Skip to main content

MA in Literary Translation Studies Dissertation

All students doing the MA in Literary Translation Studies Studies are required to complete a dissertation of approximately 16,000 words. The MA dissertation offers students the chance to undertake and complete one of two forms of sustained research project: either a) a dissertation of the more conventional variety, where the student undertakes research into an area of translation theory and practice and argues a thesis, supporting it with evidence or b) a literary translation accompanied by an extended piece of critical writing (a translation commentary).

The dissertation represents a substantial piece of work, and you should be aware of the fact that it will require significant input from you throughout the year. You should start thinking about the general area in which you would like to do your research from the beginning of the academic year and discuss it with the MALTS Convenor (and, where appropriate, with other members of staff) as soon as possible, since you will be expected to submit a dissertation proposal to the MALTS Convenor ( by the end of Week 9 in Term 1. Students who opt to do a dissertation in the form of a literary translation accompanied by an extended commentary should begin to identify an appropriate source text or texts at an early stage. Depending on the language from which you work, source texts may be difficult to access; for this reason, you should plan ahead to allow time for delivery/access.

If the student opts for b) then the translation should be a minimum of 5000 and a maximum of 6000 words (which is approximately one-third of the total length of the dissertation), with the commentary constituting the bulk of the dissertation length at a minimum of 10,000 and a maximum of 11,000 words. Students who wish to translate poetry may agree a different weighting of translation and commentary with their supervisor(s). The translation should be into a language that can be read by the dissertation supervisor(s). This will normally mean that the translation will be into English. The student should include a copy of the source text as an appendix to the completed translation with commentary, clearly marking the appendix as such. Please note that the source text does not count towards the length of the dissertation.

There will be a compulsory workshop on the translation with commentary in Term 1. Please note that the commentary, for the purposes of the MALTS dissertation, is not a series of notes or annotations to a text, nor a chronological narrative of translating a text, rather it should do the following: contain an argument or a set of arguments that are illustrated by the translation; demonstrate the theoretically informed reflection that lies behind the creation of a translation product; address relevant issues of translation theory and practice. The link between the translation and the commentary, i.e. how far the translation bears out what is said in the commentary, will be central to the success of this piece of work. You should therefore select your source text or texts with a particular research focus in mind, rather than selecting a source text at random.

The document 'How to write a translation commentary’ sets out the expectations for this type of dissertation.

Writing the dissertation proposal (Term 1)

Only projects deemed viable will be allowed to proceed, so it is important to get the proposal right. To be accepted, a proposal should
• be intellectually viable;
• be achievable within the stipulated time and word limit;
• be feasible given the resources;
• fall within the areas of expertise of members of academic staff.

See an example of a successful proposal for dissertation type a) and b). Proposals should be between 300 and 500 words in length and include an initial bibliography.

In addition, it is important that the content of your dissertation does not have a significant overlap with any of the essays you submit for your option modules.

To help you write a strong proposal, the English Department will be offering a series of workshops in the Autumn Term, and you will be expected to attend these. Time and place will be confirmed at the start of the academic year.

As you begin work on your proposal during Term 1, you will need to speak to members of academic staff with an interest in the area you wish to work in. All members of staff keep regular office hours during the term, and you should speak to several of them. It is your responsibility to seek them out. Use your contact with them to present and discuss your ideas. Listen to their advice and suggestions, read the books or articles they may point you to, and incorporate what is appropriate into your proposal. As you discuss your project, you will quickly pick up which aspects are worth pursuing and which are not. This is part of the research process. If you would like advice on whom to approach, speak to the MALTS Convenor. Remember when you submit your proposal to mention the names of staff with whom you have spoken.

You will be required to submit your proposal to the MALTS Convenor by the end of Week 9 in Term 1, shortly before the winter holiday therefore. The MALTS Convenor will consider all applications and assign a supervisor for each successful proposal. You will be notified of decisions by the first week of Term 2. If your proposal has been declined, the MALTS Convenor will meet with you and explain the reasons for the decision, and provide advice and support on reworking the proposal into an acceptable one. It is expected that most proposals submitted by students who have attended all the workshops will be accepted.

Writing the dissertation progress report (Term 2)

Students must begin work on their dissertation research in Term 2. It can take time to work out exactly how to focus your project and decide on what you need to look at and read, so it’s important to start early. In Week 9 of Term 2 you must submit a Progress Report to the MALTS Convenor (, copying in the Postgraduate Programmes Officer ( The report consists of the following:

Dissertation Progress Report form
• title and chapter breakdown
• an abstract of 1000 words
• a bibliography.

Progress reports will be reviewed by the MALTS Convenor. If there are concerns about progress, the MALTS Convenor will contact you.

Research, writing and contact with your supervisor (Terms 2 and 3)

You can expect to meet with your supervisor for an initial supervision within the first two weeks of Term 2 and again in Week 8 or 9 shortly before submission of the dissertation progress report. You can also expect to meet with your supervisor three times in Term 3. Supervisions will generally be 45-60 minutes in length, although Term 2 supervisions may well be shorter than this. Your supervisor will read one rough draft of your dissertation, which must be sent by the end of Term 3. You are welcome to contact your supervisor by e-mail. As with all the department's staff, you can usually expect a supervisor to respond within about 3 working days (excluding weekends) if your query is straightforward. For more complex requests, supervisors will need more time to respond and you need to keep in mind that an e-mail exchange is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Face-to-face supervision of dissertations concludes at the end of term 3. Over the summer months of July and August, when staff undertake their own research activities, e-mail contact is at the supervisor's discretion and it will very likely take longer for them to respond to any message you send.

Submission (Summer)

The following reminders may be useful:

  • You must be consistent in the style convention used (preferably either MLA, MHRA, Chicago or Harvard). Note that Harvard is the standard referencing style for scholarly work in Translation Studies.
  • Footnotes/Endnotes are included in the final word count; the 'Bibliography' is not included in the final word count
  • An abstract is not required in the final submission
  • A margin of up to 10% over or under length is allowed, but dissertations that are between 10-24% over-length will incur a penalty of 3 marks
  • Work that is more than 25% over-length will be refused