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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

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All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we are missing something!

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A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

apostrophes

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

 

B

body paragraphs

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

 

C

citations

citation styles

clarity

clustering

coaching sessions, about

colons

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential elements

commas, Oxford

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers 

concision

conclusions

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent marker words

double submission of coursework

drafting

 

E

edit your own work

editing – outside editors

exclamation points

executive summary

 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

footnotes

free-writing

 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

 

H

hyphens

 

I

ibid.

introductions

 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons 

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

 

M

memos

methodologies

 

N

note-taking

numbers

 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases and clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid through citations

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns

punctuation

purpose of research

 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

 

R

reading with intent

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

reverse outlining 

revising passive voice into active voice

revision

roadmaps                                            

run-on sentences 

 

S

self-citing

semi-colons

subjects, grammatical

significance

so-what?

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM/technical writing 

style

subject/verb agreement

 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisors

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals – common elements                                                     

thesis statements

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

 

U

United States or U.S.?

 

V

verbs and verb tense

 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process