Analysing the Role of Triangulation in Research
M. Rezaul Karim*
Research is always conducted to find out solution(s) of a problem. There are so many factors involved in the research process from data collection to result analysis. These factors sometimes distort the result, sometimes influence the findings. But a valid and reliable result is always wanted and widely acceptable. To make the research result bias free, valid and generalised triangulation plays an important role in this area by increasing the rate of certainty and bringing neutrality. It is process of using more than one method, theory, researcher and data collection method & technique to make the research findings more valid, reliable and generalisable.
Triangulation is the means of reducing bias in research and increases the rate of certainty of the research findings. It goes without saying that triangulation is very important in research methodologies. The beneficiary groups or incumbent of the research topic want findings bias free, reliable even tested in the long run. Researchers do for the people following some techniques, process from data collection to interpretation, analysing those collected data. The whole process involves many things to be done. In every step, for the component neutrality is necessary. And this is the issue of triangulation. It follows the means how to reduce partiality and raise neutrality and certainty. Tomlinson (2006) remarks it serves as a check on the validity and reliability. In the research triangulation indicates the real position of research. It involves locating a true position by referring to two or more other coordinators Densccombe (2003:133).
Reviewing literatures there are four approaches of triangulation are found. In every stage it is necessary to avoid bias and should unitise authentic data and information that will certainly lead a research to acceptable conclusion to everybody.
This essay aims to discuss the importance of all forms of triangulation approaches in research methodologies and examine the importance thereof and how they play vital role for reliable and valid research findings.
It is a process of overcoming bias and developing certainty in the research methodology checking data validity, reliability, theoretical issues, interviewers’ biasness and methodological problems. In terms of significance Jick (1979) and Thietart et al (2001:83) discusses ‘triangulation allows the researcher to benefit from the advantages of the two approaches, counterbalancing the defects of one approach with qualities of the other.’ Denzin (1978) defines triangulation as ‘the combination of methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon’. ‘Introducing triangulation into research design is one means whereby the evidence collected from one source is corroborated by evidence collected from another source , with the discrepancies emerging between the two sets of data altering researchers to potential analytical errors. Thus, triangulation can enhance our belief that results are valid and not a methodological artefact.’ Bouchard (1976) and Adam and Healy (2000: 58). Ghauri, et al (1995:94) defines triangulation as the combination of methodologies in the study of a same phenomenon. So it is seen that every author defines the triangulations as the combination of different approaches and methods in the same phenomenon that helps the researcher to overcome bias and uncertainty in the research findings in order to be widely acceptable and useful for the future research.
Triangulation is system of using more than one method where all methods interrelated to provide dependable research result. Decommbe (2000) shows the true location of triangulation discussing the interrelation between methods
According to Esterby-Smith, e t al (2002), Denzin (1970) in Thomas (2004:23) four types of triangulation are identified.
2.1 Data Triangulation: Here data is collected from different sources in the study of a phenomenon.
2.2 Theoretical Triangulation: Theoretical triangulation is approach where it is taken from a discipline to describe the phenomenon of other discipline. Esterby-Smith , et al (2002:146), Thorpe and Lowe say that ‘Theoretical triangulation involves borrowing models from one discipline and using them to explain situations in another discipline.’
2.3 Triangulation by Investigator: Here different researchers collect data individually and independently for the same phenomenon. They compare the findings on the basis of collected data.
2.4 Methodological Triangulation: It is the way of using of the both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in research in order to get reliable findings. This comprises of within the method triangulation and between the method triangulation.
3.0 Importance of triangulation in Research
Triangulation has a significant role in research methodology to prove the research as an important, viable and widely accepted. It brings validity, increased methodological reliability and the rate of certainty in the research findings. It happens affecting by the all forms of triangulation used in the research.
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Forms of triangulation that affect research findings leading to acceptable results: Theme has been taken from Kane and Brun (2001)
In the triangulation in research design researchers use the evidences collecting from one to another source and minimize data errors. Thus, triangulation can enhance our belief that results are valid and not a methodological artefact. Bouchard, 1976 cited in Adam and Healy (2000:58). Denzin (1970) cited in Hussey and Hussey (1997:74) argues that the use of different methods by a number of researchers studying the same phenomenon should, if their conclusions are the same, lead to greater validity and reliability than a single methodological approach. It offers a balance between logic and stories. (http://www.ucalgary.ca/ ~dmjacobs/phd/methods)
It helps the researchers to choose relevant data collection methods, minimises uncertainty reducing bias, minimising personal affects on the research findings. ‘However, it is important that the research question is clearly focused and not confused by the methodology, adopted and that the methods are chosen in accordance with their relevance to the topic.’ (Ticehurst and Veal ,2000:51). As the triangulation ‘can produce a more complete, holistic and contextual portrait of the object under the study’ (Ghauri, e t al , 1995:94) it provides advantage to the research. Even it can be useful technique in complex phenomena. (Cohen and Manion, 1989:277)
Triangulation is employed for a number of reasons. Sarantakos (1998) shows the reasons and summarises its importance in the research. It allows the researcher:
- to obtain a variety of information on the same issue;
- to use the strength of each method to overcome the deficiencies of the other;
- to achieve a higher degree of validity and reliability; and
- to overcome the deficiencies of single-method studies.
Reviewing literature it is seen that there some importance of triangulations that can be categorised into six points.
1. Triangular techniques are suitable when a more holistic view is sought in research. Most research of this kind looks at an achievement or skill outcome rather than the development of attitudes.
2. Triangulation has special relevance where a complex phenomenon requires elucidation. Because of the contrasting philosophies, objectives and practices in the two classes, single method provides limited value, but the adaptation of multimethod approach would give very different features. Can get more realistic view.
3. It is appropriate when different methods of learning are to be evaluated. Skills criteria can be found here.
4. It is suitable for controversial aspect of research where needed to be evaluated more fully. Here these could measure and investigate factors such achievement, teaching methods, practical skills, cultural interests, social skills, interpersonal skills, community spirit and so on. Validity could be then increased.
5. It is useful when an established approach yields a limited and frequently distorted picture.
6. It can be useful technique where a researcher is engaged in case study particularly examining a complex phenomenon. ( Cohen and Manion 1989:275-7)
3.1 Data Triangulation:
It is a process of using more than one data collection technique to make the research findings more reliable and variable . For the research methodology data is the main factor to influence the research result. In terms of data collection there is possibility to collect data from less important sources, even less important data. If the researchers are having no experience their data collection may be affected by the ignorance of interviewees who may give wrong data, may be given for not understanding the question or for personal problem. Anyway these data will certainly affect the research findings. Primary data is time consuming and sometimes interviewees do not give due attention. For this reason data may be biased or incorrect that will definitely affect research findings. So data triangulation can play vital role in research methodology to get reliable result minimising data errors. Getting the primary data from the source, from an authentic source data triangulation can reduce bias. If the data collected from genuine, authentic sources research findings will be more acceptable no doubt. It would be more reliable and valid. So data triangulation proves that it is very much important in research methodology. If data triangulation is maintained, validity and reliability will be higher in the research that will lead to acceptability. To do this data triangulation examines the influence past and present time, different type of people and their level of difference and even the situation used from the different side. Everything depends on the perception and use of researchers how and when they use Blumberg et al (2005). Kane and Brun (2001:110) also remark that because of the use of different time and situation research may provide different results. To get more significant result investigators should emphasize on these everything in terms of data collection.
* PhD Student at Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA) , National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Bangkok, Thailand and Permanent Faculty Member of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC), Savar, Dhaka-1343, Bangladesh.