Reading Comprehension Cause and Effect Help (page 2)
Introduction to Cause and Effect
For every action," famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, "there is an equal and opposite reaction." Every action results in another action (a reaction); or, for every action, there is an effect caused by that action. Likewise, each action is caused by a previous action. In other words, each action has a cause—something that made it happen—and each action has an effect—something it makes happen.
- Cause: a person or thing that makes something happen or produces an effect
- Effect: a change produced by an action or cause
Much of what you read is an attempt to explain either the cause of some action or its effect. For example, an author might try to explain the causes of World War I or the effect of underwater nuclear testing; the reason behind a change in policy at work; or the effect a new computer system will have on office procedure. Let's take a look at how writers explaining cause or effect might organize their ideas.
Distinguishing Cause from Effect
A passage that examines cause generally answers the question why something took place: Why was the company restructured? Who or what made this take place? A passage that examines effect generally answers the question what happened after something took place: What happened as a result of the restructuring? How did it affect the company?
Cause and Effect Practice and Answers
To help you distinguish between cause and effect, carefully read following the sentences. You'll see that cause and effect work together; you can't have one without the other. That's why it's very important to be able to distinguish between the two. See if you can determine both the cause and the effect in each of the following sentences:
- Example: Robin got demoted when she talked back to the boss.
- Cause: Robin talked back to the boss.
- Effect: Robin got demoted.
- Inflation has caused us to raise our prices.
- Since we hired Joan, the office has been running smoothly.
- He realized that his car had stopped not because it needed repair but because it ran out of gas.
- The company's budget crisis was created by overspending.
- As a result of our new marketing program, sales have doubled.
- Cause: Inflation
- Cause: We hired Joan.
- Cause: The car ran out of gas.
- Cause: Overspending
- Cause: The new marketing program
Effect: We had to raise our prices.
Effect: Our office has been running smoothly.
Effect: The car stopped.
Effect: Budget crisis
Effect: Sales have doubled.
If you are having trouble connecting causes and effects, look for significant events or actions and reword the situations in the form of a question. The phrase "because of" is helpful in generating potential causes, and the phrase "resulted in" can be used to formulate questions leading to effects.
- Why did Jane lose her job?
- Jane lost her job "because of" [cause]
- What happened when Jane was constantly late?
- Jane's constant lateness "resulted in" [effect]
Here is a partial list of words and phrases that indicate when a cause or efffect is being examined.
Words Indicating Cause
because (of) created (by) since caused (by)
Words Indicating Effect
since therefore hence consequently so as a result
When Cause and Effect Are Interrelated
Notice how the signal words listed on the previous page are used in the following paragraph. Underline the signal words as you come across them.
Ed became a mechanic largely because of his father. His father was always in the garage working on one car or another, so young Ed would spend hours watching his father work. As a result, he became fascinated by cars at an early age. His father encouraged him to learn about cars on his own, so Ed began tinkering with cars himself at age eight. Consequently, by the time he was 13, Ed could tear an engine apart and put it back together by himself. Since he was already so skilled, when he was 15, he got a job as the chief mechanic at a local repair shop. He has been there ever since.
You should have underlined the following signal words and phrases in this paragraph: because of, so (twice), as a result, consequently, and since.
Notice that this paragraph's purpose—to explain why Ed became a mechanic—is expressed in the topic sentence, "Ed became a mechanic largely because of his father." This paragraph's purpose, then, is to explain cause, and the primary cause is Ed's father.
You'll notice, however, that some of the sentences in this paragraph also deal with effect. This may seem like a contradiction at first. After all, why would a paragraph about cause deal with effect? But it's not a contradiction. That's because there isn't just one thing that led to Ed's becoming a mechanic. Although Ed's dad may have been the initial cause, there was still a series of actions and reactions that occurred—a series of causes and effects. Once A causes B, B then becomes the cause for C.
In fact, six different sets of cause and effect are listed in this paragraph. What are they? The first cause is provided to get you started.
Cause 1: Ed's father was always in the garage.
- Cause 1: Ed's father was always in the garage.
- Effect 1: Ed would spend hours watching.
- Cause 2: Ed would spend hours watching.
- Effect 2: Ed became fascinated by cars.
- Cause 3: Ed became fascinated by cars.
- Effect 3: Ed began tinkering with cars.
- Cause 4: Ed began tinkering with cars.
- Effect 4: Ed's father encouraged him.
- Cause 5: Ed's father encouraged him.
- Effect 5: Ed could tear an engine apart by himself.
- Cause 6: Ed could tear an engine apart by himself.
- Effect 6: He got a job as the chief mechanic.
When One Cause Has Several Effects
Sometimes, one cause may have several effects: Several things may happen as a result of one action. In the following passage, the writer explains several effects of the new marketing campaign:
Our new marketing campaign has been a tremendous success. Since we've been advertising on the radio, sales have increased by 35%. Our client references have doubled, and we've had greater client retention rates. Furthermore, we've been able to hire five new sales representatives and expand our territory to include the southwestern United States.
One Cause Has Several Effects Practice and Answers
According to the paragraph, what were the effects of the new marketing campaign?
- Sales have increased 35%.
- Client references have doubled.
- Client retention rates have increased.
- Five new sales representatives have been hired.
- Territory has been expanded to include the southwestern United States.
When One Effect Has Several Causes
Just as one action can have many results, one action can have many causes as well. The following announcement is an example.
- TO: All Commuters
- FROM: The Station Management
Unfortunately, we will no longer provide an afternoon snack concession at the train station. Although poor sales are one of the reasons that this service will no longer be provided, there are actually several reasons why the concession is no longer a viable option. In addition to poor sales, the south wall of the train station (where the concession is located) will be undergoing a six-month renovation that will force the closure of the snack concession. In fact, the ticket windows on that wall will be closed as well. Furthermore, from this point forward, the station will close its doors at 6 p.m. due to new town regulations, which will cut the rush-hour commuter traffic coming through the station in half. Finally, Mike Alberti, the proprietor of the concession, has decided to say farewell to his concession business, and after 35 years on the job, Mike will be retiring next month. While none of these factors on their own would have caused the long-term closure of the concession, combined, they make it impossible to continue running an afternoon snack concession for the foreseeable future.
One Effect Has Several Causes Practice and Answers
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