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Piotrowska, Maria and Joanna Dybiec-Gajer (2012). Verba Volant Scripta Manent. How to Write an M.A. Thesis in Translation Studies.

Kraków: Universitas, pp. 207, PLN 35 (~£7). ISBN: 97883-242-1753-3.

This book offers practical advice for Master’s and Bachelor’s degree students who are working on their dissertations in Translation Studies. Written in English by two established academics from the Pedagogical University of Kraków, the book is the first of its kind in the Polish market and, naturally, contains some information tailored to a Polish readership. However, since most of its content has a general application, it may well be an excellent resource for TS students from other parts of Europe.

Piotrowska and Dybiec-Gajer’s guide is complementary to the widely acclaimed book The Map. A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Research in Translation Studies by Williams and Chesterman. While the latter is more methodologically and theoretically oriented, the former tends to focus on the organisational and technical aspects of thesis writing.

The book consists of 10 chapters, appendices and a TS library. Each chapter has a clear structure: it opens with key words and key questions and ends with a brief summary of main points and recommended reading. It is written in a user-friendly and accessible way from the perspective of a novice to doing research in Translation Studies.

Chapter 1 succinctly explains the basics, including plagiarism, translation seminars, and how to work with your supervisor. Chapter 2 is devoted to stylistic features of English for Academic Purposes and is useful in particular to non-native speakers of English. It discusses the most frequent stylistic and other language errors. It also contains a list of the so-called signalling words for building textual cohesion and coherence and a list of useful expressions categorised according to their purpose (e.g. assessment of data, presentation of results), lists which are very convenient to have in one place. The section closes with some brief advice on writing abstracts.

Chapter 3, entitled Translation Studies Research, is the methodological section which explains disciplinary classifications of TS research, types, areas and basic models of TS research, and new research directions, including translation technology, multilingualism, institutional translation, translation and social media, and the interface of professional and non-professional translation. What may be helpful to novices is a discussion of concepts connected with research, such as metalanguage, theory, approach, framework, method, model, paradigm, etc. The authors next briefly present differences between qualitative and quantitative research, conceptual and empirical research, and comparative, processual and causal models (drawing on Gile and Williams & Chesterman).

Chapters 4 and 5 are more technically oriented and discuss TS resources and how to compile a bibliography and document sources. They discuss differences between TS primary, secondary and tertiary sources and when it is appropriate to use them. The chapters are illustrated with examples from TS literature.

Chapter 6 focuses on time management and research design and presents a clear procedure with phases and steps to manage one’s research. Chapter 7 covers quality checks at the content, structural and stylistic levels, demonstrating typical errors, such as inappropriate headings, unfulfilled promises, gender-biased language or faulty reference. Some attention is devoted to culture-specific conventions of academic writing; for example, a well-structured English paragraph should centre on a single idea and open with an introductory or summarising topic sentence, which, as the authors emphasise, “Polish students learning EAP may find […] difficult to accept as in their view it involves inappropriate straightforwardness and repetition” (2012: 109).

Chapter 8 discusses oral presentations of research results and has sensible advice on preparing and delivering a PowerPoint presentation in a user-friendly way. Chapter 9 gives guidance on an oral MA examination, known traditionally as an ‘M.A. defence’, and is targeted specifically at Polish students, providing examples of theoretical questions one may expect during the exam (which will certainly differ between universities or even supervisors). The final chapter comprises tasks and exercises for self-practice, which may also be used by supervisors during M.A. seminars.

Appendices include: frequently asked questions, TS abbreviations, abbreviations in academic writing, a diploma thesis timetable, research proposal and progress report templates, sample style sheet for MA papers, sample tables of contents, and research evaluation criteria. What follows is a Translation Studies library, which comprises a broad range of thematically arranged TS bibliographical references (although specialised translation references are rather disappointing, with some students’ favourites missing, such as localisation, technical translation, scientific translation, and business translation).

To sum up, the book is a useful and encouraging practical guide introducing students to thesis writing and providing ample resources in one place. It is recommended to read it alongside Williams and Chesterman’s The Map.

  • Williams, Jenny and Andrew Chesterman (2002). The Map. A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Research in Translation Studies. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Łucja Biel, Department of Translation Studies, University of Gdańsk