be explained through a philosophical narrative by saying it tries to answer the “why” in our lives by clarifying the world in which we inhabit. So, therefore the causal analysis can be said to help us comprehend the complex series of events that shape our life.

To simplify further into an equation this is how you could write it:

Causal analysis essay definition

50 Causal Analysis Essay Topics

The choice of causal analysis essay topics is by far one of the most responsible steps in handling the task because it affects how easy and fast the process goes and how good the result will be.

Depending on your academic level and the subject, the choice of causal argument essay topics can be very extensive.

So, how do you make the right choice?

This may surprise you, but the key to choosing the best causal essay topics is focusing on one’s own interests. When writing on a topic that you are genuinely interested in, the process will not feel as stressful and boring, and the result will be much better than if you’d write on a topic that is too boring or complex to you.

Need some ideas? To help you get on the right track, we prepared a list of 50 great topics for inspiration:

Technology Causal Analysis Essay Topics

  • How can the popularization of e-learning harm the traditional educational system?
  • The effects of too active Internet use on children’s personalities.
  • What are the reasons that make cyberbullying such a major issue in the modern world?
  • How does technology make our day-to-day lives more complicated?
  • The impact of IT industry growth on immigration.
  • The positive impact of technology on the healthcare industry.
  • Influence of technology on attention spans and perception of information.
  • How is technology changing a modern classroom?
  • How has increased internet access influenced children’s and teen’s behavior?
  • What effects does growing misinformation on the internet have on us?

Political Causal Analysis Essay Topics

  • Does social media influence politics in any way today?
  • What causes a growing number of mass shooting cases in the US?
  • Cause-and-effect of the feminist movement.
  • The correlation between success in the political sphere and the chosen style of language.
  • Are there still hints of gender bias in politics?
  • Why do successful political leaders tend to resign at the peak of their careers?
  • What has caused stricter gun policies in the US?
  • The role of the Civil Rights Movement in the US politics.
  • Cause-and-effect of globalization and labor market.
  • What led to the US government shut down in 2013?.

Global Occurrences Causal Analysis Essay Topics

  • Why did Covid-19 have such a negative impact on the global economy?
  • The positive impact the Black Lives Matter movement has on our society.
  • How well did we handle the global pandemic?
  • Why is the Chinese government planning to back away from its one-child policy?
  • What has caused the Israel-Palestine Crisis?
  • Why did Donald Trump become the first US president to be impeached twice?
  • Why do cryptocurrencies have the potential to replace traditional money?
  • Why are people investing in cryptocurrency?
  • Why does Elon Musk consider using Bitcoin again?
  • Why is the gradual border reopening strategy vital for the EU countries?

Education Causal Analysis Essay Topics

  • What causes a consistently high number of bullying cases in schools?
  • The negative impact of bullying at schools.
  • How is children’s emotional development being affected by the educational system?

How well did we handle adaptation to e-learning during the pandemic?

  • What factors make distance learning a bad thing in terms of socializing?
  • Why does school uniform have a positive effect on students’ performance?
  • The perks of the blended learning approach.
  • Why do children tend to perceive new information faster and retain it better than adults?
  • The pros and cons of homework.
  • Why should parents get more involved in school life?

Nature and Environment Causal Analysis Essay Topics

  • What is causing global warming, and what effects might it have on our environment?
  • The negative effects of the increasing water pollution levels on our lives.
  • What factors cause certain species of animals to go extinct?
  • What are the positive effects of owning a pet for children?
  • How do our daily activities affect nature and the environment?
  • The positive effects of various environmental protection programs on wildlife and nature.
  • What makes zoos worse than national parks?
  • Why do scientists use animals for research and studies?
  • Cause-and-effect of environmental pollution.
  • The positive effect of fully organic food and goods on a human health.

Causal Analysis Essay Outline

Plan out an outline to make your writing easier and faster then all the elements of the article will come together better in the end. Also if you want to pay someone to write my essay - EssayService it is a good idea.

Choose a Causal Analysis Essay Topic

To start it is best to decide on a topic you wish to explore and is something that has meaning or is a subject area already known about. Think carefully about the causes and effects that could transpire from a given area or topic and also perhaps something that is controversial and open to discussion. It may not be possible to write fully about both the causes and effects so keep in mind which will be the stronger point to include in the paper.

Write a Causal Analysis Essay Thesis Statement

After the chosen topic is decided it is possible to plan out what the causal analysis will find out by creating the thesis statement. This should be summarized into one or two sentences and focus on a particular subject area that can be explored. Try not to limit the essay too much by including too much detail or using language that prevents exploring further possibilities.

An example of a thesis statement could look like:

Governments around the world are meant to have our best interests at heart, yet why do their policies anger many and cause protests. Is this related to bad choice of politicians and political voting systems used and what other factors can be involved?

Create a Causal Analysis Essay Introduction

It is a good idea to put the thesis at the end of the introduction which should give some basic information on the topic. You should start with a “hook” or opening sentence that will grab the reader's attention and want them to continue reading. An interesting quote or statistic can be a good example or something that will make the reader think about the topic.

Write a Causal Analysis Essay Body Paragraphs

Create every paragraph to illustrate one cause or effect chain and write it logically. Use examples to demonstrate the thinking process and the specific chain of causes or effects. Make sure each chain is set out chronologically to make everything clear to the reader. Always clarify the cause to effect or vice versa relationship instead of making comparisons as this will make your statements stronger.

Write a Causal Analysis Essay Conclusion

At the end of the paper include a concluding paragraph which should be a summary of the connections that have been discovered on significant cause-effect relationship. Remember to finish the paper with something that is thought provoking or memorable that highlights the conclusions within the article. For example, if the paper was about World war II, say due to these causes or effects that a third world war is possible if these factors are not kept in check.

Tips for Writing a Causal Analysis Essay

Unless you decide to buy essays online from our service, you should follow the tips below to make your writing worth the best grade.

causal tips

Keep all the links . Do not leave out any links in the chain of causes and effects unless you are certain that the reader can make the correct connections.

Leave any biases out. It is important to develop an honest essay, to be impartial, and not already have any prejudices. According to our write my essay service professionals, to be a credible writer and make the audience believe in the analysis, the work should be from a neutral stance.

Backup everything with sufficient evidence. Always give specific details and support with hard evidence. Never be vague with the connections in the chain and explain all the links.

Don't oversimplify things. While it is needed to focus and limit the analysis to particular points of the thesis, do not be too quick to assign cause and effect conclusions. Think carefully before making statements and do not jump to any false predictions before evaluating properly.

Try not fall into the post hoc trap. This can be avoided by not making any errors in the logic used and carefully researching each link in the chain. This is a typical causal relationship error that links a previous subject in time just because it happened before. For example, coming to the conclusion that marijuana smokers will go on to smoke crack. This could be based on that crack smokers have tried marijuana before they tried crack but this is a false connection. With the same logic, it could said that cigarette smoking would lead to smoking crack and marijuana, but this is also post hoc fallacy.

