Posts in exposé

Writing an exposé

abril 26th, 2011 Posted by aims, blog, exposé, hypotheses, methods, PhD project, state of the art, The sorcerer's apprentice No Comment yet

Once you have found your doctoral advisor, you can start writing the exposé, i.e., a summary of your first thoughts on the PhD project. Depending on the country or even the university you are in, you may need to present it and have it approved by a committee, or else you may want to send it to some important scholar to convince her to become your supervisor. In any case, it will

be very useful to you, to clarify your ideas. You should always bear in mind that what you are going to put down in your exposé are just preliminary notions. Also, before you get into this jungle, there is something you should be aware of:
There is no explicit model for an exposé
[sudden drum banging in the dark]
Of course, that does not mean there is no structure at all. There is simply considerable variation, depending on the norms, traditions, etc., of the place you are in. In Europe, you may ask your advisor or university department for detailed information, but do not expect there will be something like the great Writing Lab at Purdue. At least, not in every university (but see Toronto’s and Victoria’s, though). Do not give up hope if you are given no information or just a couple of vague hints on this topic. Take it as your first quest for the holy grail.
Although there are no black-on-white rules on the contents and structure of an exposé, at least there seems to be some kind of consensus regarding the need to include at least the following sections:
project topic
state of the art
Other points, such as a sketch of the dissertation structure, work plan, and so on, is usually optional, or a specific requirement of your institution. Let us have a closer look on these points.

Project topic
You need a concise working title for your project. If somewhat obscure, you may explain the meaning of the title in your introduction. To avoid extra work, it is always a good idea to draft the introduction at the end, so you already know which information you need to summarize.

State of the art
Here you should concentrate on the following questions:
Which related topics have been investigated until now?
Which points or aspects have not been researched (enough) and are therefore desiderata?

Aim(s) - The question is… Why?
In this section you will spell out your project aims, the reasons to embark on such a project, what you expect from it. Generally, scientific aims tend to focus on verifying or falsifying hypotheses or they attempt to find some answers to clearly stated problems. You could consider other possible aims regarding your project (e.g., practical or didactic ones).

Hypotheses/Problems – The question is… What?
Since you are aiming to find answers to your stated hypothesis or problems, you need to make them clear from the beginning by explaining what you have found out on the topic and what led you to your conclusions.

Method(s) – The question is… How?
Your aims and objects of study define the methods applied. There are mainly two scientific methods of which one would be applied to your project:

You conclude general theoretical rules on the basis of empirical observations. For example, translation experiment results show that there are differences in problem-solving between professional and non-professional translators; now you would have to establish some rules, theories or hypotheses on these observations.

You would propose a theory or hypothesis first and then investigate it empirically, e.g., you would state that there are differences in problem-solving between professional and non-professional translators and then verify or falsify this statement based on the results of an empirical experiment.
If you want to do empirical research, you should specify your materials. In cognitive translatology, this would concern, for example, subjects, source text(s), experimental environment, data collection tools and methods (e.g. key logging, questionnaires, eye-tracking, to name a few).

At the end of your exposé, you should give complete information on every source you cited in your proposal. More often than not there are strict norms and requisites for the bibliography. You may complain about it, but that is the way it is: hating bibliography norms seems to be part of being a scholar, so you are getting closer!

Further reading
Chesterman, A. (2001). Empirical research methods in Translation Studies. Erikoiskielet ja käännösteoria (VAKKI-symposiumi XX), 27, 9-22.
Jääskeläinen, R. & Tirkkonen-Condit, S. (1991). Automatised processes in professional vs. non-professional translation: A think-aloud protocol study. In S. Tirkkonen-Condit (Ed.): Empirical Research in Translation and Intercultural Studies. Tübingen: Narr, 89-109.
Neunzig, W. (2002). Estudios empíricos en traducción: apuntes metodológicos. In F. Alves (Ed.): O proceso de traducão. Cadernos de Traducão, 10, 75-96.
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:
Pries, L. (2007). Wie schreibe ich ein Exposé? URL:
Research Proposal Guide. URL:

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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