As per Johnson & Onwuegbuzie (2004), mixed research methodology provides reliable and valid findings as it synthesizes the collection, analysis, and incorporation of quantitative and qualitative data, in order to reach a greater meaning of the observed research problem. A variety of advantages are associated with a mixed research methodology such as more accurate answers to the research questions and hypotheses, since the information is going to be gathered from different angles.
In order to successfully complete this task please read carefully the recommended readings and identify the advantages that are associated with the adoption of research triangulation.
What is Triangulation?
The social science researchers are usually faced with a hard research work of analyzing complex phenomena and relationships, they suffer from the lack of the required resources. The researcher can follow the quantitative or the qualitative research method to express the research findings. Uncertainty associated with the social research leads the researcher to use a scientific method that confronts with the demands of science. Triangulation provides the best solution for the researcher to conduct concrete, scientific research and achieve reliable findings (Weyers, Strydom, & Huisamen, 2008).
Triangulation uses mixed methods to provide a depth of qualitative analysis combined with the accuracy of the quantitative methods. The use of mixed methods began in 1976 when Paul Lazarsfeld first used it, following by this the research on the triangulation metaphor by Campbell and the grounded theory. The sage of triangulation has grown since the 2000s (Fielding, 2012).
The idea of ‘multiple operationism’ to validate the research results was introduced by Campbell & Fiske (1959) as cited in Hussein (2009). According to Campbell & Fiske, triangulation is considered the source of credibility in the social research. The classical approach of triangulation uses the quantitative results to assure the qualitative studies. Although, triangulation can be used to validate the quantitative research in the cases where the research phenomenon has a weak theoretical basis. The classical perspectives of triangulation relate between using the mixed research methods and the validation of measurements (Archibald, 2016).
The triangulation of methods enables the researcher to focus on certain issues. These issues could be attitudinal, historical or behavioral. Linking these issues provides a broader range of accuracy, reliability and validity of the research findings (Ihantola & Kihn, 2011).
Different researchers express various views towards the use of triangulation in their researches. Authors as Olsen (2004) as cited in Johnson & Onwuegbuzie (2004), assume that triangulation could be applied to enhance the deep understanding of the investigated phenomenon. While other researchers assume that triangulation could be applied to increase the accuracy of the study in case it is used for validation.
Triangulation is broadly defined to be a method of using multiple methods, primarily the qualitative and quantitative methods in analyzing the same phenomenon to increase the study credibility (Hussein, 2009).
Five types of triangulation are used according to the level of investigation, the methodological, theoretical, investigator, data and analysis triangulation. Different methods are described according to Hussein (2009) and Torrance (2012), as follows:
- Investigator triangulation: Involvesmore than two researchers at any stage of the research for confirmation of the observation process, the interviews or the data analysis.
- Methodological triangulation:Depends on more than two methods of investigating the same phenomenon. It is mainly used in the level of the research design or the data collection. Despite its usage in the social sciences, it is confusing as it occurs on two levels in the research.
- Theoretical triangulation:Involves multiple theories in the same research to support the findings. Different theories are helpful in studying the same phenomenon from different perspectives that broaden the research area.
- Analysis triangulation: It uses more than two methods to analyze the same data to ensure validation in a qualitative and quantitative paradigm within the same research.
- Data triangulation: Refers to using multiple sources of data in the same study. It is useful because data vary according to the time it was collected.
History of Triangulation
Methodological triangulation has two types; "the between- method" and "the within- method". The between-method, also called the "across- method", utilizes a combination of the qualitative and quantitative methods in studying the phenomenon of investigation. It is helpful in studying and testing the level of external validity. The within- method depends on cross-checking the internal consistency within data collection and analysis that represent a given unique paradigm.
The same phenomenon could be interpreted by using multiple theories. Each theory provides a perspective that is why multiple theories could be discussed in the same study. The several observations of a phenomenon are better than one. This represents an advantage of using triangulation in research. Several advantages to triangulation exist according to Weyers, Strydom, & Huisamen (2008), as follows:
- Increase completeness and comprehensiveness:The multi-method approach provides different perspectives on the same phenomenon. This results in an increased level of persuasiveness, trustworthiness and quality of the research findings.
- Confirm trends and identify inconsistencies:It enables the researcher to identify the inconsistencies and the deviant dimensions of the research. Also, the findings become more reliable after eliminating the inconsistent data.
- Improves reliability and validity:It depends on the cross-checking of the results by using multiple methods, increasing the validity and reliability of the study.
Despite the advantages of using triangulation, it has disadvantages according to Weyers, Strydom, & Huisamen (2008) and Fielding (2012), as follows:
- More costly method:It is a time-consuming process that requires the involvement of many data collectors, preparation and analysis. Also, it requires expertise in using this method because of the high level of difficulty of triangulation. That is why it is more costly than using one method either quantitative or qualitative.
