This academic year I am to complete a 20,000 word Masters dissertation. I have been looking forward to this since I started studying the Masters 2 years ago so of course now it has arrived I am completely terrified and feel totally out of my depth!

The route to the topic for my dissertation was a slightly chaotic one – I started off vaguely thinking about something to do with iPads in the library and have stumbled over to something pretty much entirely different but tangentially related with;

“How do higher education students respond to a connectivist approach to information literacy?”

This is very unlikely to be my final dissertation question, however it’s an exciting one for me and I’m looking forward to getting a clearer understanding of the whole project and conducting a bit of research.

Connectivism is an emerging learning theory devised and developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes based upon the concepts of learning taking place within networks and takes in to account the quickly out-dated nature of modern knowledge. It is much more complex than that and I am still reading around the area to really get to grips with it. The basic principles very strongly align with the concepts we teach for information literacy and I will be mapping some of these on to the SCONUL 7 Pillars model. I won’t be able to explore the whole of connectivist theory in my research as it is naturally restricted to a very small study due to the limitations of Masters requirements, however I’ve looked at a couple of central principles which I will be using to inform my approach to delivery of information literacy sessions.

With connectivism in mind and the idea that a student’s network is central to developing their knowledge I am going to explore how the library can serve as an agent to positively influence the ‘nodes’ of the students network, and how to encourage them to ‘connect’ to the library as part of their research activities. The nurturing of the students network and how their connections are made and sustained will be looked at and how we can become an effective part of that.

Some interesting feedback I received from my superviser is that I need to consider the aspect of legitimacy within my research. Once I understood what was actually meant by this it really made me realise how much I had assumed – whilst all the time thinking I was questionning every step! I’m going to have to strongly consider what levels of legitimacy I will have with students in order to influence their behaviours and connect to their networks – this is not about idealism but reality – I need to present the information in a manner where it will be used rather than simply should. The organisational discourse automatically positions me with a degree of legitimacy when trying to influence the students, particularly as I have significant buy-in with their wonderful tutor, however I can not count on this and need to establish how I go about giving this consideration when conducting my research.

I will be conducting a case study which I’m quite daunted by! I am hoping that everything will feel slightly less impossible and enormously out of my abilities once I have a clearer picture of what I will be getting up to within the whole process.