Dissertation dilemma

Decisions, decisions…

There comes a time in your life as a student on City University’s MA in Legal Translation when you have to make a big decision: Should you do a 10,000 wd original piece of research or an annotated translation (5,000 wd translation + 5,000 wd annotation) for your final coursework (worth a third of the final mark, incidentally)?

Well, I’ve made my decision. Throwing caution to the wind, I’ve gone for the research option. It looks to be the more uncertain of the two in terms of the amount of work involved and what work exactly you need to do, but somewhere along the line I got the idea that I might find it more interesting and maybe even more rewarding.

It’s been a long time since my undergraduate degree, so I suppose I just felt like getting down and academic again. Although what really made me decide to do the research dissertation was that I stumbled on a topic that interested me. Having an interest in the topic will hopefully help keep me motivated, although this effect may wear off quite quickly when I get into it.

Doing the research dissertation is not going to be everyone’s choice. We’ve talked a lot on the course about which option we might do and why, and there are some different theories floating around. I don’t know how close to the facts they are, but here’s a summary of the ones I can remember:

Reasons for doing the research dissertation

  • You have an idea you want to explore.
  • You like a challenge / You like leading yourself up the garden path.
  • You’re sick of doing annotated translations. (You do one for nearly every module on this course.)
  • You like writing academic papers (or you can write them in your sleep from having translated too many of them).
  • You’re thinking about doing further research.

Reasons for not doing the research dissertation

  • It’s a lot of work.
  • You haven’t got a clue on what to write 10,000 words.
  • You could get lost halfway (in terms of your research; not in getting to the library, although library access might be another factor to consider) and have trouble finishing it.
  • You hate the theory.

Reasons for doing the annotated translation

  • It’s appears to entail less work than the dissertation.
  • You’ve got the annotated translations down pat from doing them for the module assignments. (At the beginning of the course, this didn’t seem like such a big deal, but it is: you get a lot better at using the theory to talk about your translations.)
  • You’ve found a good text to translate.
  • You’ve already done a dissertation or something similar on another master’s or other degree. (Especially relevant if that master’s was also on translation.)

Reasons for not doing the annotated translation

  • You can’t find a text to translate.
  • It’s difficult to find a suitable text, i.e., one that’s long enough and will give you something to talk about.
  • You hate doing annotated translations.
  • You hate the theory. (If you hate the theory, it looks like you’re in trouble :).)

Hmm… I wonder whether I’ve made the right decision. It may have been smarter, or at least more practical, to have gone for the annotated translation. Oh well, we’ll see how we go.

Written by Rob Lunn

Rob Lunn is a freelance translator based in Spain. He translates from Spanish and Catalan into English and specialises in legal translation.

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