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Starting a PhD project on Cognitive Translatology

abril 14th, 2011 Posted by blog, doctoral advisor, exposé, PhD project, The sorcerer's apprentice No Comment yet

As in any project, there is one urgent question to be answered on starting a PhD project as well: Where do I start? This is what I found when planning to do a doctorate, particularly regarding Cognitive Translatology.

Looking for a doctoral advisor

When you set to start a PhD project on

Cognitive Translatology, you should be aware of the fact that, however young the discipline of Translation Studies (as a supercategory of Cognitive Translatology) may seem, there are already quite a few people investigating in this field all over the world. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, because once you have found your advisor and a project to work on, you become a member of this translation researchers’ community. So when it comes to looking for an advisor in this field, you will probably have to expand your search crossing national borders.

So your starting point is, you should start doing some research on who is actually investigating in Cognitive Translatology (e.g., individual researchers or research groups). When you have listed a few names, you can start by contacting them, explaining what you are aiming to do, and asking them for help.

During or after the doctoral advisor search
Once you have started looking for a doctoral advisor (or even if you already found one), you should start limiting and defining the topic you would like to delve into in your PhD project. I know, Cognitive Translatology is still a quite complex field. This is the time for you to do three things mainly:

1. Answer yourself some basic questions regarding your own focus of interest (e.g., if you prefer theory or practice; which specific field(s) you are interested in (e.g., translators’ expertise, problem solving, decision-making, translation quality assessment, error categorization, to name a few)).
2. Read, and nothing but read to familiarize yourself with the topic(s) in question and the state of the art. You get relevant literature searching, for example, your University’s library catalogue and the Internet (additionally, you could also ask your advisor in case you have already found one, but never forget that it is your work and the literature you will be given has to be considered just the basis for further reading). While reading, keep an eye out for possible connections with your own future work, such as any lack of or in theoretical models, desiderata, etc.

3. Outline your first thoughts (on the basis of 1 and 2) concerning at least your work topic, aim(s), hypotheses, method(s) and problems. In Cognitive Translatology you will probably find a lot more empirical work than in other areas of Translation Studies, but this does neither mean there is nothing left to investigate empirically nor that there is nothing interesting to say about translation theory. In any case, you will need both, practice and theory, for your work. At this stage, it would be of some help but it not essential to count on an advisor, to get some advice where necessary.
Writing an exposé
Usually, in most countries the next step to take is writing an exposé, which contains your ideas on the PhD project. The exposé helps you structure and formulate these ideas more clearly. In the beginning, it works as some kind of project guidelines both for you and for your advisor, but it will be modified throughout the process times and again. And that is normal.
After these three steps, there begins the real journey. Good luck!
Further reading
Chesterman, A. (2001). Empirical research methods in Translation Studies. Erikoiskielet ja käännösteoria (VAKKI-symposiumi XX), 27, 9-22.
Davis, D. (2001): PhD Thesis Research: Where Do I Start? URL:
Eco, U. (2001). Experiences in Translation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Nünning, A. & Sommer, R. (Eds.) (2007). Handbuch Promotion – Forschung – Förderung – Finanzen. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Nussbaum, M. A. (2010). How To Write a (Thesis/Dissertation) Proposal. URL: PhD Starter – How to start a PhD. URL:
Pries, L. (2007). Wie schreibe ich ein Exposé? URL: Proposal Guide. URL:

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