The term ‘triangulation’ is used by social scientists to describe the technique of integrating multiple lines of investigation and analysis of a topic of inquiry to ensure the integrity of data sources, to enhance the insights of analytical inquiry, as well as to enhance confidence in the ensuing findings.1
Triangulation can be used in both quantitative (validation) and qualitative (inquiry) studies, and it can be used to integrate both.2 Triangulation helps overcome limitations imposed on qualitative studies via sampling criteria for reliability and validity combining multiple observers, theories, methods, and empirical materials, researchers can hope to overcome the weakness or intrinsic biases and the problems that come from single method, single-observer and single-theory studies.
Triangulation is not aimed merely at validation but at deepening and widening one’s understanding, and tends to support interdisciplinary research rather than a strongly bounded discipline of sociology or anthropology.2
Notes on Etymology
- Theory 1: The term ‘triangulation’ is borrowed from navigational techniques for locating a single point in multi-dimensional space by evaluating the convergence of measurements from other distinct points. The idea is that one can be more confident with a result of data collection and analysis if different methods lead to the same outcomes.
- Theory 2: The term derives from surveying, where it refers to the use of a series of triangles to map out an area.1
References and Further Reading
- Jick, Todd D. 1979. “Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Triangulation in Action”. Cornell University.
- Olsen, Wendy. “Triangulation in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods Can Really be Mixed”. In Holborn, Ormskirk (eds.). 2004. Developments in Sociology. Causeway Press.
- Wikipedia. n.d. “Triangulation (social science)”.
[Last Accessed 2015-Feb-02; Date last modified: 6 November 2014, at 16:53.]