Knowledge Translation


What is Knowledge Translation?

Knowledge translation is defined by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as a “dynamic and iterative process that includes synthesis, dissemination, exchange, and ethically-sound application of knowledge” in decision making (1). Quite simply, KT is the process of putting knowledge into action. It goes beyond passive dissemination, and focuses on ensuring knowledge is packaged and delivered in a way that ensures it is actively taken up and effectively used in practice (2).

Graham and colleagues describe the KT process using a knowledge to action framework (Figure 1) (3-5). This framework depicts a knowledge creation component (the “funnel” in the centre of the figure) and an action cycle (the activities surrounding the central knowledge funnel). The knowledge funnel is where knowledge is generated, aggregated and tailored to its end users; the action cycle describes the activities that are then needed to put this knowledge to use.

Figure 1. The Knowledge to Action Cycle (4)



Why is Knowledge Translation important?

In the context of health care and patient-oriented research, KT aims to strengthen and improve the health care system by leading to more effective health services and products (4). KT is necessary to fill the gaps between what we know works and what we actually do in practice. It is essential for engaging patients in research (described below in Integrated KT) and ensures all produced knowledge is disseminated through appropriate channels, in an accessible format, for both a patient user audience and health professionals and decision makers.



When do you do Knowledge Translation?

CIHR defines two main types of KT: 1) End-of-Grant KT, and 2) Integrated KT.

KT at the end of a grant or project refers to the development and implementation of a dissemination plan – in other words, how your knowledge users will learn about the knowledge you have produced (1).

Integrated KT describes a process by which knowledge users (decision makers, policy makers, stakeholders) and knowledge producers (researchers) work closely together throughout the research process. Knowledge users are engaged in determining research questions and methods, and in interpreting, analyzing and disseminating the results. This approach helps ensure research findings are relevant to knowledge users’ needs and are more likely to be taken up in practice (1,6)



How do you do Knowledge Translation?

KT can be further categorized as KT practice and KT science. KT practice is what has been described above: moving research evidence, or knowledge, into practice and policy (7). The science of KT, also known as implementation science or research, is the study of the methods used to promote knowledge uptake (8).

When thinking about translating research findings, you should ask yourself: 1) what is the knowledge I want to share; 2) who is the target audience; 3) who will deliver the knowledge; 4) how should the knowledge be shared; and 5) what effect or impact do I expect this knowledge to have? (7)

KT strategies can then include general communications (publications, media releases, social media campaigns), as well as activities targeted at specific user groups, such as briefings to stakeholders, education sessions with patients, or the use of knowledge brokers (9,10)



How can MSSU help with your Knowledge Translation needs?

MSSU can support you in the following ways:

  • Consult with research teams on integrated and end-of-grant KT;
  • Support research teams through planning and implementing KT strategies;
  • Provide resources and tools for KT; and
  • Build capacity for KT in the MSSU community through training.

Submit a research intake request for support with your knowledge translation needs. 



Additional Resources for Knowledge Translation



Groups & Organizations




  1. Canadian Institutes of Health Research. More about knowledge translation at CIHR. 2014; Available at: Accessed November 14, 2014.

  2. Straus SE, Tetroe J, Graham I. Defining knowledge translation. CMAJ 2009 Aug 4;181(3-4):165-168.

  3. Graham ID, Logan J, Harrison MB, Straus SE, Tetroe J, Caswell W, et al. Lost in knowledge translation: time for a map? J Contin Educ Health Prof 2006 Winter;26(1):13-24.

  4. Straus SE, Tetroe J, Graham ID. Knowledge translation: What it is and what it isn't. In: Straus SE, Tetroe J, Graham ID, editors. Knowledge Translation in Health Care: Moving from Evidence to Practice. 2nd ed. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.; 2013. p. 3-13.

  5. KT Clearinghouse. KT Knowledge Base: The Knowledge-to-Action Cycle. Available at: Accessed 01/09, 2014.

  6. Bowen S, Graham ID. Integrated knowledge translation. In: Straus SE, Tetroe JM, Graham ID, editors. Knowledge Translation in Health Care: Moving from Evidence to Practice. 2nd ed. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.; 2013. p. 14-23.

  7. Grimshaw JM, Eccles MP, Lavis JN, Hill SJ, Squires JE. Knowledge translation of research findings. Implement Sci 2012 May 31;7:50-5908-7-50.

  8. Curran JA, Grimshaw JM, Hayden JA, Campbell B. Knowledge translation research: the science of moving research into policy and practice. J Contin Educ Health Prof 2011 Summer;31(3):174-180.

  9. Urquhart R, Porter GA, Grunfeld E. Reflections on knowledge brokering within a multidisciplinary research team. J Contin Educ Health Prof 2011 Fall;31(4):283-290.

  10. LaRocca R, Yost J, Dobbins M, Ciliska D, Butt M. The effectiveness of knowledge translation strategies used in public health: a systematic review. BMC Public Health 2012 Sep 7;12:751-2458-12-751.


This page was last updated: September 2016