Part 1: “So What?” A Writing Series

Welcome to Part 1 of a 4 post series exploring the question every reader likes to ask: “So what?” Let’s begin!

So what is “so what?”?

Writing papers is crucial in nearly all disciplines. Being able to articulate your thoughts fully and demonstrate your critical thinking skills are necessary, but we’re often bogged down by the challenge before we even start writing. In this post, we’ll discuss a method that can help you sift through your research and analyze said research more effectively.

But, first, consider the following:

Your hours of perpetual research are over; you feel you have accumulated the most complete collection of evidence the world has ever seen. You are ready to conquer the essay and assemble an army of snacks, articles, and pens to begin.

Suddenly, you’re hit with the realization that the pieces of your essay puzzle aren’t coming together. What does it mean that you’ve found a literary device in the poem you’re consulting if you don’t know what the device means? In other words, your paper is like a murder mystery: you’ve found the footprints, the fingerprints, the blood stains, and the murder weapon, but you’re struggling to see the bigger picture—in this case, the murderer.

How do you go about answering your myriad of questions?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, it’s time to ask one more question: so what?

“So what?” is perhaps the most succinct way of creating content out of evidence. Finding evidence, rhetorical devices, and/or literary devices means little if you cannot sufficiently analyze them. “So what?” forces the writer to consider the following questions:

  • Why does this piece of evidence/content matter in my paper?
  • What does this argument have to do with the content I am addressing?
  • How does this idea/point connect to my thesis?

“So what?” inspires leading questions that writers may use to spur commentary. Analysis can be daunting if it is undirected. Asking “so what?” allows writers to consider the importance and application of their evidence.

Where and how do I use the “so what?” question?

Once you have completed any preliminary research and identification, asking the question “so what?” can be used to determine relevancy. So where can it be used?

In the thesis:
  1. Your thesis should be a statement about the topic in question. After deciding on a topic, ask “so what?” to determine why that topic matters.
    1. If your topic is “Mr. Krabs is standing near the concession table, plotting his oppression,” then your thesis will answer the question “so what?”
    2. For example, a possible thesis can be “Mr. Krabs’s oppressive restaurant management hinders employee cooperation and satisfaction through wage denial.”
    3. Your thesis should answer the “so what?” question specifically enough to encourage a detailed analysis. However, it should also be broad enough so that it may include different interpretations and wider viewpoints.

In the body paragraphs:

  1. After every piece of evidence (quotes, literary devices, rhetorical strategies, etc.) ask “so what?” to decide why it is important. For example, does it relate to the thesis? If so, explain.
    1. In our scenario, if the thesis states that the article argues that Mr. Krab’s high prices will radically exacerbate Bikini Bottom capitalism, how does the evidence demonstrate that?
  2. Ask leading questions beginning with “so what?” and use the answers in your analysis.
    1. So what point does anaphora convey in the Krusty Krab manual?”
    2. So what if the word ‘Krabby Patty’ was repeated 11 times in the order?”
    3. So what if this author states that Squidward is more depressed than Spongebob?”

In future blog posts, we will address three different essay types: rhetorical analysis papers, persuasive papers, and research papers. In each respective essay, we will consider

  • what the paper wants,
  • what kind of evidence is required, and
  • how to utilize “so what?” when forming theses and analyses based on said evidence.

Stay tuned!

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