Avoid circular thought processes. Try not use thought processes that have no definite conclusion and just restate the thesis. Make new links and ideas that do not end at where the statement started, finish with a sense of conclusion.

Causal Analysis Essay Example

As mentioned above, a causal analysis essay is a form of academic writing task that analyzes the cause of a problem. Some people also refer to causal analysis essays as cause and effect essays.

This type of essay explores the critical aspects of a specific issue to determine the primary causes. You need to state your claim and back it up with supporting facts and arguments. Besides, example essays on causal analysis correlate every issue with an underlying problem.

For instance, most global warming essays are a typical example essay on causal analysis because they highlight factors like human activity (and inactivity) and how it impacts the environment. 

Now let’s check out a sample essay on the following topic: ‍

The global pandemic has presented massive challenges in all aspects of human life. Many individuals have lost their livelihoods, while companies had to digitize their processes to address the financial strains. In schools, the shift to e-learning has also come at an unprecedented pace, forcing teachers and school administrators to adopt new technologies and teaching methods to keep the learning process going. However, the adaptation process to e-learning has not been a major success for students.
Since the start of the pandemic, schools have tried to switch to e-learning and replicate traditional classes online. However, this process has been hindered by unpreparedness in most schools. Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, lecturers did not have enough time to acquaint themselves with modern technological platforms. Consequently, they lacked the technical knowledge to get the best of the available learning tools and platforms.
Furthermore, students seem to enjoy e-learning, but the problem lies in the fact that they cannot harness their academic potential to the fullest. In developing countries, poverty, corruption, and inadequate access to learning infrastructure present a massive obstacle to students. Moreover, students living in countries without stable electricity and internet connection lag behind their peers from other countries. And since most schools cannot change the financial situation of disenfranchised students, these young people get left out of the overall academic cycle. 
In line with the lack of access to essential learning materials, students are losing interest in academics. As a result, the dropout rates in higher institutions have reached record numbers over the past 18 months. Some experts ascribe the increasing dropout rates to poverty and financial instability across the globe (Morin, 2021). However, other experts claim that these dropout rates are directly correlated with the hasty and poor implementation of e-learning in schools across the globe. Students who feel abandoned by the system have no motivation to continue pursuing their degrees. Alternatively, they are exploring other career options to maintain financial stability or support their siblings.
On the other hand, student engagement has remained high throughout the pandemic. Teachers now use advanced communication channels and learning tools to connect with their students during and beyond class hours. Gamification has also become an integral part of learning, as online laboratories and virtual reality tools come to the fore. Moreover, the introduction of exciting digital tools into the curriculum has motivated students to stay engaged in the educational process, thus improving their overall performance across the board. Essentially, the increase in online classroom engagement has also boosted students’ academic performance and their understanding of the curriculum.
In conclusion, the merits of the current iteration of e-learning are few and far between. Schools need to address their e-learning models right away to avoid pushing more students away from the academic system. Students from low-income communities should be encouraged to stay in school by creating subsidies for them and re-integrating them into the academic fold. Ultimately, the entire academia should focus on creating modern technological solutions to bridge the expanding knowledge gap caused by the pandemic.

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College Writing: Argument

Causal arguments.

“Why are things like this? What is the effect, or result, of this?” and “What causes this?”–These questions guide authors as they analyze or argue about causal relationships, such as “What is the effect of a college education on income?” View fascinating reports on various cause/effect topics and then explore your own causal relationship. Improve your critical thinking skills.

Unlike explanations of processes, which follow a chronological order of events, cause and effect texts are deeply speculative and tentative, relying on causal reasoning and argument. Your purpose is to answer

  • Why are things like this?
  • What is the effect, or result, of this?
  • What is the cause of this?

Analyzing cause-and-effect relationships requires you to question how different parts and sequences interact with each other over time, which is often more difficult than reporting a chronological order of events, as you do when describing a process.

Why Write About Causes and Effects?

Human beings ask why perhaps more than any other question. When we listen to the nightly news and hear about the atrocities of war, we wonder, “What causes the hatred?” When we read about the violence plaguing our country, we ask, “Why does the United States lead the world in violent crimes?” When we read studies that indicate that 28 percent of women in America have been raped and that the occurrence of date rape is rising on college campuses, we ask, “Why is this happening?” When we read about environmental problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer, we wonder, “Why don’t we do something about it?” Whenever we make decisions in our daily lives, we ask ourselves, “Why should I do this?”

On a daily basis, we seek to understand why events occurred by identifying the factors that led up to them. For example, if you were not doing well in school and on homework assignments, you might ask, “Did my high school class(es) sufficiently prepare me for this class? Am I studying long enough? Am I taking effective lecture notes? Am I paying too much attention to the course texts and too little to the instructor’s lectures? How is my attendance? Is my part-time job interfering too much with my school work? Am I using my time to study effectively? Are some of my friends having a negative influence on my study habits? Am I taking too many courses or putting too much time into another course? What can I do to improve my memory or study skills?” After asking these and other questions, you would eventually be able to identify a variety of causes for your poor performance, and once you recognize the causal relationship, you can set about realistically to improve your grade.

Cause-and-effect assignments are among the most interesting writing projects that you will tackle in school and in professional life. In school, teachers frequently assign process assignments. For example, humanities professors may ask for an analysis of what causes particular music genres or artistic genres to capture the imagination of popular culture; history professors, the impact of cultures on world history; social science professors, the effects of inventions on culture or the effect of gun control laws on violent homicide rates; business professors, the effects of changes in the interest rates on the economy.

Cause-and-effect texts are extremely common in professions–particularly the sciences, where researchers employ the scientific method to seek out cause-and-effect relationships. Writers commonly focus on analyzing causes or effects. A medical writer, for example, might explore the effects of a poor diet or the causes of a disease. A lawyer might argue the effect of an accident on his client. A sports writer might analyze why a team continues its losing or winning streak.

Diverse Rhetorical Situations

The purpose of many cause-and-effect texts is to explain the effects or causes of something. And the tone of these texts tends to be dispassionate and objective. In complex situations, however, the writer’s purpose may shift from explaining to speculating or even arguing about an interpretation. Sometimes writers argue about a particular cause or effect because they want to sell you something or because they want to change your mind on a policy or interpretation.

People write about causes and effects for a variety of communication situations, and they employ a variety of media. The shape and content of cause-and-effect reports tend to be more diverse than the shape and content of texts that explain subjects, concepts, or processes, as suggested in the table below.

Rhetorical Analysis of Cause and Effect Texts

Consider the context, audience, purpose, and media invoked by the following readings. Also examine how ideas are developed in these texts. Are assertions grounded in personal experience, interviews with authorities, questionnaires, Internet and library research, or empirical research?

