Areas of Study

Minhua Liu

Dr. Minhua Liu

A tale of research questions and their methodologies

A good research study starts with asking the right research question and justifying the rationale for conducting the research. Research design, in turn, is the glue that holds the research study together (Trochim, 2006).

While most topics can be studied using more than one research method, a research question often dictates a specific method. Each research method has its own set of assumptions which can only be met when there is consistency between the research question, and the method.

In this talk, I will give examples of different research topics in interpreting studies and discuss how different perspectives of these topics can be formulated using different research questions. I will also present some research methods – both quantitative and qualitative – and their underlying assumptions. I will then present cases where research questions and their research methods match or fail to match in terms of the assumptions of these research methods.

Experiments in interpreting studies – which independent variables and dependent variables?

In experimental studies, an independent variable is inherently tied to the research question.

However, the way a construct is translated into an independent variable is not necessarily obvious and sometimes requires some degree of thinking outside the box and clever manipulation. Choosing a dependent variable, on the other hand, may be quite straightforward, though choosing a way to measure them precisely and reliably can be complicated.

In this talk, I will discuss how constructs can be operationalized into independent variables, the considerations to take when manipulating independent variables (particularly in terms of the constraints often faced in interpreting studies), as well as the necessary controls for potential confounding variables. Dependent variables will be discussed in terms of their sensitivity in capturing task-internal variations, differences between tasks, and individual differences (Kahneman, 1973). Independent and dependent variables from published studies in interpreting studies will be used as examples to illustrate these discussions.

Guest Scholar Bio

Minhua Liu is Associate Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), where she teaches Mandarin-English interpreting and interpreting research courses. She received her M.A. degree in translation and interpretation from MIIS and a Ph.D. degree in Foreign Language Education from the University of Texas at Austin.

Before joining MIIS, she taught in Taiwan and was once director of the Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation Studies of Fu Jen University. She is co-editor of the journal Interpreting and is convener of the Research Committee of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC).

Her main research interests lie in the cognitive aspects of interpreting and evaluation and testing in interpreting. One of her research projects led to Taiwan’s first certification examination for translators and interpreters. She is an interpreter and has interpreted for international conferences in Asia and North America for more than twenty year.

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2015 Summer Interpreting and Translation Research Institute



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