Thursday, March 05, 2015

How I Found My Dissertation Topic

When you are a doctoral student, you start thinking about your dissertation as soon as you are accepted to the program.  In my case, back in summer 2009, I knew I wanted to do something with information literacy instruction and instructional design, but I didn't know what.  My advisor is brilliant and encouraged us to write literature reviews for any class like they were the chapter two of your dissertation.  So I explored several topics in that way: active learning strategies and information literacy instruction, various interactive classroom technologies and information literacy instruction, online learning and information literacy instruction.  I learned a great deal, but I wasn't coming up with anything that lent itself well to a quasi-experimental study that I could reasonably do given the constraints of finding an appropriate number of subjects.  And as they say, you have to find something that is very, very interesting to you, or otherwise you'll end up miserable after spending so many years on this one topic.

I am an avid conference-goer in the library world, but I didn't have the opportunity to attend an education-focused conference until I attended the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) conference in fall 2011.  Much like any conference, the serendipity you experience often far outweighs the expenditure of attendance.  In this case, my advisor had frequently mentioned someone he knew who was a highly regarded library and information science researcher who also happened to be an expert in instructional design.  As these things go, he had the opportunity to introduce us at a reception, and I learned that she had just published a book which presented an instructional design model called I-LEARN that tied together a great deal of research in instructional design and information science.  While waiting in the line for the bar, I ordered the book online using my phone.  And as they say, the rest is history.

Next post: What is I-LEARN?

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