  • GHB on Campus : (http://www.projectghb.org/) A subtext of a larger Web site created to educate readers about the dangers of GHB, this page summarizes the deadly effects of GHB on college campuses and urges readers to forward a listserv message to their friends, which reveals the deadly effects of GHB. Interestingly, a sidebar seeks readers’ input to a survey on GHB usage on college campuses. On the Project GHB home page, the authors explain that Mr. and Mrs. Shortridges began the site following the death of their son to a GHB overdose: This GHB website started out as a quick project with the sole purpose of getting some truth about GHB on the Internet. In doing their original searches for GHB on the Internet, the Shortridges found that most websites advocate its use, etc. Some Internet pages about GHB have seemingly educated reports about GHB. They offer recipes, kits for sale, and tips for “safe” experiences.
  • Rewards for Justice Program: Prevention of Terrorism Advertising Campaign : (http://www.state.gov/m/ds/terrorism/c8651.htm) The US Government summarizes the successful effects of its rewards program for preventing terrorism. Its purpose appears to be to defend the program, advertise its effectiveness, and outline future rewards.
  • College graduation rate below 50 percent : (http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/09/21/powell.americas.promise/index.html?iref=allsearch) Written by a reporter for CNN.com, this texts summarizes academic research conducted by the Council for Aid to Education. The research analyzed why 52 percent of students in public colleges and 45 percent of students in private colleges failed to graduate in 2000. The researcher focused on greater access to college as the cause for the high dropout rate, suggesting that students who are being accepted into college are not prepared and that colleges need to do more to help these students succeed. The author’s tone/voice is impersonal and objective. The audience for the original research study was universities, while this report is written for a broader audience–readers of CNN’s online education pages.
  • The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation . (https://www.nga.org/cms/home/nga-center-for-best-practices/center-publications/page-ehsw-publications/col2-content/main-content-list/the-impact-of-arts-education-on.html) Sponsored by the National Governors Association, this report’s primary audience is US governors. The purpose of this summary appears to be to encourage governors to fund arts education. This summary highlights conclusions found in a lengthier review of research: The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation. (https://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/050102ARTSED.pdf) This brief summary seems to present the other study’s results as fact as opposed to speculation or argument based on empirical research: The arts provide one alternative for states looking to build the workforce of tomorrow — a choice growing in popularity and esteem. The arts can provide effective learning opportunities to the general student population, yielding increased academic performance, reduced absenteeism, and better skill-building. An even more compelling advantage is the striking success of arts-based educational programs among disadvantaged populations, especially at-risk and incarcerated youth.
  • Women’s Love/Hate Relationship With the Internet : (http://www2.unb.ca/parl/) This analysis of the effects of gender on Internet usage begins with a strong, personal voice, yet this student writer quickly abandons the personal voice and adopts the more objective, passive, detached voice of the social scientist. Her chief purpose is to analyze barriers women face to using the Internet and outline ways to overcome these barriers. The writer has created a Web site to support her essay, including several bibliographies.
  • The State of the World’s Children by UNICEF : (http://www.unicef.org/sowc08/) Mixing evocative pictures with extremely detailed analyses of the effects of poor nutrition on the world’s children, UNICEF offers an informative and persuasive account of how countries and communities can and should help their children. Although this document is available on the Web, it lacks internal navigation links. Readers cannot tell how long the document is, either.
  • The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall of American Society by Mike Adams : (https://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume5/v5i6/GrandmotherEffect%205-6.pdf) Written for a university audience, Mike Adams pokes fun at social science methods and students’ “grandmother” problems: Overall, a student who is failing a class and has a final coming up is more than 50 times more likely to lose a family member than an A student not facing any exams.

When dealing with causes and effects, it is important to keep to a narrow topic. Time constraints and resources should always be kept in mind when pursuing a topic. Example: To find the reasons for world hunger would take years of research and/or tons of hours, so focus on a specific entity of a broad topic. Perhaps you could identify one country’s efforts over the past few years.

Writers often bring focus to their work by claiming cause-and-effect relationships upfront, in their introductions. These “thesis statements” guide the writer and reader throughout the document. And they also offer clues as to the writer’s voice, tone, and persona. Consider, for example, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of the The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society.

The basic problem can be stated very simply: A student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year.

While this idea has long been a matter of conjecture or merely a part of the folklore of college teaching, I can now confirm that the phenomenon is real. For over twenty years I have collected data on this supposed relationship, and have not only confirmed what most faculty had suspected, but also found some additional aspects of this process that are of potential importance to the future of the country. The results presented in this report provide a chilling picture and should waken the profession and the general public to a serious health and sociological problem before it is too late.


Critical readers such as your instructors are quick to recognize shallow reasoning. College instructors expect you to cite multiple causes or effects when you are addressing a complex phenomenon. For example, if you were exploring the effects of TV on children, your readers would most likely expect you to do more than attack the violence as being unethical or immoral. Likewise, if you were analyzing the causes of our nation’s high divorce rates, your instructors would expect you to do more than cite troubles with finances as the cause of divorces.

To help you develop a stronger sense of the level of detail your readers need to understand a particular cause-and-effect relationship, consider conducting research. What have others reported about the particular cause-and-effect relationship you are exploring? Read about what others have speculated or reported about your topic.

Below are some additional suggestions for developing your cause-and-effect report.

Check for Post Hoc Fallacies

Critical readers will expect you to develop the reasoning that demonstrates the cause and effect relationship isn’t due to chance. Academic readers are reluctant to assume causality between two actions because they are trained to identify post hoc (“after this”) fallacies. Essentially a post hoc fallacy occurs when an author assumes Event B was caused by Event A simply because it followed Event A; the connection is false because it is equally possible that Event B was caused by some other factor. For example, let us suppose that Bill has been jilted by his girlfriend Laura. Because Laura argued with Bill last Friday night that he never spent any money on her and that she always has to pay for their dates, Bill might assume that she left him because he was cheap. However, this might not be the true reason for Laura’s dumping Bill. In fact, it could be that Laura was tired of Bill’s negative view of life. Perhaps she truly left Bill because she found him to be insensitive, boring, and uncommunicative.

Identify Sufficient and Necessary Causes

In some instances you may be able to explain an effect by identifying sufficient causes and necessary causes.

A sufficient cause is one that can cause the effect to take place. By itself, a sufficient cause can explain a phenomenon or trend. For instance, in order for someone to contract the AIDS virus, any of the following forms of contact is a sufficient cause:

A previously infected patient’s bodily fluids must enter the uninfected person’s body through either an open sore, Sexual conduct, Or a contaminated instrument such as a needle.

Frequently more than one sufficient cause is necessary to explain a phenomenon or trend. Three or four causes, for example, may be necessary to explain an effect. You cannot say, for example, that all one needs is a match to start a fire. You also need oxygen and something to burn. When describing physical phenomena such as how acid rain is produced, you may have little difficulty identifying sufficient causes. Explaining human behavior is rarely so simple, of course.

