Triangulation is a way of combining different methodologies which enables researchers to increase the validity in their findings. This is done by having the biases generated from weakness in one method, to be voided by the strength(s) of another method. (Seale 1999) Triangulation, however, is not based around using only 3 different methods, but as many different methods which are needed to enhance the dependability of the findings.
Triangulation, to be used within a social science construct, needs to look at the same phenomenon but focus in on different aspects. This will result in increasing the reliability, scope and complexity of your findings. (Seale 1999) Due to this, a social scientist who uses a mixed-method approach will use triangulation. They will be able to look at their phenomenon from both a qualitative and a quantitative perspective.
The construct you start your research with will determine the type and reasoning behind your triangulation. For instance, if you are using triangulation for confirmation purposes, then you are wanting to validate qualitative results by completing a quantitative study (Hussein, 2009, p5). One of the benefits to this form of triangulation is that it can be designed to remove challenges related to various single-theory biases (Hussein, 2009, pg8). However, the challenge with using this method is that if your quantitative findings contradict your qualitative findings, are the findings still deemed to be valid? (Hussein, 2009, p8). If this is the result, should the methodology have equivalent weighting and if not, are you not introducing yet another bias which you were trying to cancel in the first place?
Triangulation is also able to increase validity of research when there is a unresearched or less researched phenomena. The Triangulation for Completeness allows a researcher to develop questions after the research has been done, which is helpful if the phenomena being researched is new to education and is less explored. This qualitative research will give researchers a starting point in developing hypotheses for which quantitative methodology can be applied (Hussein, 2009, p8). However in this occurrence, having little literature surrounding your topic could cause your findings to be questioned and analysed to a greater degree. Therefore, having this triangulation will provide the additional validity required when going though a peer-review or a “community of social researchers” (Seale, 2009 p12). This is needed if your finding are going to start the basis of a new theory or educational movement.
All in all, triangulation is considered to be important in research design as it allows the researcher to see the big picture. In addition, it attempts to apply the terms validity and reliability to a reality which is based around people’s thoughts and experiences. However, without being able to provide some evidence that your findings are reliable and valid, they may not be taken seriously on the larger educational stage (government), where quantitative data is preferred (Greenbank, 2003, p.794). There are many avenues in which mixed-methodology research can cause vast amounts of change, but unless it is seen as being robust and valid, it won’t be given a deeper and critical read.