In my first couple of experiences with the academia, I filled in application forms and posted them off but it became clear that this wasn't necessary. So when it came to doing my masters, I simply went to see the head of the faculty, who turned out, extremely fortunately for me, to be Peter. After a quick conversation about the Great War which apparently proved to his satisfaction that I wasn't another nutcase and really did know something about the subject. Actually, at the time, my knowledge of the Great War came from reading Bean. Fortunately, this covers almost everything you need to know to get started.
Peter took me to see Jeff. You have to imagine what looks lik a desk in a second-had bookstore, except with a lot more books. All the shelves are full and there are books piled a metre high on every available surface. You have to move some to sit down. Jeff, like Peter, didn't like my proposed topic. Apparently someone else was working on it - a book has since been published. He said that in any case we should be looking at the Big Issues. Having not noticed the sign on the door that read: "No Poststructuralists for 50 mi" I was a bit apprehensive about this, and asked what the Big Issues were, quite prepared to go back to Peter again. Or try another University.
Jeff produced a book by Bill Rawling called "Surviving Trench Warfare". It is about Technology and the Canadian Corps in WWI. The idea was to write an Australian version. The book itself is unobtainable in Australia; I had Cathy pick up a copy for me in Canada. This was a wonderful topic!
And so the Old Thesis began. When it came to writing the New Thesis, I sought Jeff out again. Apparently, he had been kidnapped by the US Marine Corps who were paying him real money. So I had to wait a couple of years for a prisoner exchange.
It's very important to have a supervisor that one feels comfortable with. I can't imagine working with someone I disagree with. I know there were others who would have happily done the job but given the magnitude of the PhD and my low watt brain and the odds against success, I felt justified sticking with the guy I know best.
One of my workmates is also working on his PhD. His supervisor comes out to visit him. Alas, Military Historians do not make house calls it seems. So I have to go and see Jeff.
Our method of working is fairly simple. I write chapter drafts and bring them in. Eventually, Jeff reads them and covers them - and I mean covers them - in red marks. I correct. So far he hasn't read any of the New thesis chapters. So I really aren't costing the University a lot of money. Of course, I'm not paying anything either.
However, I have a problem here with the size of the thesis. The five chapters completed thus far average 40 pages or nearly 12,000 words each. And they want footnotes included, which I think totally sucks because no one reads them but that will add 23% overhead to the word counts. Since there are 16 chapters slated, at this rate this will consume 160,000 words, 200,000 with the footnotes.
Unfortunately, the Rules say that PhD theses have to be no longer than 100,000 words. So we have a problem here. (The same rules set the font and margin sizes so I have to use Times Roman 12, which looks kind of large on my 1600 x 1200 monitor).
As I see it, we have few options:
(1) Get permission from the University to exceed the word limits. I don't think that Jeff will go for this.
(2) Cut the thesis in two. So it will cover the New Guinea Campaign and not the Final Campaigns. Problem is, I want to cover the Final Campaigns.
(3) Reduce the size of the chapters. There is fat in those chapters that can be pared away. However, I don't think that there is that much fat. We're talking about half the chapter here, a difficult task.
(4) Shift material around into the unwritten chapters. However, several of the New Guinea chapters is well advanced and many of are already over 20 pages long. There is some scope for moving stuff
Anyhow, I'm off to see Jeff.