In social research, triangulation is often taken simply to mean viewing things from different angles. For example, if an educator evaluated teaching drawing from two or more learning theories (e.g. Kolb's experiential learning and Lave & Wenger's situated learning theories) he or she would be engaging in a form of theoretical triangulation. Triangulation can avoid 'inappropriate certainty' (Robson 2002: 370) and can therefore add rigour and validity to social enquiry.
Core reading provided in the module pack: page extracts from Denscombe (2007: 133-139)
Martyn Denscombe identifies several different forms of triangulation including theoretical triangulation and methodological triangulation. For example, to explore disruptive behaviour in classrooms, methodological triangulation could involve: observation in classrooms; interviews with staff and students; and reading of school documents and records. This could help develop a fuller and more complete picture of the topic than relying on one source alone.
It is worth considering the advantages and disadvantages of engaging in triangulation. It can be used straightforwardly and can also be developed in progressively more complex ways to enhance the coherence of the research proposal. For example, triangulation can enable multiple levels of interpretation to be brought to bear on a particular topic.
Optional extension activities
1/ Denscombe (2007: 297-8) on respondent validation.
2/ Miles and Huberman (cited in Robson 2002: 485) on member checking.
3/ Chapter 7 in Sullivan (1984) on the adequacy of interpretation and his four conditions of adequacy (negotiation, argument, emancipation and criticality).