Thesis development and the "So What?" test

In formulating your preliminary thesis, ask basic “W” questions that are related to your topic: who, what, when, where and why?  This will help you determine your particular interests and a possible starting point for your essay or research.
A thesis statement is a one- or two-sentence statement that explicitly outlines the purpose or point of your paper.  

  • It is an assertion that a reasonable person could disagree with if you only gave the thesis and no other evidence.  It is not a fact or casual observation; it must beg to be proved.  And someone should be able to theoretically argue against it.  
  • It takes a side on a topic rather than imply announcing that the paper is about a topic (the title already reveals your topic to the reader).  Don’t tell a reader about something; tell them what about something.  Answer the questions “how?” or “why?”
  • It argues one main point.
  • It passes “The So What? Test”

The “So What?” Test:

While writing a research paper, there is an extremely important point that you must constantly keep in the forefront of your mind:  choose a topic worth arguing about or exploring.  This means to construct a thesis statement about a problem that is still debated, controversial, or up in the air.

So, arguing that drinking and driving is dangerous—while you could find a ton of evidence to support your view—would be pretty worthless nowadays.  Who would want to read something they already knew?  You wouldn’t be persuading them of anything and all your work would be pretty meaningless.  

During the topic formulating stage and throughout your writing process, keep asking, “So what?” and “Who cares?” so that you can be sure to answer these questions through out your paper. This will automatically make your paper significant and more interesting both for you to write and the reader to study.
(adapted from “Writing a Research Paper”