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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Target Language Research Project

About this Module

This module is compulsory for students starting a year abroad in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. The module aims to offer students an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of an aspect or aspects of their studies by researching and writing a research project in the target language in an area in which the School can offer specialized supervision. By providing experience in planning, documenting, and writing an extended piece of work, the TLRP will increase the facility of students to express themselves at a suitable academic level in the target language, and will offer experience in presenting and referencing a piece of writing according to standard academic conventions. The TLRP will provide invaluable practice, particularly at the level of the inculcation and assimilation of primary research skills, for students taking a dissertation module in MLAC and for those hoping to progress to postgraduate study.

The TLRP aims to develop and enhance strategies for independent learning and initiative, foster a genuine commitment to research and the utilization of appropriate research methodologies, provide the ability to organize and manage a longer project, and offer the ability to write fluently and accurately in the target language. By focusing on questions of intercultural awareness at an advanced intellectual level, the TLRP offers a forum for academic engagement and reflection in matters of critical interest relevant to the contexts and environments under discussion. The TLRP seeks to enhance the employability of students by allowing them to demonstrate their ability as independent learners and researchers in the context of a research project that dovetails with the University’s Principles for the Development of the Taught Curriculum. Skills will be developed specifically through an extended enquiry-led activity that will provide students with the competences to succeed in the world of work and the ability to manage their own intellectual and professional development. By focusing specifically on questions of relevant intercultural interest, students will develop as international citizens so that they can make a positive contribution to an increasingly globalized society.

Preparation and Topic Selection

Students will prepare for the TLRP by taking the relevant core language modules at levels 1 and 2, and by attending the School’s Ongoing Induction programme, which focuses on the development of key research skills including academic writing, evaluating and using sources, and approaches to textual analysis. Students will receive language-specific instruction as part of their second-year core language modules.

Supervisors will be allocated to each student on week seven of Epiphany term and initial meetings will be scheduled on week 8. A list of general topic areas will be made available to students in year 2. The specific topic of each TLRP will be agreed with the supervisor, and students will follow an agreed programme of reading whilst supplementing their work by displaying evidence of independent research skills and initiative.

Supervision

In addition to online materials accessible via the Library, materials for each topic area will be made available on DUO, and if students are travelling to destinations where internet access is limited, they will be expected to make sensible use of these in advance. The specific formulation of the TLRP will be discussed in conjunction with the student’s supervisor, and students will follow an agreed programme of reading on their Year Abroad whilst supplementing their work by displaying evidence of independent research and bibliographic initiative. As students are expected to spend AT LEAST seven months in the host culture if studying a single language, or AT LEAST four months in each host culture if studying two languages, it is expected that they will engage with the TLRP as soon as they arrive, and that they will work towards initial consultation with their supervisor within one month of arrival.

Supervisors will give feedback via email at three distinct phases of production: (a) an initial compulsory proposal of no more than 200 words outlining an approach to the chosen topic area, which will have to be approved by the supervisor before proceeding onto the next stage; (b) a 500-word essay plan outlining the direction to be explored in the project and listing key bibliographic items that have already proven to be useful; and (c) a 500-word sample from the essay. In each instance, comments and feedback will be given to the student on standardized TLRP feedback forms. To ensure parity of treatment between students completing the TLRP, supervisors will not read additional drafts or give any other form of additional guidance. Any changes of topic must be approved by the supervisor.

Assessment Permutations

Students studying one language at final year will be required to complete a long TLRP. For students taking French, German, Italian, and Spanish, the TLRP will be 5,000 words in length, while for students of Arabic or Russian, the TLRP will be 4,000 words in length.

Students studying two languages at final year will be required to complete shorter TLRPs for both languages. For students taking French, German, Italian, and Spanish, the TLRP will be 2,500 words in length, while for students of Arabic or Russian, the TLRP will be 2,000 words in length.

Submission and Feedback

Finalized TLRPs must be submitted electronically by the 1 September in advance of Michaelmas Term. Students will receive written feedback by the second week of the Michaelmas Term, and key aspects of good practice applicable to the dissertation will be discussed with the relevant dissertation supervisor. Assessment will evaluate students’ ability to assimilate, understand and analyse critically the primary and secondary material associated with their topics; their intercultural awareness; their ability to present a sustained argument with suitable evidence; their ability to express themselves fluently and accurately in the target language, paying due attention to the relevant conventions of academic writing; and the extent to which their experience abroad has informed the project. Students will also be expected to produce a full and properly presented bibliography.

The TLRP is not credit-bearing, but a mark for each essay will be shown on the student’s degree transcript. Students whose average mark for the two essays is at least 40% will have passed the TLRP (2 Languages) and will proceed to the Year Abroad programme; those whose average mark for the two essays is below 40% will be transferred to the non-year abroad version of the programme.

Overall Academic Coordinator:

Dr Penny Johnson (penelope.johnson@durham.ac.uk), Room ER234, Elvet Riverside

Administrative Coordinator:

Ms Kathleen Lowson (kathleen.lowson@durham.ac.uk), Room A35 Elvet Riverside