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The Assignment:

 Choose a subject—an event, a phenomenon, or a trend—that invites you to 

speculate about its cause. Write an essay of no less than 5 pages (MLA format) 

arguing for your trend, phenomenon, or event and for your proposed cause. Thus, in 

this assignment, you need to do two things: (1) Establish the existence the trend, event, or phenomenon.

(2) Establish that your proposed causal explanation is a sound conclusion.

 Your first task will be to demonstrate the plausibility of the existence of the trend, 

event, or phenomenon you are attempting to explain. The logic of correlations as 

explored in Chapter 6 may be very helpful here. If you can give evidence that two 

events have happened together— and that the chance rival is implausible— you will 

have shown the the two events are likely causally connected in some way. So, as a 

strategy, showing that there is a significant correlation between two events is a good 

way to demonstrate the existence of something in need of explanation. In addition, the 

language of Non-Trace Data type A (from the old edition of the book) and a Trace 

Locating Resource (new edition of the book) are also wonderful avenues for 

demonstrating that something is in need of explanation. For example, you normally 

despise reality television. You cannot stand to be in the same room where it is being 

watched. Nevertheless, you find that you love The Real Housewives of Atlanta. If you 

can demonstrate that you normally hate reality television and that you love that 

particular show, you will have shown to your reader that there really is something here 

to explain. And now your argument can begin.

 Just as in your first writing assignment, where you demonstrated the Principle of 

Charity through mediating your own personal disagreements, the more local and 

personal the trend, event, or phenomenon you attempt to explain the better. This is 

because your GUS (general understanding of stuff) and your experience will enable 

you to reason better about the trend, event, or phenomenon. You will also be in a better 

position to investigate it. In addition to the above example, you may have noticed that 

your workplace isn’t as busy as it used to be, or that campus parking has been easier 

to find, or even simply that you haven’t been having dinner at your grandparents’ house 

as often as you used to. These sorts of discoveries of personal events or trends make 

for the best topics.

The heart of the essay, though, will be providing reasons to think that your 

supplied explanation of the event is the correct one. In this regard, the structure of your 

argument will be no different that the many arguments we’ve studied in Chapters 4, 5, 

and 6. Your argument, your essay itself, will have an implicit question providing the 

structure. That IQ will most likely be the question which asks why your event, trend, or 

phenomenon happened. Your proposed cause (explanation) will be an answer, the 

best answer, to that question. The support you muster for that explanation (the right 

answer to the implicit question) will likely include other things that the supposed cause 

explains (Trace Data) and it will include things which help the explanation (Non-Trace 

Data). Creative and persuasive writers will use a variety of sorts of TD and NTD (LER 

and GER), including facts, correlations, personal anecdotes, testimony of authorities, 

examples, and analogies. In addition, you should anticipate your readers’ objections or 

questions. So you will also want to show why rival explanations are not plausible. You 

will, in fact, spend some time steering your reader away from otherwise plausible rivals

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