Identify Remote/Speculative Causes

When we face complicated questions and problems, we often are unable to identify sufficient causes so we must speculate about necessary causes—those causes that can result in the effect. For instance, no single cause precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet we could speculate that hunger, poor economic conditions, alienation from communism, and political corruption were all remote causes.

Because academic readers are sensitive to the complexity of most issues, they generally do not expect you to offer sufficient causes for complex problems. Instead, they expect you to speculate about possible causes and effects, while limiting the scope of your claims with qualifiers such as “usually,” “may,” “possible,” “sometimes” or “most.” No simple answer, no sufficient cause, can explain, for example, why some people become violent criminals or serial killers while others devote themselves to feeding the hungry or serving the helpless.

Establish an Appropriate Voice

You can choose from a range of tones, personas and voices. Some writers choose a contentious, argumentative tone. Sometimes writers will soften their tone, perhaps assuming a milder persona than they actually feel, because they fear providing the information in a more straightforward, argumentative way would cause readers to look elsewhere. For example, in Tropical Forests and Climate Change, the Canadian Development Agency offers a terrifying, well-researched analysis of global warming, yet softens its message with this caveat in the introduction:

Climate change predictions are difficult because of the complexity of the atmosphere and the interaction of the many variables involved.

Humanize Abstract Issues

No matter how technical your subject is, you should keep in mind that you are writing to other people. When you sense that the human story is being lost in abstract figures or academic jargon, consider adding an anecdote of how the problem you are discussing affects particular people. For example, Melissa Henderson, a student writer, began her report on the effect of crack on babies with the following portrayal of a newborn, which she composed after reading numerous essays about the effect of crack cocaine on human fetuses:

Lying restlessly under the warm lights like a McDonald’s Big Mac, Baby Doe fights with all of his three pounds of strength to stay alive. Because he was born prematurely, Baby Doe has an array of tubes and wires extending from his frail body which constantly monitor his heartbeat, drain excess fluid from his lungs and alert hospital personnel in the event he stops breathing. As he lies in the aseptic incubator his rigid little arms and legs twitch and jerk as though a steady current of electricity coursed through his veins. Suddenly, without warning or provocation, he begins to cry a mournful, inconsolable wail that continues steadily without an end in sight. As the nurses try to comfort the tiny infant with loving touches and soothing whispers, Baby Doe’s over-wrought nervous system can no longer cope. Suffering from sensory overload, he withdraws into the security offered in a long, deep slumber. Welcome to the world, Baby Doe, your mother is a crack cocaine addict.

As you write drafts of your causal report, consider incorporating an anecdote—that is, a brief story about how people are influenced by your subject. For example, if you are researching the effects of a sluggish economy on our nation’s poor, you might want to flesh out your statistics by depicting the story of how one homeless family lost their jobs, income, medical benefits, house, community, and hope.

Use Visuals

Although visuals are not required–in fact, many cause-and-effect texts do not use visuals–readers appreciate visuals, particularly ones that explain the cause-and-effect relationship being addressed. Consider, for example, this visual from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site on Global Warming:

Readers particularly appreciate tables and graphs. Critical readers will often skim through a document’s tables before reading the text:

Visuals can be used to influence readers at an emotional level. For example, at Project GHB’s Tragedy Page, each picture links to an obituary, which tells the personal story of how these young people overdosed on GHB


When analyzing causal relationships, you must reveal to readers how different parts and sequences interact with each other over time. Rather than merely reporting the order of events in chronological fashion as we do when describing a process, you need to identify the specific reasons behind the effects or causes. Your organization needs to reflect the logic of your analysis. This is often difficult because a single cause can result in many different effects. Likewise, an effect can have multiple causes.

For example, even a simple effect such as a minor car accident can have multiple causes. Yes, we could say that John D. caused the accident because he was driving while intoxicated. Yet if we knew more about John D.’s state of mind—if we knew, for instance, that he wasn’t watching where he was going because he was thinking about his wife’s threat to leave him—then we could identify additional causes for the accident. It could very well be that he was exhausted after a sleepless night. Or perhaps his personal predicament had nothing to do with the accident: Maybe the loss of his job that morning or his failure to have faulty brakes replaced is a more significant cause for the accident. If we get really carried away with our reasoning, we could say that his former employers were responsible. After all, John D. would not have lost his job if the automobile manufacturer he worked for had not closed three of its American plants and moved manufacturing of some parts to plants in Mexico, Hong Kong, and Japan. In addition, we could also find potential causes for the accident by considering the other driver, Susan K. Maybe she rushed into the busy intersection expecting everyone else to make room for her because she was already late for an in-class exam. Perhaps if Susan K. had not consumed four pots of coffee, she would have been more mellow, more cautious, and less willing to risk her life to get to school on time.

Use Formatting to Highlight Your Organization

You can emphasize the most emphatic elements of your analysis by using headings and subheadings. A quick scan of any of the cause-and-effect readings highlights the popularity of headings. For example, below are the headings used by the Canadian International Development Agency for their essay on Tropical Forests and Climate Change

  • Is the world’s climate changing?
  • How are we causing climate change?
  • Impact of climate change on forests
  • Climate change convention and the Kyoto protocol
  • Forestry’s role in mitigating climate change
  • Carbon trading markets
  • Conclusions

You may also want to play with the formatting of your text to highlight the reasoning behind your causal analysis. Consider, for example, the Canadian International Development Agency’s Tropical Forests and Climate Change. These authors used callouts to define climate change terms that readers may not understand and they used call out boxes to emphasize important points in their essay:

The Sustainable Forest Management Project in Cameroon, Trees for Tomorrow in Jamaica, and the Arenal Conservation and Development Project are CIDA-supported projects that work towards enhancing forest management in developing countries.

Expanding the area of forest cover by establishing tree plantations, agroforestry plantings, or analog forests enlarges the capacity of the terrestrial carbon sink. Trees are composed of approximately 50 percent carbon which they extract from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. The rate of carbon sequestration depends on the growth characteristics of the species, the conditions for growth where the tree is planted, and the density of the tree’s wood. It is greatest in the younger stages of tree growth, between 20 to 50 years. Growth rates on commercial plantations in the tropics have been improving steadily as the results of tree improvement research have been applied. The technology to establish fast-growing plantations exists, as does the global expertise for establishing them. Growth rates of more than 30 cubic metres/hectare/year are now commonplace for intensive industrial pulp plantations in the tropics and FAO estimates that there are between 1.5 million and 2.0 million hectares of tree plantations established every year.

You may find it helpful to visually represent the structure of your argument, perhaps even including your organizational map as a visual for readers. For example, consider the following screenshot from the EPA’s site on global warming. From this image, you understand four topics are being addressed and you understand the questions that guide the EPA’s causal analysis:

Introduce the Topic : Typically, texts that explore cause-and-effect relationships summarize the author’s position upfront, in the introduction (see General to the Specific Strategies). For example, back in 1985, Joseph K. Skinner began his influential essay “Big Mac and the Tropical Forests” with this dramatic opening–two sentences that immediately focus your attention on the causal connection he explicates throughout his essay: Hello, fast-food chains. Goodbye, tropical forests. However, you may want to avoid explicit thesis sentences and forecasting statements if your subject is likely to threaten the beliefs of your audience or if it is an inherently emotional subject. You may occasionally find it important to establish a credible persona first by reviewing what your readers are likely to believe about a causal relationship and then by stating your own opinion.

For example, assume you are writing an essay against spanking children. Now if your audience believes that spanking children is the proper way to discipline them, and if you claim in the introduction of the essay that spanking children may result in their becoming criminals, then your readers might assume you are an oddball and dismiss your essay. Yet if you intelligently discuss some of the reasons why parents and psychologists recommend spanking and then introduce extensive research from prominent journals and reports that all violent criminals were spanked as children, your readers might be more willing to listen to your reasoning

Style : When grappling with difficult issues and concepts, your prose can understandably become unclear, dull, or cluttered. Eventually, though, as you continue to revise your drafts and further refine your message, you need to cut away the superfluous words, redundancies, and needless abstractions. You can make your language more interesting and more understandable by eliminating needless jargon; passive voice; lengthy, redundant sentences; or pompous and archaic language.

Provide Descriptive, Sensory Language : You can help your readers imagine your subject better by appealing to their senses. Whenever possible, describe how an object looks, sounds, tastes, feels, or smells. For example, in this excerpt from Carl Sagan’s powerful essay on the effects of a nuclear war, “The Nuclear Winter,” notice how Sagan appeals to our visual sense in his description of the effect of a single nuclear bomb on a city: In a 2 megaton explosion over a fairly large city, buildings would be vaporized, people reduced to atoms and shadows, outlying structures blown down like matchsticks and raging fires ignited. And if the bomb exploded on the ground, an enormous crater, like those that can be seen through a telescope on the surface of the Moon, would be all that remained where midtown once had been.

The lifeblood of effective writing is concrete and sensory language. A word, properly placed, can create a tone that angers or inspires a reader. Knowing the power of language to promote change, effective writers are selective in their use of concrete words—words that represent actual physical things like “chair” and “house”—and sensory words—words that appeal to our five senses. Selecting the right word or group of words is a crucial step in drawing your readers into your work so that they can fully understand your vision and ideas. Note the masterful use of concrete and sensory words in this passage from a Newsweek essay, “Don’t Go in the Water”:

“Black mayonnaise”: The problem for most landlubbers, of course, is that most of the effects of coastal pollution are hard to see. Bays and estuaries that are now in jeopardy—Boston Harbor, for example, or even San Francisco Bay—are still delightful to look at from shore. What is happening underwater is quite another matter, and it is not for the squeamish. Scuba divers talk of swimming through clouds of toilet paper and half-dissolved feces, of bay bottoms covered by a foul and toxic combination of sediment, sewage and petrochemical waste appropriately known as “black mayonnaise.” Fishermen haul in lobsters and crab [sic] covered with mysterious “burn holes” and fish whose fins are rotting off. Offshore, marine biologists track massive tides of algae blooms fed by nitrate and phosphate pollution—colonies of floating microorganisms that, once dead, strangle fish by stripping the water of its life giving oxygen.

In addition to selecting an abundance of distinctive concrete words (such as sediment, sewage, and nitrate) and sensory words (foul, burn holes, feces), the authors have used powerful images and metaphors. Note, for example, the clouds of toilet paper. Even more potent is the image of “black mayonnaise.” Can you imagine biting into a sandwich spread with such poison?

When Speculating, Use Qualifying Language : When addressing complex issues and processes, you adopt an appropriate speculative voice by using words like “may cause” or “could also.”

Useful Qualifying Words and Phrases : may, might, usually typically, perhaps, can, I believe it seems likely. As an example of carefully chosen qualifying words, consider the following passage from the US EPA’s Web site on global warming impacts:

  • Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level, and change precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It could also affect human health, animals, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts may expand into existing rangelands, and features of some of our National Parks may be permanently altered.
  • Most of the United States is expected to warm, although sulfates may limit warming in some areas. Scientists currently are unable to determine which parts of the United States will become wetter or drier, but there is likely to be an overall trend toward increased precipitation and evaporation, more intense rainstorms, and drier soils.
  • Unfortunately, many of the potentially most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decreases, which can not be reliably projected for specific areas.
  • Causes & Effects. Authored by : Joe Moxley. Provided by : Writing Commons. Located at : https://writingcommons.org/causes-effects . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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  • How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.

Table of contents

When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.

You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Argumentative writing at college level

At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.

In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.

Examples of argumentative essay prompts

At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.

Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.

  • Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
  • Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
  • Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
  • Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
  • Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
  • Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.

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An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.

There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  • Make a claim
  • Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  • Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  • Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives

The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.

Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:

  • Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  • Cite data to support your claim
  • Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  • Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  • Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  • Highlight the problems with this position
  • Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
  • Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?

This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.

Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:

  • Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  • Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  • Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  • Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.

You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .

Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.

In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.

Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.

This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.

Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.

No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.

Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

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Causal Essay Topics

causal essay topics

Causal Analysis Essay Definition

A causal analysis essay is a paper that responds to the question “Why?”. In a lot of situations, the writer isn’t able to offer a definite response to this question. If that is the case, the essay is referred to as a “hypothesizing about causes” paper. The writer needs to know how to write an informal essay : describe the events, followed by an iteration of the response (also referred to as thesis) regarding the cause. Your response needs to be substantiated by justifications and proof.

Causal Analysis Responses

  • Why do individuals resort to a particular course of action?
  • Why does an event occur?
  • Why does this constitute a tendency?
  • For which reason does it happen?

