Edev_501 Response wk5_3

You mentioned in your response that “triangulation of approaches increases more accurate findings for understanding social phenomena”. I’d like to ask you what you think about the notion that it isn’t ‘more accurate findings’ that are generated, but different types data that work “as checks on each other to arrive at a singular truth” (Ettinger, 2014, p. 593)?

There is an ontological problem within the notion of triangulation. As it involves a number of kinds (at least three otherwise there’d be no triangle!) of data sources including “a participant’s account in addition to the analyst’s account” (Davies & Elder, 2004, p. 141), the ontological base of all data types need to match otherwise the data may be describing the phenomenon using incompatible underlying assumptions (Denzin, 2010, p. 442). This danger is clearly articulated by Laws (cited in Bell, 2005) who points out that data derived from different “[a]ccounts … may not match tidily at all” (p. 116).

Ettinger poses the dilemma of incompatibility between data sources as they risk not only being “incompatible” with each other, but more critically, they are “incompatible with non-totalizing and non-essentialist principles” (Ettinger, 2014, p. 593). Clearly, this issue runs deep, and we must take efforts to fully understand the principles underlying the ostensibly simple and useful practice of mixing methods. Hesse-Biber (2010) reminds us that in ” mixed methods design is the assumption of a positivistic view that social reality is objective”, a view that runs counter to much of the interpretivist views espoused by mixed methods researchers.


Bell, J. (2005). Doing your research project. 4th ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Davies, A. & Elder, C. (Eds.). (2004). The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Malden: Blackwell.

Denzin, N. K. (2010). Moments, mixed methods, and paradigm dialogs. Qualitative inquiry, 16(6), 419-427.

Ettlinger, N. (2014). Delivering on Poststructural Ontologies: Epistemological Challenges and Strategies. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 13(4), 589-598.

Hesse-Biber, S. (2010). Qualitative approaches to mixed methods practice. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(6), 455-468.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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