- Triangulation generates masses of data and meanings:The data approaching from different perspectives could result in contradictions due to the nature of the social phenomena. Also, it results in a large number of data not a data reduction. It is difficult to deal with the large volume of data compared to using only one method.
- Triangulation does not guarantee better results:It does not always result in a high quality of data. Also, the outcomes are not always satisfactory or introduce an incomplete picture.
- Triangulation might not work as a validation strategy:This assumption takes place when different epistemological assumptions are combined in the same study.
- Triangulation could use the disjunctive mixed methods.This method depends on explaining the human behavior from the perspective of the machine behavior. A certain phenomenon causes another to happen. Triangulation is used by the researcher in a conjunctive mixed method that combines the qualitative and quantitative methods (Howe, 2012).
The triangulating methods mainly aim to maintain the research findings validity through congruence and complementarity of the research results or one of them. Congruence refers to consistency, similarity or convergence of the study results. Complementarity means that one result expands upon illustrating the other. Each research method reveals an independent assessment of the same phenomenon. Also, each of them contains its biases and measurement error (Greene & McClintock, 1985)
The researcher is required to make sense of the results of using the triangulation method. He has to demonstrate the richness of the results provided in the finding based on the method of data collection and the various levels of analysis. The study should be saturated whether quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods. According to Forsey (2010), as cited in Fusch, 2015, triangulation should provide a crystal refraction that displays different points of view to reflect the meaning of the data.
Researchers as Carter (2003), (Danermark 2002) and (Sayer 2000) as cited in Olsen (2004), argue that methodological pluralism could be used as a starting point in conducting imperial research. Methodological pluralism refers to a collection of methods that allows the researcher to differentiate between the many facets of the same phenomenon in social science.
A major challenge that faces any researcher is to address data saturation. It is considered an important part of any study. It concerns with the researcher personal lens that avoids biases in data collection. The researcher cannot separate himself from the research that combines the researcher's own perspective and the cultural perspective of the research. The good researcher can recognize his own view of the phenomenon of investigation and consider the reflection of the others, then combines them in the collected data (Fusch, 2015).
Classical Approach of Triangulation
The mixed methods of data collection involve using documents, interviews, observation, recording data from different sources concerning the same topic (Barusch, Gringeri, & George, 2011). Depending on various methods of data collection ensures the adoption of triangulation. There is a direct connection exists between data saturation and data triangulation. Data triangulation ensures the data saturation. Saturation is important for all types of research (Fusch, 2015).
In conclusion, the classical approach of triangulation uses the quantitative results to assure the qualitative studies. Five types of triangulation are used according to the level of investigation, the methodological, theoretical, investigator, data and analysis. The several observations of a phenomenon are better than one. The methodological triangulation has two types; "the between- method" and "the within- method".
The triangulating methods main aim is to maintain the research findings validity through congruence and complementarity of the research results or one of them. Triangulation has advantages represented in increasing the completeness and comprehensiveness of the study, it confirm trends and identify inconsistencies and it improves reliability and validity. On the other side, triangulation has disadvantages represented in being more costly method, generates masses of data and meanings, does not guarantee better results, might not work as a validation strategy and could use the disjunctive mixed methods
The good researcher can recognize his own view of the phenomenon of investigation and consider the reflection of the others, then combines them in the collected data.
Archibald, M. (2016). Investigator triangulation: A collaborative strategy with potential for mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 10(3), 228–250.
Barusch, A., Gringeri, C., & George, M. (2011). Rigor in qualitative social work research: A review of strategies used in published articles. Social Work Research, 35(1), 11-19.
Fielding, N. (2012). Triangulation and mixed methods designs: Data integration with new research technologies. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 6(2), 124–136.
Fusch, P. (2015). Are we there yet? Data saturation in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report, 20(9), 1408-1416.
Greene, J., & McClintock, C. (1985). Triangulation in evaluation: Design and analysis issues. Evaluation Review, 9(5), 523-545.
Howe, K. (2012). Mixed methods, triangulation, and causal explanation. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 6(2), 89–96.
Hussein, A. (2009). The use of triangulation in social sciences research: Can qualitative and quantitative methods be combined? Journal of Comparative Social Work, 1, 1-12.
Ihantola, E., & Kihn, L. (2011). Threats to validity and reliability in mixed methods accounting research. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 8(1), 39-58.
Johnson, R., & Onwuegbuzie, A. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. American Educational Research Association, 33(7), 14-26.
Olsen, W. (2004). Triangulation in social research: Qualitative and quantitative methods can really be mixed. Holborn: Causeway Press.
Torrance, H. (2012). Triangulation, respondent validation, and democratic participation in mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 6(2), 111–123.
Weyers, M., Strydom, H., & Huisamen, A. (2008). Triangulation in social work research: The theory and examples of its practical application. Social Work Journal, 44(2), 207-222.