Subjects Regarding Conduct

  • Why do certain individuals experience irrational fears?
  • Why do certain individuals become obsessed with betting while others place bets without getting hooked?
  • What are the reasons for which some individuals succeed in overcoming their unfavorable social circumstances, like a financial shortage, the absence of a parent or violent parents?
  • What are the scientific factors behind the phenomenon of falling in love?
  • Why does the sentiment of love grow dim?
  • Why is it possible for someone to fall in love “at first sight”?
  • Why do elders tend to forget things?
  • Why are we unable to function without sleep?
  • Why do certain recurring movements get stored in our “muscular memory”?
  • What are the reasons for which we have bad dreams?
  • Why do some people stay married to the same persons throughout their entire lives?
  • Why is our memory divided into short-term and long-term?
  • What are the reasons for which people develop dyslexia?
  • Why do people have physical reactions in situations of fright?
  • Why does yawning occur? (the same question can be posed for hiccupping or stretching)
  • Why are we able to feel items that are getting close to us even when our eyes are shut?
  • What are the reasons for which some individuals are shy, while others are outgoing?
  • What are the reasons for which methamphetamine causes dependency?
  • Why do certain individuals experience a craving for sugar?
  • Why do some individuals resemble their close relatives a lot in terms of physical appearance, while others don’t look like their relatives at all?
  • Why do first-born kids share the general tendency of achieving success in life?
  • What are the reasons for which the phenomenon of snoring occurs?
  • Why do some individuals tell lies?
  • Why do we blush in certain situations?
  • Why do we feel hatred?
  • What are the reasons for which adolescents refuse to obey their parents?
  • Why do adolescents develop acme?
  • Why do adolescents tend to sleep for many hours?
  • Why do some teenagers commit self-harm?
  • Why do certain individuals kill themselves?
  • Why do adolescents become involved in the so-called “sexting”?
  • Why do youngsters take up smoking in spite of being aware of the fact that this habit may lead to death?
  • What are the reasons for which some youngsters develop incurable illnesses or suffer heart attacks?
  • What are the reasons for which adolescents take up drugs?
  • Why do university students become heavy drinkers?
  • What are the reasons for which youngsters become homeless?
  • Why do some youngsters get involved with gangs?
  • What are the reasons for which youngsters make graffiti?
  • Why are youngsters reluctant to exert their right to vote (in comparison to previous generations)?
  • Why do youngsters avoid donating their blood or organs?
  • Why does adolescent love end rapidly?
  • Why are adolescents reluctant to read books?
  • Why do adolescent marriages often end after a short while?
  • Why do adolescents feel a higher degree of hopefulness in comparison to elders?
  • Why do youngsters learn foreign languages faster and more efficiently than elders?
  • Why do teenage females require larger quantities of iron in comparison to adults or teenage males?
  • Why are some adolescent females obsessed with male stars?
  • Who do teenagers require protein intake?
  • Why do teenage females reach maturity more rapidly than males?
  • Why do teenagers feel the necessity to demonstrate their own personality?

Topics Related to Nature

  • Why do some critters possess tails?
  • Why do certain pets enjoy being caressed?
  • Why do old folks who own pets tend to have lengthier, healthier and more pleasant lives?
  • Why is it recommended for children to own pets?
  • What are the reasons for which dogs ingest weird objects such as herbs or poop?
  • What are the reasons for which cats display their feelings of happiness by purring or kneading?
  • What are the reasons for which cats enjoy sleeping inside crates and other weird objects?
  • Why do felines never give up hunting, in spite of being well-fed?
  • What are the reasons for which birds construct intricate nests?
  • Why do the species referred to as monarch butterflies undertake vast migrations?
  • What are the reasons for which ants and bees are organized in colonies?
  • What are the reasons for which wolves howl?
  • Why did we turn wolves into domestic animals?
  • What are the reasons for which certain bugs and jellyfish sparkle?
  • What are the factors that generate tidewater and air current?
  • Why do certain insects, such as crickets or locusts, emit loud sounds?
  • Why do humans carry out studies on animals?
  • Why do critters experience fear when they see humans?
  • Why do big critters fare better in inhospitable weather conditions?
  • Why do large-sized dogs have shorter lives in comparison to small-sized dogs?
  • Why are certain critters on the verge of extinction?
  • Why does nature have curative effects?
  • Why are bugs drawn to light sources?
  • Why are insects regarded as the most prosperous critters on the planet?
  • Why are microorganisms significant to the human race?

Political Topics

  • Why do a lot of US citizens oppose Obamacare?
  • Why do certain European states, such as Greece, experience a serious financial crisis?
  • Why is AIDS so outspread in African countries?
  • Why are Japanese citizens reluctant to get married? Why do so many Japanese people commit suicide?
  • What are the reasons for which big typhoons and tornados occur more often nowadays?
  • What are the factors that generated the turmoil in the Middle East, which led to the Arab Spring Movement and the Syrian dissensions?
  • What are the factors that generated the 2008 economic crisis?
  • What are the reasons for which random shootings occur more and more frequently in America?
  • Why do extremist factions attack specific states? (You may opt for a certain state.)
  • What are the factors that generated the 2013 American government shut down?
  • Why is North Korea so isolated from virtually any other country? Why is this country exhibiting more aggression towards other states?
  • Why do so many people choose to migrate from villages and small towns to large urban areas? (You may either approach this from a global perspective or talk about a specific state or region.)
  • What are the reasons for which the neo-conservative movement has gained popularity in the US?
  • What are the reasons for which German neo-Nazi groups have gained popularity?
  • Why has the Chinese government decided to ease up on the law that states that each family is allowed to have a single child?
  • What are the reasons for which Donald Trump won the last presidential elections?
  • Why has the American police suffered many attacks lately?
  • Why are terrorist organizations deciding to utilize cars in their attacks?
  • Why did the Arab Spring Movement fail to establish democratic regimes?
  • Why does Donald Trump use Twitter?

Global Occurrences

  • What are the factors that generated the French Revolution?
  • Why did the US resort to human slavery?
  • Why did Great Britain colonize Australia?
  • Why was Africa colonized?
  • Why do a lot of English terms come from the French language?
  • What are the reasons for which English represents the most popular language on the globe in the fields of business and science?
  • Why are the Indians organized in castes?
  • Why have the Chinese remained religious in spite of being ruled by an atheist communist regime?
  • What are the factors that generated the big food shortages in China?
  • Why did the medieval black plague come to an end?
  • Why did the British opt for a parliamentary regime?
  • Why is the educational system in the US so distinct from the one utilized in Europe?
  • Why, in conformity with the 2000 American Census data, did a larger number of US citizens declare a German origin (15%) in comparison to any other ancestry (like Irish or African American)?
  • Why did the Japanese decide to strike the Americans at Pearl Harbour? Why did the US resort to using the atomic bomb in World War 2?
  • Why should we study historical events? (In accordance with your response, this could constitute a causal paper subject.)

The Structure of a Causal Essay

Once you’ve decided on the subject question, it would be a good idea to browse through the internet to find some plausible responses.

  • Title: Ideally, the causal question and the title of your paper should be the same. Nevertheless, if you want a good title, you probably ought to shorten your question. Your response to the query will constitute the thesis of the causal essay.
  • Introduction: Commence your introductory statement by arousing your audience’s interest in regards to the subject and explaining the event or consequence. If you need some inspiration for your introduction and conclusion, take a look at the table. The cause query and thesis will amount to the last section of the introduction.
  • Thesis: Commence the thesis by posing the query and responding to it. In order for the thesis to reflect the ideas discussed in your essay, introduce a “because” accompanied by the three motives you’ll provide in the body paragraphs.
  • Body: Pay attention to presenting the motives in an analogous manner. Thesis Model: Why do certain individuals feel satisfied when a horror film manages to frighten them? People love horror films because they sense a powerful liberation when watching and discussing the movie with other individuals. Moreover, they feel an indirect excitement when witnessing taboo events in a film. (It goes without saying that you are allowed to discuss more than three motives. Moreover, the same motive can be approached in multiple paragraphs, in case it involves more than a single point.)
  • Subject Phrases of Body: In the body paragraphs of your causal essay, your three motives need to be converted into complete phrases, which amount to the subject phrases of the body paragraphs. Collect proof from your individual remarks and research. For example, name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at stanford when you write an application.
  • Conclusion: Here you should either stimulate the audience to accept your motives or offer a conclusive point. Take a look at the following table for ideas.

