Yesterday I submitted an honours thesis entitled: "Discerning Knowers: An Exploratory Study of University Students’ Perceptions of Knowledge Claims”. On the final count it was 110 pages long, with twenty two thousand words in total. It changed several times from the initial conception to the final product. I have a lot more respect for people who conduct research, it is very hard to get at what is happening in the world. Also, now I know the process isn't impossible. Even when I started the thesis there was a large part of me that thought that I couldn't write twenty thousand words; but as it turns out I wrote a lot more that didn't end up in the finished thesis. Perhaps one day, after the comments from the markers and final revisions, I might put it online or let people read it. For now I'd like to thank my supervisor Dr Karl Maton and present the thesis abstract bellow for anyone who might be interested.
The main problem this thesis seeks to address is University level students’ perceptions of the legitimacy of knowledge claims. The field of social epistemology has sought to develop a framework to understand the social dimension of knowledge claims and the principles of argumentation that lead to an increase in the total number of true beliefs held in society. However, social epistemology is chiefly a normative approach and lacks a substantial sociological description of how knowledge claims are evaluated by social actors situated within social fields of practice. This problem is not just an intellectual curiosity. Contemporary sociological theory is often concerned with the transformations associated with the emergent ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘information society’. In view of this, the current cohort of University level students’ evaluations knowledge claims is of practical concern due to their future role as knowledge workers and potential members of the power elite. To address these issues, elements of Code Theory, Legitimation Code Theory and Systemic Functional Linguistics have been drawn on to conceptualize language, knowledge claims and the organizing principles that mediate their contextual use. The main conclusion drawn in this research is that University students have a nuanced understanding of the forms of the knowledge claims that can be legitimately employed in divergent contexts; thereby positioning themselves with respect to the context and negatively evaluating language and knowledge claims that fall outside of the legitimate usage.