Monday, February 25, 2013

That Tricky “So What?” Question

By Elaina Hundley

We’ve all read a paper dense with facts and ideas but wondered “So what?” when we reached the end. Who cares about ideas strung together if there is no given connection to a greater problem or question? This is why there are multiple arguments at work in every paper. There is the argument defending the claim you made in your thesis. But there is also the argument for why your thesis matters.

Writers must show the reader why they will benefit from reading the argument. This second argument and often forgotten “so what?” is subtle but essential. There are several things to consider; first, the writer must consider whom they are writing for and what that reader will care about. The writer must also consider why the thesis is worth arguing in the first place.  Does the thesis touch on a greater issue in a text or does it bring a new insight into a larger conversation? 

Every paper you write should have some sort of relevance. It should have both a reason you as the writer wrote it (besides the fact it was assigned to you) and a reason a reader should read it. When the reader is finished reading they should care about your issue. You, the writer, care about it so what makes it important to you?      As simple as the “so what” may seem it is fairly tricky especially since you might not be excited to write that paper for your Gen Ed. Instead of approaching a paper as an assignment that you just have to finish, think about it as a chance to convey something meaningful to you. When you care about what you write, your “so what” will be easy to find.

Example: If you needed to write a movie review, the “so what” of the review would be why the reader should or should not invest money in seeing “Silver Linings Playbook”. Readers care about your piece because it gives them a fuller and more honest idea of what the movie is about than promotional materials.  Your more detailed information helps the reader make a decision whether to see the film or to skip it and see it on DVD (or just not watch it at all).


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