Hopefully, this info is enough for you to draft a compelling essay. If however, you still doubt your writing skills or simply do not have enough to tackle the assignment, no need to worry! You can always order a custom casual essay with us and read up our blog. Check out new diagnostic essay topics page.

Essay Topics For College

  • How to Write a Military Essay
  • How to Write a History Essay
  • How to Write the Common Application Essays
  • How To Write an Essay Conclusion
  • How to Write a Paragraph

what is a causal argument essay


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what is a causal argument essay

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Causal Argument Topics for All Students

Causal arguments provide various answers to specific issues. Choose the topics that have enough causes to write about. Sketch out a plan before starting out your essay. Here are some topics to start you off.

A causal argument, also referred to as a causal analysis, is found in essays that address the question “Why?” Many times, the writer is not in a position to answer that specific question. If that is how it is, then the essay is thought to be hypothesizing about causes since it does not have a precise answer to the addressed question. In this type of essay, the writer must put a description of the events, followed by repeating the thesis statement. This type of essay topic can be likened to a cause and effect essay though the latter is used for less complex topics. The main idea behind causal argument topic is coming up with issues (causes) that lead to a certain product (effect). It is important that the cause and effect are clearly connected. Most students fail to come up with enough causes to write about when writing the causal essay. Always sketch out a plan before having the first draft of your report. Your essay should have a rock-solid foundation, well-defined and explained body paragraphs, and a thought-out conclusion.

The Structure of a Causal Essay

The moment you have identified the topic of interest, research on the internet and visit your nearest library to get information on the said topic. The title and the causal question should be similar. A good title will come about when the question is shortened and the response to that question is what makes up the thesis pf the causal essay.

The introduction to your causal essay should really capture the audience´s attention and should explain the subject matter and its results. Start the thesis by asking the question and answering it accurately. Remember, a good causal topic is on that has several answers to it. Choosing a topic that has only one answer will make you get stuck when writing your thesis. In order to show the flow of ideas in your essay, introduce the word ´because´ in your sentences to bring out the cause and effect aspect.

The body of your essay should present the arguments in a comparable manner. For example, when you ask the question, ´Why do many people prefer fast foods? ´ The answer could be ´People prefer fast foods because they are affordable. Moreover, most of these fast food joints are easy to locate´. These answers go on and on as the answer the ´cause´ question. The motives as to why something is the way it is needs to be captured in the body paragraph and should be expressed into complete phrases. These arguments should be justifiable and have legitimate proof. Use sources that are credible and can be relied on. Such sources could be articles, books and journals, audios and videos from different sources.

In the conclusion segment, the audience should be inspired to accept the intentions of your essay topic or state your stand on the subject matter. Identify the main causal point and explain why it carries the most weight.

Topics to Study

Below are some of the topics that can be used or that can help you come up with ideas of your own when writing an essay:

Behavioral Topics

  • What Causes People To Experience Fears?
  • Why Do Some People Get Hooked To Betting?
  • What Causes People To Get Out Of Uncomfortable Circumstances Such As Abusive Relationships Or Poverty?
  • Why Does The Feeling Of Love Diminish Over Time?
  • Why Do Old People Forget Things Easily?
  • Why Is Sleep Necessary?
  • Why Do Some People´s Personalities Change From Time To Time?
  • What Brings About Unemployment In A Country?
  • What Makes Most Marriages End Up In Divorce?
  • What Makes Countries Go To War?
  • What Promoted Vices Such As Corruption And Nepotism In A Country?
  • What Led To The Fall Of The Roman Empire?
  • Where Do Dreams Originate From?
  • Where Do Reflexes Such As Yawning Or Hiccupping Come From?
  • What Are The Reasons That Make People Become Extroverts And Some Introverts?
  • What Makes People Develop A Craving For Sugar?
  • Why Do Firstborns Become More Successful?
  • How Does Social Media Improve Communication Skills?
  • How Do Bicycles Reduce Traffic Jams?
  • How Does A Happy Marriage Lead To Prolonging The Life Of A Person?

Topics Involving the Youth

  • Why Do Many Teens Rebel?
  • What Is The Cause Of Acne Among Many Teens?
  • Why Are Most Teens Vulnerable And Easily Cut Themselves When They Become Emotionally Unstable?
  • Why Are There So Many Cases Of Suicide Among The Youth?
  • Why Does Peer Pressure Affect Most Of The Young People?
  • Why Is It Important To Educate People On The Importance Of Having Savings When Still Young?
  • Why Do Adolescent Relationships End Up In Fights And Disagreements?
  • Why Are Youngsters Easily Lured Into Drug And Substance Abuse?
  • Why Do Teens Fall In Love Quickly?
  • Why Do Adolescents Prefer Staying In Their Rooms Instead Of Interacting With Their Family Members?
  • Why Does The Use Of Social Media Sites Such As Facebook, Twitter And Instagram Lead To Decreased Happiness Among People?
  • How Does Having A Good Sense Of Humor Improve Personal Relationships?
  • How Does An Unhealthy Eating Habit Lead To Decreased Performance At Work?
  • How Does Reading Books Influence The Way Of Thinking And Conducting Conversations?
  • How Has Technology Affected The Value Systems In Families And The Way They Interact?

Topics Related to Nature

  • How Does Water Vapor Contribute To Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
  • How Does An Increase In Global Temperature Lead To A Prevalence In Malaria And Cholera.
  • What Causes An Increase In The Number Of Pests In Cities?
  • What Causes The Extinction Of Sea Species Such As Fish?
  • How Does Coal Affect The Ozone Layer?
  • Why Do Bees And Ants Often Work In Teams?
  • What Makes Butterflies Get Attracted To Colorful Petals?
  • Why Is It Important To Teach Children How To Care For Pets?’
  • Why Is It Important To Teach Children How To Care For The Environment?
  • Why Is It Not Recommended For Dogs To Interbreed?
  • What Is So Important About Maintaining A Recommended Tree Cover In Various Countries?
  • Why Are Microorganisms Present In The Soil?
  • What Are The Major Causes Of Pollution?
  • What Are The Consequences Of Pollution On Water, Air, Land And Soil?
  • What Leads To Reduction In Underground Water Sources?
  • How Does An Accurate Weather Forecast Help People Avoid Or Reduce Impacts Brought About By Natural Disasters?

