Working with interpreters in cross-cultural qualitative research in the context of a developing country: systematic literature review

Yoko Shimpuku, Kathleen F Norr
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2012, 68 (8): 1692-706

AIMS: This article is a report of a systematic literature review describing how cross-cultural researchers conducted qualitative studies with interpreters in Tanzania. The purpose was to draw methodological implications for working with interpreters within the context of developing countries.

BACKGROUND: In a growing number of cross-cultural nursing studies in developing countries, interpreters play a crucial role for imparting verbal and cultural understanding. In many studies, however, the interpreters' role and their influences on the findings are not adequately described, and therefore the study credibility is weakened.

DATA SOURCES: Cross-cultural qualitative studies conducted with interpreters in Tanzania were searched in four databases. Meeting our inclusion criteria were 20 studies published from 1994-2009.

REVIEW METHODS: We used Garrard's Matrix Method following Wallin and Ahlström's framework to analyse how cross-cultural researchers described the role of interpreters.

RESULTS: We identified three major patterns of how researchers worked with interpreters: (i) invisible assistance, (ii) independent fieldwork and (iii) integrated collaboration. In many studies, interpreters' information was limited. They were often asked to collect data in the field without the presence of the researcher. They were integrated into the research process beyond data collection, such as subject recruitment, review of interviews, transcription and translation and analysis.

CONCLUSION: From planning of research to dissemination of the findings, nurse researchers should carefully consider interpreters' influences on the findings. They may use a set of questions we developed for working with interpreters in developing countries to systematically describe the interpreter's role and maximize their research credibility.

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