The Ordos Basin is the largest and most important intracontinental sedimentary depression in China, and a significant amount of crude oil resources has developed within this Mesozoic formation. High-grade organic-rich shale is prevalent in the large-scale areas of the Chang 7 sedimentary stage and provides essential hydrocarbon resources for abundant oil enrichment in the Mesozoic. This research investigated the geochemical characteristics of Chang 7 shale using core samples and well logs and via laboratory tests. In addition, the microscopic components of the shale organic matter (OM), biological marker compounds, carbon isotopes, enrichment grade of trace elements, and elemental ratio were analysed systematically. Moreover, the aspects related to the shale OM source, sedimentary environment and resource potential were evaluated. Our results revealed that spherical alginate and calcium spherical alginate were predominant in the micropetrological components of the shale. Many biomarkers, including n-alkanes, steranes and terpanes, were detected in the gas chromatography – mass spectrometry spectra. An analysis of n-alkanes, regular sterane shapes (C21−/C22− and C26+C27/C28+C29), odd–even predominance index (OEP) and carbon preference index (CPI) values and carbon isotope distributions showed that OM was produced from aquatic organisms. The indicators of trace elements, such as Sr/Ba and V/V+Ni, combined with the biomarker compound in Pr/Ph and the gammacerane index showed the presence of a semi-deep – deep lake environment containing fresh–brackish water. In addition, the hydrocarbon conversion rate index and shale rock pyrolysis parameters revealed that Chang 7 has a high hydrocarbon generation ability and hydrocarbon expulsion efficiency.