Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Dissertation Scoop

OK, here´s a little more detailed account of my current problem. This book I found is essentially one version of what I was planning to write as my dissertation. It varies structurally, but in terms of the information I was planning to discuss, it´s all there. It´s a public health study, which is good for me, cause I´ll be studying this from an historical perspective, which in academia is substantially different, but this still poses a significant set-back for me.

So I´m not a total idiot, it wasn´t like I just didn´t know this book existed before I started. I´d found a copy of his early manuscript and read it, but this book was initially published in 1985, which is 6 years prior to the end of the period I am studying. Clearly, this early version was more of an aid than a hindrance to my study. So that was the version I read, the 1985 version. Having read it and made notes, I went ahead and purchased the book online to have as a reference. I picked the book up when I was back in the States last month, and now here in Matagalpa I started re-reading it just to refresh my mind about some of the early MINSA (Ministry of Health) policy adjustments. That was when I realized that the authors had re-published, having done additional research, in 1992, and that was the version I purchased, unknowingly, online. This version of the book was much better, more complete, and they had also done some oral history interviews, which sort of steals my thunder as well, since that´s a large part of my research.

So this is totally my fault, just sloppy preliminary work on my part. I should´ve looked much more carefully into this book and potential re-publishings, and I´m kicking myself hard in the face (which, while difficult, I´ve discovered is entirely possible) for not seeing this coming. Argh.

Nonetheless, I know I can work around this, I can re-direct and do additional research, pose new and interesting questions. I feel a little cut off from my support network of super-intelligent history collaborators back home in Austin. (Drea, Spaceman Spiff, Mutt, Penata, Scrubs, Books, where are you when I need you?!) I´m well into an oral history project up here, and I really feel like I just want to slam on the brakes to re-think this for a while, discover which re-directs I want to take, which new angles I want to explore. Not feasible, however, so I guess I´m just going to keep going, and see what I see. All is not lost, I just feel flummoxed and frustrated and a little like a little kid playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Lucky for me I´ve been feeling so absolutely chipper lately, as I feel like in spite of all the metaphorical dizziness, I´m taking this pretty much in stride.

Thanks for all your comments yesterday, and I´ll start posting about stuff of more charm, elegance, and sparkle very shortly now. Ta-ta-ta-RAAAAAAAA!


Kate said...

How much time will this add to you getting it completed?

Oh, and the curls are still there. Most of the time he looks like a little redneck baby with a mullet. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Shit!! I hope you don't have to start from scratch against. Hope you can work around it.
-- Ashesh

Cheasty said...

kate - i'm so glad to hear that! save them until april! mullets are the new black, so just know he's totally hip.
no idea how long this will tag on to my research, but i do know that it won't be this year. maybe next year i'll come back for a couple of months to tie up loose ends, but i think i'll be able to save it.

ashesh - thanks, my friend.

Evan Ross said...

Cheasty- As you well know, one of the major general distinctions between the historiography of Central America in contrast to other regions of Latin America, such as in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and elsewhere, relates to depth.

Historical research of Central America frequently provides ripe areas for inquiry, whereas other regions' archives have been picked so clean that keeping up with the revisions upon revisions is difficult to do.

That someone else has written on your theme does not mean all is lost. Your job now is to understand that argument closely and then use it as a launching point to offer a new and previously unexamined perspective on this history. As you say, you will come up with your own questions. You mentioned that the book, "the ruinator," is a public health study, not written by a historian. Perfect. It may take a bit but you will find the historical "hook" that makes your work inovative, important, engaging, and worthy of further research grants to complete it in full.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read the new and improved Cheastypants version! Good luck!!!


PrincessPi said...

Something really similar happened to me. My first year out of college, I figured out a really novel and elementary (relatively) proof of the Four-Color problem using graph theory's five-dot problem as an analogy. I had all the calculations done, and was so frickin' proud of myself, and then one day at Barnes and Noble, found a book called "The Four Color Theorem", proven by some other math schmuck. I still think my proof is much prettier, but crap on a cracker, why did someone have to beat me to it?

Just hang in there, you just need to wait for inspiration to hit.

Cheasty said...

Evan, cookie, princess pi. thanks for the support, optimism, and advice. the ideas are percolating madly, and i'm sure i'll have a solution soon.

princess pi, a special note for you. i have no idea what the four color theorem is, but i take my hat off to you, my dear. graphs, calculations, solutions, theorems... what a marvelous brain you have!