Are We Asking the Same Questions in Different Contexts: Translation Techniques in Cross-Culture Studies in Science Education?

  • Mohamed Moustafa Ali
Keywords: Cross-culture Studies, Cultural Validity, Translation Techniques, Forward Translation, Back Translation, Collaborative Translation, Combined Translation Approach


Translating an existing research instrument into another language is cheaper and faster than developing a new instrument. This may explain why many science educators have translated instruments developed and validated in English into different languages for measuring the variable(s) of interest for different cultures. The quality of the translation technique may affect the validity of the results in science education studies. This study aimed at exploring the science education researchers’ research instrument translation techniques: a) as a major purpose study, b) to be used in cross-cultural studies, and c) to measure variable(s) of interest in different culture. Articles published in three journals were selected for review, namely: Research in Science Education (105 issues), International Journal of Science Education (347 issues), and International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education (60 issues). The analysis revealed that a forward translation of the quantitative instruments from the source language to the target language is the most commonly used translation technique by the science education researchers (61.5 %). However, it may not ensure cultural equivalence for the target instrument when researchers use it in cross-cultural studies. Thus, consensus among science educators on how to translate an instrument, which is validated in one culture, to be used in a different culture is needed. Based on the findings, some educational implications of interest for the translation approaches are discussed.