Anthony Pym


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The map (review)


Jenny Williams and Andrew Chesterman. The Map. A Beginner's Guide to Doing Research in Translation Studies. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing, 2002.

This short book should be obligatory reading for any student embarking on research in Translation Studies. It can also be warmly recommended for any supervisors of such students. It only tales three or so hours to get through, but it may save quite a few years of wasted research.

The Map achieves precisely what it sets out to do. It presents a clear summary of what beginner researchers need to know, usefully addressing many different levels of research products, from the term paper to the full-blown doctoral thesis. Its structure is based on a process model, summarized as follows:

· choosing an area
· making a preliminary plan
· searching through the literature
· reading and thinking
· defining the research question
· revising the plan
· collecting data
· analyzing the data
· processing the results
· writing a draft
· evaluating, eliciting feedback
· thinking of implications
· finalizing the text
· presenting your research project.

One of this book's many strengths is its careful compatibilism on many of the issues that might otherwise have translation scholars at each other's throats. For example, a constant defence of empirical testing sits side-by-side with the admission that there is no such thing as value-free description (60). This might have led to something like a claim that all science is political, that subjectivity is necessary, and so on. A more diverse map might then have listed the researchers who defend positivist objectivity, and others who would be closer to action research. Yet no such coherent positions are named here. The result is rather like a game of happy families: bland, unexciting, yet all-present-and-correct, and ultimately comforting.

I have only a few minor gripes.

First, "mind maps" are mentioned three or four times, but no example is given.

Second, sampling by "random selection" is condoned three times, without any mention of segment or area sampling, and without any consideration of how precariously ideological the notion of randomness is in the humanities.
Third, the map includes no place for the people drawing the map, suggesting the authority and vision of omniscient narration. On this level, the authors have not drawn out the epistemological consequences of their discounting of value-free description. In fact, they have assumed a position of supreme power.

One could argue, of course, that those more political issues require another book, for researchers who are no longer beginners. Fair enough. So let us look forward to the day when we have a map for students able to tear apart the entire discipline, to question the naïve assumptions of all previous research, and to redefine the terrain not only with respect to where we have come from, but with a view to where they want to go.

Awaiting that second book, we will live well enough with the map as it stands. If it has quietly converted a few isolated settlements into the image of a whole land, no matter. The result is necessarily a guide to what has been done, to the past, to what should be, for the best of our students, a country that is not theirs.


      © Anthony Pym 2002

© Anthony Pym 2014
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