Modifying and Translating Measures

Most established instruments developed on mainstream populations may need adaptation or translation for research with diverse populations. We provide several resources on these issues.

Methods for translating measures

As the U.S. population become more diverse, it is important to conduct health research within non-English speaking populations. Health researchers have made progress in identifying best practices for translating survey instruments into other languages and for assessing the quality of translations. Nonetheless, current standards for translation procedures are lacking and few researchers report their methods of translation. A well-translated survey instrument should have semantic equivalence across languages, conceptual equivalence across cultures, and normative equivalence to the source survey.

Download Guidelines for Translating Measures

Methods for modifying measures

Research in health disparities and minority aging necessitates use of self-report measures. Most established instruments were developed on mainstream populations and may need adaptation for research with diverse populations. Although information is increasingly available on problems applying these measures in diverse groups, there is little guidance on how to modify the measures when problems are found. We provide two resources pertaining to issues in modifying measures for research in diverse populations of older adults.

1) Framework of issues in modifying measures: We provide a framework of issues to consider when modifying measures for diverse populations. Our framework includes: 1) reasons for considering modifications or why a modification would be needed; 2) the basis for modifications, or the types of information that can be used to make the modifications; and 3) types of modifications researchers have made. We recommend testing modified measures to assure they are appropriate. Suggestions are made on reporting modifications in publications using the measures. This effort opens a dialogue about what appropriate guidelines would be for researchers adapting measures in studies of ethnically diverse populations.

Citation: Stewart AL, Thrasher AM, Goldberg J. A framework for understanding modifications to measures for diverse populations. Journal of Aging and Health, 2012 Sep;24(6):992-1017. PMC3768261.

2) Modifying measures of perceived discrimination: As a specific example, we discuss how perceived discrimination would need to be measured to conduct research using three theoretical frameworks of discrimination and health - stress-process, life course, and Public Health Critical Race praxis. We review four well-known measures of perceived discrimination in terms of their applicability to each theory. Our approach illustrates the process of reviewing measures for appropriateness to particular research questions, including potential modifications that might be needed, in addition to identifying measurement issues in studying mechanisms by which discrimination affects health.

Citation: Thrasher AD, Clay OJ, Ford CL, and Stewart AL. Theory-guided selection of discrimination measures for racial/ethnic health disparities research among older adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 2012 Sep;24(6):1018-43. PMC3693449.