27 November 2010

Dissertation Update #2: "The Last Good Year"

I finished a chapter during the week, finally. I zoomed past my intended page count at least a week before that, but it turns out that I couldn't say everything I needed to say about the International Geophysical Year, Diefenbaker, the Glassco Commission, Pearson, the 1964 White Paper on Defence, the Mackenzie Report, the Science Secretariat, the Science Council, Integration/Unification, the Laurendeau/Dunton Commission, the Bird Commission, and how all of these things impacted the Defence Research Board in a mere 50 pages. The last few pages of the Chapter kept stretching out. One more sentence turned into one more paragraph, and one more paragraph turned into one more page.

I knew when I finished Chapter 3 that I'd said something new enough to have a defensible thesis. I also knew that it was long enough to be called a thesis. For the first three chapters to be an original contribution all I had to do was put a new interpretation on the events covered in Donald Goodspeed's original, and official, history of the DRB. However, I knew it was incomplete.

Now that I've finished Chapter 4, I know I've told the important part of the story. In Chapters 2 and 3 I covered the creation of the DRB. In Chapter 4 I documented all the trends that eventually led to the reorganization of defence research. In other words, I've written something that I know is a very original and interesting contribution to the subject. But I couldn't just end the story without going through the final seven years.

Chapter 5 was painful to start. I almost felt like it would have been easier to just keep typing as if Chapter 4 was continuing; as if opening a new document put a mental block on the logical continuation of the story. I spent a day and a half spinning my wheels on a new outline, and then the sentences, paragraphs and words started flowing. I've already covered the first year (a little more) of Bob Uffen's tenure as Chairman of the DRB, which happens to coincide with Pierre Trudeau's first year as Prime Minister. I'm done with 1967, or as Pierre Berton called it, "The Last Good Year." For the DRB, the last golden year was a full decade earlier, but there were some highs amidst all the lows of the 60's and 70's. 10 pages down, 40 to go.

My new, absolute deadline is December 9th. I start invigilating final exams on December 10th (two a day), so I won't have time to work on the dissertation again until after exams and holidays. I also have to be finished a full draft this term for my supervisor's sanity, and because this behemoth needs some significant editing before its fit to be read by anyone else. Editing may take some time, but it will be busy work. Accomplishable mini-tasks, just like my current mini-tasks of typing words to make paragraphs (or clusters of paragraphs) out of outline bullet points.

I was curious about the measures of productivity, and these aren't tracked in my dissertation progress page, so here they are.

Page Counts:
  1. Chapter 1 (introduction)
    1. 38
  2. Chapter 2 (pre-history)
    1. 28
  3. Chapter 3 (Solandt)
    1. 166
  4. Chapter 4 (Zimmerman)
    1. 89
  5. Chapter 5 (Uffen and L'Heureux)
    1. Current - 10 Desired - 50
  6. Chapter 6 (Epilogue)
    1. Current - 1 (an outline) Desired - 15
  7. Totals
    1. Current - 332; anticipated - 386
I need to write about 6 pages per working day before the deadline, so keep sending those happy typing vibes!

With apologies for the lack of hyperlinks. I'm busy. I'm sure you all understand!


    1. Jonathan, I hope it goes without saying that if you're ever in London, you have to come to Imperial College to talk about this stuff, formally or informally. We're very interested in this sort of thing.

    2. Ooh, also, I have a personal interest in Omand Solandt. Please let me know when you have anything prepared that I can look at.

    3. Thanks Will. I was in London about three years ago using the archives in Kew, so I'd love an excuse to come back and see some more of London.
      Regarding Omond Solandt, I've given several presentations about him. PDF's of the slides are available here: https://sites.google.com/a/alumni.utoronto.ca/jonathanturner/cv/presentations
      Obviously the slides aren't as useful without the accompanying audio, but it's the quickest solution I have for you.

      For some reason the slides don't always seem to want to download for people, and I haven't had a chance to look into this problem. The workaround seems to be going to the site map and the document file folder page.