The pattern says work a round in garter stitch (knit 1 rnd, purl 1 rnd.) for 8 rounds. My question is is it a total of eight rounds that's in parentheses for actually 16 rounds or is it eight rounds of 4 of knit and 4 of purl?
Sorry to have to say it, but it could be either. It all depends on the meaning that the person who created the pattern attaches to the word "rounds".
Does the pattern have a decent picture of the finished article? If it does you could try counting the ridges on the garter stitch, if there are 4 ridges visible, then you would knit 8 rows in total. If you can see or count more than 4 then it would be 16 rows in total.
If you can't see the garter stitch part of the garment in the picture, you are going to have to make an educated guess depending on what it is that you are creating (you didn't say what the pattern is for) and your own preferences.
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