Symptoms and Root Causes

Have you ever done a root-cause analysis of your problems? Sometimes breaking down a problem can help you find a solution – or at least make the problem less daunting.

As my first year writers prepare to write their own good faith arguments we began our work by writing about the problems we encounter in our daily lives as move about our communities. Then we began to dig into those problems by exploring the symptoms, root causes, and ecosystems of those problems.

We began by naming the core truth of that problem. Sometimes just naming the cause of our stress and pain can be a powerful thing. We then dug into the root causes of that problem. What makes people think or act this way? What do we know and what can we guess? Sometimes we need to uncover some ugly truths on our path to finding solutions. Then we explored the symptoms of the problem. What do outsiders see? What do insiders see? What are the changes or effects of this problem?

We then shifted our focus from this root-cause analysis to study the ecosystem surrounding the problem. We began by writing about the impact of this problem on us individually. Why do we care? How does it impact our daily life? We then pulled back the lens just a bit to consider the impact on those closest to us – our friends and family. Zooming out just a bit more we considered the effect on our community and then again society at large.

My goal for this thinking and writing was to help my students frame their research questions and organize their argument, but many students noted that writing about these issues was both cathartic and therapeutic. May you also find inspiration in these invitations to write.