Instrument translation process: a methods review

J Adv Nurs. 2004 Oct;48(2):175-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03185.x.


Background: Cross-cultural and international collaborative studies are needed in nursing research. Therefore, it is necessary to translate research instruments into the language of the culture being studied. In this methods review, different processes of instrument translation and evaluation of translation adequacy in published nursing research are described and classified into a hierarchy.

Methods: Studies including translation of quantitative research instruments were reviewed. Forty-seven studies were included. These were classified into six categories.

Results: Studies were classified into categories as follows: forward-only translation (2), forward-only translation with testing (7), back-translation (13), back-translation with monolingual test (18), back-translation with bilingual test (3), and back-translation with both monolingual and bilingual test (4). Strengths and weaknesses are analysed.

Conclusion: The studies reviewed used diverse methods of varying quality. There is need for consensus among researchers in how to achieve quality of instrument translation in cross-cultural research. Researchers should carefully attend to achieving and reporting evidence of the accuracy and validity of instrument translation. When back-translation fails to achieve semantic equivalence, the instrument development process should be replicated in the target language.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Translations