The first step is finding something to write about ("research"). For a campaign, this starts with the reports filed by the higher formations. In this case, the first of these was the Report on Operational and Administrative Activities of I Corps, II Corps, New Guinea Force 10 April 44 30 September 44. This covered only the very first month of the campaign but was very detailed. The main source was the 5 Aust Div Report on Operations New Britain 8 Oct 44 to 19 Apr 45. This was excellent except that it cuts out before the end of the campaign because the 5th Division headquarters was sent home on furlough in April 1945, replaced by the 11th Division. There were also two specialised reports, RAE Operations in Solomon Islands, New Guinea and New Britain 1944-1945 and Formation of 5 Aust Base Sub Area. The war diaries are always worth checking and in this case the 5th Base Sub Area had a pretty good war diary. All printed out or photocopied and collected together in a Manila folder.
Books I normally only use to locate more sources. Checked the Army, Navy and Air Force volumes of the Official History and, for American operations before arrival of the Australians, the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps volumes on New Britain. In addition, there was the US Army Corps of Engineers' history, its Australian counterpart, and a book on the Australian Army Service Corps. All of these are on the shelf here. Usable bits are bookmarked with Post-It notes. Most books here have lots, in various colours representing different chapters.
Scanned some maps from books and downloaded some photographs from the War Memorial. I also found an unusual web site of an American amphibian engineer who was present.
Then comes the write-up ("hard work"). The reports formed the core of the narrative, weaved together, although the books were used to write the introduction without digging through the American archives. Basically, everything goes in. The folder and then the books are worked through from front to back. Everything is slotted into its correct place as per the chapter plan. Footnotes are added as I type. Any book cited is cut and pasted from the bibliography, added if it is not there already.
I have been experimenting with EndNote, which is software for formatting footnotes and generating indexes. I'm not sure if I'll use it yet. However, if you're starting a new thesis, you probably should consider using it. The problem is that it is set up for I did discover that my footnoting style is called "Journal of American History". So far I have had to customise it a bit, adding new reference types for my primary documents.
The chapter is then edited. Sentences are reworked, paragraphs are moved around. Verbiage is trimmed and clipped. The end result is a rough chapter.