Lost in translation: Review of identification bias, translation bias and research waste in dentistry

Danielle M Layton, Michael Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To review how articles are retrieved from bibliographic databases, what article identification and translation problems have affected research, and how these problems can contribute to research waste and affect clinical practice.

METHODS: This literature review sought and appraised articles regarding identification- and translation-bias in the medical and dental literature, which limit the ability of users to find research articles and to use these in practice.

RESULTS: Articles can be retrieved from bibliographic databases by performing a word or index-term (for example, MeSH for MEDLINE) search. Identification of articles is challenging when it is not clear which words are most relevant, and which terms have been allocated to indexing fields. Poor reporting quality of abstracts and articles has been reported across the medical literature at large. Specifically in dentistry, research regarding time-to-event survival analyses found the allocation of MeSH terms to be inconsistent and inaccurate, important words were omitted from abstracts by authors, and the quality of reporting in the body of articles was generally poor. These shortcomings mean that articles will be difficult to identify, and difficult to understand if found. Use of specialized electronic search strategies can decrease identification bias, and use of tailored reporting guidelines can decrease translation bias. Research that cannot be found, or cannot be used results in research waste, and undermines clinical practice.

SIGNIFICANCE: Identification- and translation-bias have been shown to affect time-to-event dental articles, are likely affect other fields of research, and are largely unrecognized by authors and evidence seekers alike. By understanding that the problems exist, solutions can be sought to improve identification and translation of our research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalDental Materials
Issue number1
Early online date09 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Abstracting and Indexing as Topic
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Dental Research
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Medical Subject Headings
  • Research Report
  • Writing
  • Journal Article
  • Review

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