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Complete Question Explanation

Method of Reasoning—CE. The correct answer choice is (E)

The stimulus contains causal reasoning. The conclusion provides two possible causes to explain why the book is missing from its place on the library shelves: it was either misplaced or stolen.
  • Cause ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... Effect
    Misplaced or Stolen ..... :arrow: ..... Book missing
In support of this conclusion, the author discounts numerous other possible causes for why the book is not on the shelf (e.g. no one is using it, it isn’t checked out, it isn’t awaiting shelving). Any of these alternate causes would weaken the author’s causal argument, as they might explain why the book is not on the shelf.

Since this is a Method of Reasoning question, the correct answer will describe the argument structure, generally in abstract terms. If any part of an answer choice describes something that did not occur in the stimulus, it is incorrect.

Answer Choice (A): Always be careful of the level of abstraction in Method of Reasoning answer choices. This answer refers to elements in the stimulus in an abstract manner with words such as “observation” and “object.” What “observation” is the answer referring to? What “object” is it referring to? It is very easy to misinterpret Method of Reasoning answer choices if you do not pin these abstract elements down.

The object in question would have to be the book, and the observation is that it is missing from its place on the shelf. So, a translation of this answer choice would be: the fact the book is missing from its place on the shelf is used to conclude that other, similar books are also missing from the shelves. The argument never did this. Since this answer describes a method of reasoning that the author did not use, it is incorrect.

Answer Choice (B): The author does not attack the library cataloging system. That is too strong of a statement, one that goes beyond the scope of this argument. The author merely sought to explain why the book in question was not on the shelf.

Answer Choice (C): Again, the argument is not concluding that the system failed to take a particular book into account, so this answer is describing something that did not occur in the stimulus. Instead, the author is observing that the book is not in its proper place according to the system, and provides a cause for its absence.

Answer Choice (D): While the author observes that the book is not in its proper place on the shelf, this argument cannot be described as rejection of a generalization. For this to have been a correct answer, the author would have to conclude that the system does not properly track books because this one book was not in its proper place. The author never made this conclusion. Since this answer choice also describes something that was never said in the stimulus, this answer choice is incorrect.

Answer Choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. By ruling alternate explanations for the missing book, the author rules out alternate causes for a given effect, which strengthens the conclusion that the book must have been either misplaced or stolen.

Note the use of the word “explanation” in this answer choice. The LSAT often uses this term synonymously with the word cause, especially in Method of Reasoning/Flaw in the Reasoning questions, where most of the answer choices abstractly describe the argument used in the stimulus. This is one way the test is able to describe a causal argument without specifically using the words cause and effect.

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