Then go through your list and find the statements that best describe what you want to do. Don't worry that they are not exactly right...we'll add all the modifiers back in later to get them exactly how you want them. Many of the statements are not very helpful by themselves, like "LT demonstrates irony" but they may come in handy later we'll see. So for this paragraph, the most descriptive statement is: "LT uses irony." That doesn't get us very far, though. Why not? Because the verb doesn't have much meaning...it is vague, unspecific. Try to find a better verb by asking HOW he uses irony, or in this case, WHAT does he use irony for ? He uses it to DO something...what does he DO with irony? Note that because we had a DO verb in our provisional vague thesis statement (DOES use), we have to answer questions about it with a full sentence. Because of the way we have extracted the verbs and their arguments, our answer will also have a DO verb in the sentence. This way we hone in on the thesis. So what does LT DO with irony? "LT controls the interview." This is probably your best basic thesis. "Control" has much more specific meaning than "use," so when you ask "How?" you get a more meaningful answer. As an aside, this process can help you untangle the densest prose and extract what the author is saying in spite of even the best attempts at obfuscation...If it fails to work or doesn't make sense, that means the author isn't really saying anything at all!
So what do we do now? Well, keep asking "How?" How does LT control interviews? With irony. We can thus write about how LT uses irony in our would-be study of LT. Perhaps we want to make the sentence more specific, so lets add our modifiers back in:
LT subtly controls his television interviews using Socratic irony.
When we ask "How?" the answer could be a paper in itself. We would examine how he uses relaxed naivety and appreciative curiousity. How does he appear relaxed, naive and curious, when he is actually inquiring about a point the interviewee doesn't see coming? This is after all the heart of irony. What are his tactics? How does he get the interviewees less guarded and more open? To answer these questions, we would need to find out what makes them guarded in the first place and how LT overcomes that suspicion. How does he get them to open up? Well, we've already answered some of that with the section on relaxed naievety and curiosity, but maybe more can be said about how he actually goes about that in an interview. One tactic is to remain non-adversarial in his approach to dialogue...How does he go about doing that? As you can see, armed with a tape or two of LT interviewing people as your primary source, you could write a pretty good paper using this thesis.
Now suppose we find out in our primary research of LT's interviews that some of the stuff in our brainstorming session was wrong? What then? Suppose it wasn't LT exerting subtle control, but actually the ghost of Princess Di? or that the control wasn't subtle? Or that he wasn't actually controlling it but just appearing to through trickery? Or that it wasn't the interviewees he was controlling, but a herd of feral cats along Maille Way? Well, you change your thesis! "LT" becomes Princess Di's ghost. "Subtly" becomes ""obviously." Instead of controlling the subjects, your thesis might shift to "LT tricks his audiences" (followed, of course, by "How?" and all its consequences), or if its is not the interviewees he controls, "LT subtly controls a herd of feral cats along Maille Way using Socratic irony."