Topics Dealing with Sports

  • How Do Frequent Workouts Help Humans Improve Their Immune Systems?
  • Why Do Children Who Engage In Sports Better At Communicating With Their Peers And Develop More Confidence Than Those Who Don’t Engage In Sports?
  • How Does Sports Help Reduce Stress And Depression?
  • Why Are Most Citizens Not Satisfied With Their Country´s Healthcare?
  • Why Was It Necessary For Brexit To Take Place?
  • Why Does AIDS Spread Fast?
  • Why Do Most Middle Eastern Countries Engage In War?
  • What Are The Causes That Led To The Economic Meltdown Of 2008?
  • Why Do Most Earthquakes Occur In Asian Countries?
  • What Are The Main Reasons That Lead To Random Shootings In Schools In The United States Of America?
  • What Brought About The Jews Holocaust?
  • Why Did The Chinese Introduce Their One-Child Policy And What Were The Reasons Behind The Withdrawal Of This Policy?
  • What Were The Reasons That Made Donald Trump Become The President Of The US?
  • Why Do Fewer Young People Decide Not To Participate In Elections Through Voting?

Miscellaneous Topics

  • Why Do People Prefer Cramming Rather Than Understanding The Given Content?
  • How Does Pirating Music, Games, Apps, And Movies Affect The Artist?
  • How Does Affordable Housing Affect The Well-Being Of People?
  • How Does The Brain Record Long-Term And Short-Term Information?
  • How Has Racism Changes Overtime?
  • What Are The Factors That Led To The Translation Of The Bible Into Various Languages?
  • What Are The Factors That Lead To Identity Theft?
  • How Does Terrorism Come Into Place And How Do They Operate?

Knowing the ideas behind writing a causal argument essay is important especially when it comes to writing a persuasive essay. Ensure that you never run out of causes to explain and defend your work. Always have a rough draft before beginning.


Topics for Causal Analysis Essays

Order gender and women study papers online, causal argumentative topics for gender studies essays, causal argument topics for your essay, help with writing good cause and effect essays.

Causal arguments or causal analysis essays answers to the question of why? In most circumstances, there is never comprehensiveness in the answers but rather speculation on the causes of a phenomenon in question in an essay.

As complex formulating causal argument topics for essays are, in terms of definition, so are they to write. What is most tasking is the process of formulating a list of causal argument topics and choosing one to explore in-depth. When it comes to gender studies, given its breadth and complexity, it is easy to feel defeated in constructing the best topic.

The good news is that with our assignment help service , you are assured of getting academic help from expert academic writers who can handle tough subjects and topics.

Our writers have amassed great wealth in writing tough subjects like gender studies. To them, creating a list of causal argument topics for gender studies essays is fun.

When writing a gender studies essays, research paper ,   dissertation , or a  research proposal , one should consider a different lens into the issues within the society.

That way, gender studies gives the writer a chance to understand society by researching the extent of developing a unique worldview.

As your trusted online essay help service , we are here again to emancipate you on the top 25 causal argument essay topics that you can use when writing a gender studies essay.

Our list of the top 25 causal argument topics offers inspiration to you as a student to come up with a proposed topic.

If the professor approves the topic and you need our help, you can always request for academic help from the experts.

Our well-trained and experienced writers can handle your term papers, coursework, research papers , and dissertations in gender studies.

As a Gender Studies major or minor, you need to think around or adopt the list of these causal argument topics:

  • Why Women Mature Faster than Men.
  • The impacts of Body-Shaming on the General well-being of Women.
  • Gender in the Workplace: Analyzing the Factors Affecting the Leadership Efficiency of Women in the Workplace.
  • Gender in Healthcare: Investigating the Factors Affecting the Access and Quality of Healthcare for Women.
  •  Analysis of the Factors Affecting the Women in the Military Organizations.
  • Military and Gender: Assessing the Barriers of Top Leadership Positions for Women in the Military.
  • Politics and Gender: Analysis of the Discrepancy in Number of Women and Men in top Political Positions.
  • The Impacts of the Recent Migration Policies on Women and Teenage Girls.
  • Analyzing the impacts of Sexual and Domestic Violence among Women and Teenage Girls.
  • Understanding the Impacts of Sexual Violence on the Mental and Physical Wellbeing of Girls.
  • The Impacts of Women and Gender Studies on the Growth and Development of Women Globally.
  • Strategies to reduce the gap between Boys and Girls Pursuing STEM subjects.
  • Analyzing the Role of Gender Studies in the Society.
  • Assessment of the changing roles of women in society.
  • The Impacts of The Media on Changing Male and Female Roles in the Society.
  • The impacts of Culture and Religion on Gender Roles.
  • Homophobia and Gender in the Modern Society.
  • Cause and Effect Essay: Bulimia and Anorexia in Males and Females.
  • Glass ceiling and Workplace Policies in the Modern Workplace
  • Women�s Suffrage Movement and its role in Influencing Equality in the Corporate Arena.
  • Maternity and Paternity Leaves: Which Is More Important To the Baby?
  • Are Beauty Standards Set by the Media the cause of rising Cases of Girl Child Suicide?
  • The impact of social media on the Feminism Movement and Activism.
  • Do men also need to fight for their rights as their counterparts Feminist Women?
  • An Exploration of Women's Experiences in Leadership Positions within African Immigrant Churches in the United States

Related Reading:

Argumentative essay topics.

List of current social issues to consider for your essays.

Our list of causal argument topics can help in developing an interest in a given research area. Are you struggling with coming up with good topics for a cause-and-effect essay? Let our writers help you write the essay. All our essays are written from gender and women studies points of view. The writers follow the exact instructions of the causal essay prompt.

If it is an essay evaluating the impacts of video games on domestic violence and gender discrimination, our writers can help write a good causal essay. They understand where to place the thesis statement and the conclusion to a causal essay. Another potential topic is the impact of violent video games on women. Also, you might look at the causes of poor performance in middle school effect topics.

Remember, gender and women studies is a vast subject, and you need to do in-depth research. Typically, this post helps you write a cause-and-effect essay topic for approval by the professor.

However, to get things right, allow our professional writers to always help. Make an order on our website and get cause-and-effect essay assignments done, today!

When writing on different causal argument essay topics, it is quintessential to avoid biases and discrimination.  Primarily, these casual argument topics can get you started with your gender studies assignment. You need academic writing services for the best essays.

what is a causal argument essay

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    Causal Arguments. "Why are things like this? What is the effect, or result, of this?" and "What causes this?"-These questions guide authors as they analyze or argue about causal relationships, such as "What is the effect of a college education on income?". View fascinating reports on various cause/effect topics and then explore ...

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    A causal argument essay is an analysis of the "causes" of something that has obvious effects. For example, a student may not want to argue... See full answer below.

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  21. Causal Argument Topics for your Essay

    Causal Argumentative Topics for Gender Studies Essays. As a Gender Studies major or minor, you need to think around or adopt the list of these causal argument topics: Why Women Mature Faster than Men. The impacts of Body-Shaming on the General well-being of Women. Gender in the Workplace: Analyzing the Factors Affecting the Leadership ...

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