Dissertation boot camp day 3

2018-08-23

in Daily updates, PhD thesis

The three days of dissertation boot camp, organized by the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication, have been highly productive for me. While the advice was good, I could personally have done without the short instructional segments on things like goal setting and editing. What was extremely useful was the structure: sitting in a room with twenty or so other people for seven hours a day, minus lunch, and having fewer of the distractions than arise when working alone or even with a friend.

On the first day I largely focused on taking things I had sketched out in point form and converting them into paragraphs in my draft thesis chapters. I did more of that in days two and three, but ended up concentrating more on my ongoing census of all Canadian divestment campaigns, hoping to identify some participants from each to interview and who could help me find other organizers. I went through my whole list of Canadian universities and sent dozens of emails, actually scheduling at least a couple of interviews. I also added a lot to my big spreadsheets: one to characterize each identifiable Canadian campaign, a universal timeline with important events from each, a survey on the extant literature on campus fossil fuel divestment, and an index of standard types of documents produced by many campaigns like briefs and committee reports.

The experience has demonstrated that being well rested is not a requirement for getting research done, since both the early morning start (by my standards) and ongoing personal stress left me pretty much exhausted the whole time. There’s strength to be drawn, I suppose, from making material progress toward a self-identified goal. I don’t want this thing to stretch into an eighth year beyond September 2019, requiring me to pay more tuition and delaying the transition back into doing productive non-academic work (and having an income where the slow breakdown of all my equipment, clothes, and general belongings is to be expected).

Certainly in some ways the project isn’t going as I most optimistically hoped — particularly in terms of being able to easily get large numbers of interview subjects from each campaign in order to gain perspective on strategic decision making and disagreements — but it still seems like my broad research questions should be possible to answer using my methodology and the people and materials available. I’m also glad that I will have a reasonable amount of preliminary text to share with my committee members after academia’s standard August coma is shaken off.

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