So What? On Significance
"So what?" might sound a bit snarky, but it's a great question to ask yourself while writing. Adding the answer to a thesis statement and then pulling that answer through the paper to the conclusion is the difference between an adequate paper and a truly good one.
For example, if my thesis statement is, "Protecting people from forest fires must become a critical homeland security priority," one might think that the importance of this idea is obvious: human life matters.
However, the so-what is slightly more complicated than that, and the direction you choose also reflects the direction of your paper.
For example, a paper that contends that "protecting people from forest fires must become a critical homeland security priority because first responders are ideally trained for the task" will differ from a paper arguing that "protecting people from forest fires must become a critical homeland security priority so that the Department of Homeland Security can aid the Forest Service."
In either case, the answer to "why?" or "so what?" or "what is the significance?" is inherent: to save lives. The conclusion of either of these papers might well state exactly that, and the introduction might discuss how many people have died in a relevant time period. The asnwer to so-what may be explicit in the thesis or implicit, but it carries great power either way.
So What? Links
- Blog article, short: "The 'So What?' Question," Writing Power blog
- Article, short: "The 'So What' Question," Theresa MacPhail, Chronicle Vitae
- Short video (1:24): "Are You Using the So What Test in Your Business Writing?," Whatismarketing
- Slides/video (11:29): "Writing at Master's Level: So What's the Difference?," Dr. Helen Rushforth
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