You are on page 1of 5

Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies

CTIS Critical Essay Guidelines 2013-2014

Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures The University of Manchester

CTIS Critical Essay Guidelines

1 . C r i t i c a l C o mp o n en t
Critical essays cannot consist of a mere summary of the literature but must engage with it critically. When writing critical essays you are expected not only to show that you have understood the ideas you are reading but also to demonstrate that you can analyse and evaluate a particular approach, theory, model or perspective. Writing a critical essay does not mean you have to comment in a negative way on an author or an idea. It means that you evaluate the accuracy, relevance, logical coherence, applicability, etc. of the idea, identifying strengths and weaknesses. You may do this in a variety of ways: you may draw on the critiques already put forward by other scholars; you may compare different/competing theories, models or approaches, in order to highlight how they relate to one another and to identify the strengths, shortcomings or implications of a particular theory or approach; you may analyse examples or applications in order to reach an assessment.

A critical essay is not one based solely on a feeling or a personal opinion; the position you take and the claims you make must be carefully and logically argued and must be supported with evidence from the literature, from attested (rather than invented or anecdotal) examples, etc. Without logical reasoning and evidence your argument will appear weak and unconvincing. While you may use brief examples to elaborate your argument, the critical essay is not a translation exercise and you should not attempt to translate a text and present this as part of your essay.

2. Choice of Topic
You are usually required to choose a topic for your essay. You may choose from the range of topics covered in the course unit, or select a concept that underpins various theoretical models (e.g. equivalence, the status of the source text, ethics, neutrality vs intervention, etc.). Other themes may be considered provided they are directly relevant to aspects of theoretical reflection on translation or interpreting covered during the semester. Unless otherwise indicated, you can write on any topic connected in some way to concepts, notions, approaches or theories covered during the semester as long as: (a) it is directly relevant to translation and/or interpreting, and (b) you approach it from a critical perspective (not anecdotal, and not purely descriptive but drawing systematically on the theoretical literature to outline a specific argument).
Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies Page 2 of 5

CTIS Critical Essay Guidelines

This rules out, for example, essays on purely linguistic, purely literary, or purely sociological issues, such as the differences between clause structure in English and Chinese, or the French literary system per se, or the colonial history of India, etc. The essay has to reflect on some aspect of translation and/or interpreting, approached from any of these perspectives, or others not detailed here. Below is an indicative (not exhaustive) list of some topics on which students have written in the past1, organised under specific headings to help you make sense of the various possibilities:

2.1. Broad Critical Engagement with Core Premises and/or Research Methodologies



The focus here is on a critical assessment of theoretical positions or research methodologies in their own right their coherence, consistency, conflicting claims, etc. Various examples may be used to demonstrate the argument, but the essay would not systematically focus on a particular text or type of text or activity to elaborate an assessment of the theory or research methodology in question. It would focus on the coherence, validity and applicability of the theory/theories under examination, or the strengths and weaknesses of the research methodology. Postcolonialism, Norms and Invisibility Corpora in Interpreting Studies A Critical Evaluation of Feminist Translation Practice Cognitive Approaches to Interpreting The Geopolitics of Translation Cross-cultural Pragmatics in Interpreted Interaction The Use of Thinkaloud Protocols in Interpreting Research Feminist Approaches to Translation Sociological Approaches: Bourdieu vs. Narrative Theory

2.2. Critical Engagement with Core TS Theoretical Premises with Reference to a Specific Type of Translation/Interpreting or a Specific Text The focus here is still on assessing a given theory or research methodology, but the assessment is offered in relation to a specific type of translation or interpreting activity, a specific setting (e.g. the European Union), or a specific source text and its translation(s). Narrative Theory and Activist Interpreting Practice

1 Note that these are real examples of titles used by students in previous years, when the

distribution of topics across semesters may have been different. They are included here as examples, not as a definitive list. Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies Page 3 of 5

CTIS Critical Essay Guidelines

Functional Approaches and Website Localization: A Critical Perspective Venutis Categories of Domestication/Foreignisation and Sir Richard Burtons Translation of the Arabian Nights Legal Interpreting and the Limitations of the Notion of Equivalence The Limitations of Polysystem Theory and Lin Shus Domesticating Strategy A Bourdieusean Approach to Interpreting in the Asylum System The Klingon Bible Translation Project and the Establishment of a Canonised Repertoire A Postcolonial Analysis of Camus LEtranger and Its English Translation by Stuart Gilbert

2.3. Introduction of a New Perspective on Translation and/or Interpreting by Drawing on NonTS Theoretical Literature This involves a more exploratory approach to the assignment. Any source of theorization may be brought to bear on translation/interpreting in general or some aspect of these activities. How Can Bakhtins Ideas on Language and Text Inform Translation Theor y? The Question of Representation in Ethnography and Implications for Translation Western Dichotomies, Cannibalism and a Theory of Translation How Can the Work of Levinas Inform an Ethics of Translation?

2.4. A Critical Review of the Translation/Interpreting Issue



Spec ific

The focus here is on a specific topic (rather than theory or theoretical approach), but the essay has to engage with theoretical literature on the topic rather than present an anecdotal or purely descriptive account of some texts that feature the particular issue. Key Issues in the Translation of Humour Fidelity, Impartiality and Invisibility in Court Interpreting The Role of Translators and Interpreters in a Colonial Context Directionality in Conference Interpreting Translating Metaphor Politeness in Court Interpreting Inclusive and Exclusive Language: The Problem of Perceived Bias in Bible Translation Translation and Censorship in Fascist Italy The Translation of Advertising Slogans

Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies

Page 4 of 5

CTIS Critical Essay Guidelines

3 . L en g t h
The word length given is a maximum which must not be exceeded. Where a minimum length is not given, your essay length should normally be between 95% and 100% of the maximum, (i.e. an essay of 9501,000 words or 2,8503,000 words or 3,9004,000 words). You must supply a word count for every assignment.

4. Structure
Your essay should start with a brief introduction setting out the context of your research and objectives of your critique. It should end with a concluding section that summarises what you believe you have achieved and (if relevant) points to areas that would benefit from expansion or further research. Use headings to structure your essay and signpost its progression. Refer to the CTIS Guide to Essay Writing for more information on how to structure your essay.

5. Resources and Bibliography Use abstracting and indexing databases (e.g. Translation Studies Abstracts (TSA) Online, Linguistic and Language Behavior Abstracts) to locate references that you can draw on in writing your essay. In your research you are expected to extend your knowledge beyond the content of class handouts and core reading lists, and to access and use additional sources and integrate other material into your argument and discussion. Make sure that your bibliography consists of an alphabetically ordered list of all references mentioned in the text (but only those mentioned in the text). Refer to the CTIS Guide to Referencing Conventions and Plagiarism and the CTIS Guide to Bibliographic Conventions. You may also find it useful to consult the following reference: Williams, Jenny and Andrew Chesterman (2002) The Map: A Beginners Guide to Doing Research in Translation Studies, Manchester: St Jerome. [Note: Chapter 10: Assessing Your Research is relevant to this task] 6. Further reading CTIS Guide to Referencing and Plagiarism CTIS Guide to Essay Writing CTIS Guide to Bibliographic Conventions
Page 5 of 5

Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies