Triangulation refers to the use of a combination of methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon. In the military, triangulation means a strategy that uses multiple references to locate the exact position of an object. In reference to Salkind (2010), there are four types of triangulation (p.1537). First data triangulation uses multiple data sources in an investigation. Secondly, investigator triangulation employs several evaluators in observation and in analyzing participant responses. Thirdly, in theory triangulation, multiple theories are used in conducting research or interpreting data. Lastly, methodological triangulation employs several methods to study a single problem. Qualitative and quantitative methods should not be viewed as rival camps, but as methods that are complementary to each other. Single method designs have been found to have weaknesses and therefore, the desirable use of multiple methods has been highly underscored. Thus this method combines the positions of the realist, constructionist and empiricist to get data and information.
The use of triangulation has many benefits compared to single method research designs. Triangulation allows for various data sources to be obtained that lead to a singular proposition about the phenomenon being investigated. According to Mathison (1988), good research obligates the researcher to use multiple methods, data sources and researchers to enhance the validity of their research findings (p.13). This is done by comparing and cross-checking findings. This means that the final conclusions of the research are validated by the various but harmonized data from various sources.
Research Findings and Discussion
Triangulation is perceived to be a strategy of improving research or evaluation findings. It is suppose to show that the independent measures agree with it or at least do not contradict it. Triangulation is a strong and valid strategy against bias and dismissal of rival ideas so that the truth about a phenomenon under research is established. The convergence or agreement between two methods enhances our belief that the findings are valid and is deemed to represent reality.
In reference to Salkind (2010), studies that employ triangulation typically yield three outcomes: convergence, inconsistency or contradiction (p.1538). Researchers that are influenced by constructivist philosophy are not primarily interested in the convergence of the data, but expansion the existing knowledge on the problem under investigation. Constructivists belief that inconsistency or contradiction is an opportunity to explore multiple realities that surround the subject under investigation. Quantitative triangulation enables the comparison of the establishment of the degree of compatibility of information obtained from different methods. In addition, every type of data has its own strengths and weaknesses and in using multiple methods, the weakness of one method will compensated by the strength of another approach that is concurrently used.
According to Salkind (2010), archived data or information may be limited in could be limited by the specificity of the information written in it, biases of the writer or distortion of information (p.1539). In view of these limitations, the researcher may opt to employ triangulation to minimize these limitations and other possible errors. In summation, combining multiple observers, theories, methods and empirical materials, the challenges of weakness or bias that result from single method design, single observer and single theory studies can be overcome. According to Goodwin and Laura (1996), there is no inherent incompatibility between qualitative and quantitative to the generation of knowledge, and therefore should be both used to realize accuracy and validity (p.157).
Qualitative research refers to the method that is supported by a set of hypotheses, concerning how the social world functions. Therefore, it entails non-numerical data and as a result cannot be analyzed using statistics. According to Schwartz (2010), this method deduces much of its basic principles from the perspective that there are fundamental difference between the science of the natural human world and the science of the natural world, hence the need for the use of distinctive methods. The pattern of qualitative research, like a scientific research: seeks answers to a question; systematically uses a set of guidelines to answer the question; collects evidence; generates new findings and produces findings that are useful beyond the immediate boundaries of the study.
The purpose of qualitative research is to put emphasis on describing and understanding complex phenomena. It investigates the relationship and patterns among factors or the context in which the activity happens, thus giving in-depth comprehensive information. According Schwartz (2010), this method also evolving theories or conceptual bases and in proposing hypotheses to clarify phenomena. The flexible nature of the qualitative method enables the researcher to ask open-ended questions. This also gives the participants the freedom to respond in their own words, which can be more complex than the simple ‘yes or ‘no’. The questions relate to the quality, described by nature and the essence of the phenomenon under investigation. Three common Qualitative methods are: participant observation; focus groups and in-depth interviews. The data is considered as real, rich and deep.
Quantitative research involves quantification of relationships between variables, the examples of which are height, weight, treatment or performance. The quantitative method is deductive and particularistic, and is founded on the formulation of hypothesis and the subsequent verification on a specific set of data. This method explains phenomena by collecting numerical data that are then subjected to analysis using mathematically based methods. This method: begins with an idea, usually a stated hypothesis; generates data through measurement; allows for conclusion through deduction and is reliable and valid if done well.
According to Hopkins (2000), the quantitative research methods can be descriptive, meaning that it can be measured only once, or experimental, that is, measured before and after treatment. The questions that are asked in quantitative research method such as, how much or how many, are concerned with quantity. The purpose of the quantitative method is to verify or generate new information by drawing conclusions from mathematical analysis of data based on formulated hypothesis. The fact that it focuses on the frequency of occurrence can help in guiding decisions around screening, diagnosis, and prognosis as well as establishing cause and effect relationships.
Study Proposal: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
Due to increased competition and a quest to remain as a leader in the market, a certain company wishes to find out how customers perceive the company and its products. The company, instead of using its own employees to get the customer perspective decides to employ the services of an independent third party. The independent third party will ask questions for both the company and its products. The data collection may involve the use of observation, customer participation or interviews. The data collected has both qualitative and quantitative aspects. By employing the services of an independent third party, the creation of triangulation perspectives the use of triangulation and overcomes the challenges of single observer surveys.
In conclusion, the use of triangulation, besides ensuring that the weaknesses associated with single observer design are eliminated, creates a high degree of validity due to convergence of data collected using different methods. The new information generated can form a platform for further research in the future. Recent research shows that qualitative and quantitative methods are compatible and complementary to each other, thus the weakness of one method is supported by the strength of another. Organizations that have used triangulation triangulation in their research have reported of credible and valid findings that helped their companies make decisions that resulted in improved profitability.