Translation Quality Assessment in Health Research: A Functionalist Alternative to Back-Translation

Sonia Colina, Nicole Marrone, Maia Ingram, Daisey Sánchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


As international research studies become more commonplace, the importance of developing multilingual research instruments continues to increase and with it that of translated materials. It is therefore not unexpected that assessing the quality of translated materials (e.g., research instruments, questionnaires, etc.) has become essential to cross-cultural research, given that the reliability and validity of the research findings crucially depend on the translated instruments. In some fields (e.g., public health and medicine), the quality of translated instruments can also impact the effectiveness and success of interventions and public campaigns. Back-translation (BT) is a commonly used quality assessment tool in cross-cultural research. This quality assurance technique consists of (a) translation (target text [TT1]) of the source text (ST), (b) translation (TT2) of TT1 back into the source language, and (c) comparison of TT2 with ST to make sure there are no discrepancies. The accuracy of the BT with respect to the source is supposed to reflect equivalence/accuracy of the TT. This article shows how the use of BT as a translation quality assessment method can have a detrimental effect on a research study and proposes alternatives to BT. One alternative is illustrated on the basis of the translation and quality assessment methods used in a research study on hearing loss carried out in a border community in the southwest of the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-293
Number of pages27
JournalEvaluation and the Health Professions
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Spanish
  • audiology
  • back-translation
  • border health
  • cross-cultural
  • evaluation
  • health research
  • methodology
  • quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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