Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years' Resolutions

2013 is the year I write my dissertation. No, really.  I have to be done writing by the end of 2013 in order to defend and edit in time for graduation in May, 2014.  Otherwise, the University kicks me to the curb, and says thanks for the cash.  So, there's no pressure at all to get this thing done.  As long as I treat this thing as a regular job, this is totally something I can do.  So here's the plan:

We're moving to Tampa mid-month, so most of this will happen after we do that and get the new apartment set up.  Our new place is large enough that it has room for my wife and I to have separate office space, though mine will include the guest bed in addition to my desk and bookcases.  That will allow me to focus on writing in an area that I've set up to my own needs while Heather studies for the Florida Bar Exam and works on starting her non-profit in her office.  

In may ways, my office will fulfill the functions of "man-cave", although a couch would be better than a queen-sized bed for that. I'll have two or three bookcases full of books (history, technology, and a smattering of novels), Xbox 360, Mac Mini file and media server, monitor, speakers, desk, and cool hockey and geek wall hangings, replica and real swords (and one of these).  I'll also have my space to start brewing beer again by stashing fermenting bottles in the guest bath room and keeping supplies in the office closet.  The printers and wireless router will go in Heather's office, but my network needs will be fulfilled by a Netgear powerline networking kit (courtesy of the Amazon gift card my in-laws gave me for Christmas).

Once the apartment is habitable, I'm heading back to Washington, D.C. and College Park for a research trip to Archives II and the Library of Congress to find information on the 35th Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade.  Archives II houses Modern Military Records, which means everything after 1915.  Record Groups 472.7.2 (divisions),  472.7.3 (combat brigades), and 472.7.6 (tactical organizations) include duty officer logs, after action reports, operational records, annual historical supplements.  From what I understand, the Battalion and Brigade Journals will be the most beneficial items for by research since I can use those to look at the specific events for particular companies and battalions, which will help build the narrative that my analysis of what individual soldiers reactions to the events they witness. 

The Library of Congress has a different type of resource that I hope to use in the same way I would correspondence or memoirs - the Veterans History Project, which holds thousands of oral histories collected from interviews with American veterans.  So far I've identified 160 oral histories from veterans of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's service in Vietnam and 37 veterans of the 35th Infantry Regiment.  A good subset of these are available online as audio files or transcripts, but most require a visit to the Library of Congress to access.  The challenge is getting and using these quickly and documenting the contents, because graduate students can only find so much funding for research trips.

My plan is to spend February analyzing all of my evidence and reading memoirs so that by March I can get started on writing.  Once the writing starts, I'll be sending chapters to my dissertation committee as I finish them so that I can speed the process of getting comments back from them.  The whole idea is to speed the process of writing and revision to meet my timeline.  This isn't the optimal way to approach getting the dissertation done, but the point is to have a completed dissertation so I can graduate.

I've worked out a work schedule that I'll be following starting in February:

07:30 - 09:00 coffee, email, news
09:00 - 12:00 research and writing
12:00 - 13:00 lunch and a quick workout
13:00 - 16:00 research and writing
16:00 - 19:30 dinner, games, email, news
19:30 - 21:00 responding to students and grading

We'll see how well that works out and adjust from there, but it should work.

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