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Development of Census Bureau Survey Interpretation Guidelines

Yuling Pan, Jennifer Leeman, and Marissa Fond


This report documents challenges in survey interpretation and demonstrates the need to develop a set of guidelines for field representatives to identify appropriate interpreters and to work with them effectively. Because competent survey interview interpretation is so important for maintaining data quality as well as for ensuring the language access for all U.S. residents required by Executive Order 13166, it is essential for the U.S. Census Bureau to develop procedures to increase the efficiency and quality of survey interpretation. The interpretation guidelines presented in this report are intended to provide technical guidance for program areas to develop easy-to-use field materials for field representatives so as to assist their work with non-English speaking households. Recommendations for best practices for identifying interpreters and facilitating interpretation in survey interview situations are provided based on research on interpretation and cross-cultural communication. The operationalization of the guidelines will constitute the next stage of their development. Creating training and other materials from these guidelines, in addition to improving data quality and increasing efficiency, should also reduce respondent burden by making the interpreted interviews run more smoothly.


Yuling Pan, Jennifer Leeman, and Marissa Fond. (2013). Development of Census Bureau Survey Interpretation Guidelines. Center for Survey Measurement Study Series (Survey Methodology #2013-27). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research and Methodology Directorate, Center for Survey Measurement

Published online: November 26, 2013
Last revised: November 26, 2013


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Research and Methodology Directorate | Center for Survey Measurement | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: November 26, 2013