Motivation – This paper describes the initial results of a naturalistic inquiry into the way people derive causal inferences. Research approach – We examined media accounts of economic, political, military, and sports incidents to determine the types of causal explanations that are commonly invoked. Findings – We found two interacting processes at work: the identification of potential causes and the framing of these causes into explanations. Explanations took several forms: abstractions, events, lists (undifferentiated collections of partial causes), conditions, and stories (complex mechanisms linking several causes). Originality – Causal reasoning in “the real world” is both different from and far richer than the formal causal accounts found in philosophy, and from the determinate search for causes during scientific problem solving. Takeaway message – By understanding the way causal reasoning is done in natural settings we should be better able to help decision makers diagnose problems and anticipate consequences.