cApStAn's role in Social and attitudinal surveys

What makes a survey reliable? Pre-school children or ageing people, migrants, women as victims of violence, minorities, blue-collar workers, or worshippers of different religions: each target population calls for a specific treatment of register; survey questions need to ask the same questions in different regions, different cultures and different languages. This relies on a robust design for cross-cultural adaptation of questionnaires.

cApStAn has accumulated a wealth of experience in translating surveys. In the wake of Professor Janet Harkness’ teachings, our approach is to integrate translation and adaptation into the questionnaire design. The Cross-Cultural Survey Guidelines are our lodestar for the translation and adaptation of instruments such as:


  • Attitudinal Surveys
    These are surveys that measure trust in political institutions or attitudes to inclusiveness, the morale of science teachers or the importance of religion for a given target group. Subjective self-reports yield data that can be analyzed objectively. Our linguists are specially trained to address concerns that are specific to adaptation of psychological instruments in general and of these questionnaires in particular.


  • Social Science Surveys
    The target population often includes respondents from all walks of life and from different age cohorts. If one adds the geographical and linguistic diversity to the mix, a sophisticated design is required to minimize meaning and perception shifts. We often work in multiple stages with several partner organizations: the ‘D’ in TRAP-D stands for documentation, and that is one area where cApStAn has an unequalled track record: each adaptation choice is documented, for each question and each language.


  • Company surveys
    These are instruments that require as much ex-ante harmonization as possible. Will terms such as ‘employee’, ‘blue-collar worker’, ‘middle management’, ‘social insurance’, ‘self-employed’ or ‘payroll’ be translated so as to be understood the same way by the respondents of different countries? This requires upstream work on bilingual glossaries and validation by local experts with a view to building consensus before the actual translation process begins.


  • Health Surveys
    Whether patients or caretakers are surveyed, the topics are highly sensitive, and different symptoms may be perceived or reported in very different ways across cultures. Here, too, questionnaire translation needs to be embedded in the survey design.


See a selection of our references below.