Use of Triangulation in Qualitative Research

Triangulation in Qualitative Research


Triangulation refers to the use of multiple methods or data sources in qualitative research to develop a comprehensive understanding of phenomena (Patton, 1999). Triangulation also has been viewed as a qualitative research strategy to test validity through the convergence of information from different sources. 

Denzin (1978) and Patton (1999) identified four types of triangulation: 

  • (a) method triangulation, 
  • (b) investigator triangulation, 
  • (c) theory triangulation, and
  • (d) data source triangulation. 

The current article will present the four types of triangulation followed by a discussion of the use of focus groups (FGs) and in-depth individual (IDI) interviews as an example of data source triangulation in qualitative inquiry.

Types of Triangulation 

The first type of triangulation is method triangulation. Method triangulation involves the use of multiple methods of data collection about the same phenomenon (Polit & Beck, 2012). This type of triangulation, frequently used in qualitative studies, may include interviews, observation, and field notes. 

Investigator triangulation involves the participation of two or more re- searchers in the same study to provide multiple observations and conclusions. This type of triangulation can bring both confirmations of findings and different perspectives, adding breadth to the phenomenon of interest (Denzin, 1978). 

Theory triangulation uses different theories to analyze and interpret data. With this type of triangulation, different theories or hypotheses can assist the researcher in supporting or refuting findings.

Data Source Triangulation 

Most qualitative researchers studying human phenomena collect data through interviews with individuals or groups; their selection of the type of interview depends on the purpose of the study and the resources available. 

Fontana and Frey (2000) described the IDI interview as one of the most powerful tools for gaining an understanding of human be- ings and exploring topics in depth. IDI interviews, ranging from structured and controlled to unstructured and fluid, can elicit rich information about personal experiences and perspectives (Russell, Gregory, Ploeg, DiCenso, & Guyatt, 2005). 

IDI interviews allow for spontaneity, flexibility, and responsiveness to individuals; however, conducting the interviews, transcribing the discourse, and analyzing the text often require considerable time and effort.


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