Triangulation: A Transcendental Process

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Mary Swenson

The process of triangulation is used as an enhancement to current research methodology to increase reliability, credibility, and validity. There are currently four types of triangulation that have been utilized into a tool for individual use in order to expand their leadership potential and development. Triangulation historically relates to the use of surveyors and other navigators who would use two points in order to plot a third. This is the primary instrumental essence of triangulation in research study and investigation and helps to bring what is not in existence into being. It is also a useful survival tool that anyone in an information society should know how to use as it levels the playing field in navigation of complex circumstances and terrain.

Mixed design method are becoming a prominent feature of modern day research however the original types of research methods were based upon observation and historical account. As researchers became more sophisticated, experimental design and statistical manipulation allowed for predictive and inferential extrapolation over time. Observational data analysis was the original and past form of research that was handed down from generation to generation as a way of imparting knowledge from a corpus of data that could describe through stories and historical accounts qualitative data or depict the qualities of a phenomenon under consideration. The term quantitative has represented the hard data or number crunching that occurs when items of interest are represented by numerical value or depict a condition of how certain items may or may not cluster.

With the limitations of both types of investigative inquiry the resulting mixed method or quasitative approach has increased in popularity allowing for a break through for the average individual in an information age. Indeed it is most necessary that everyone obtain information, a strategic process and an innovative formula in order to provide a planning template by which to solve problems, make decisions and as a result of the two resolve conflicts inherent to the polarization that occurs on multiple levels in the human condition. Not only do we experience polarization in our own psyche but in and among our relationships with others, between political parties and factions of the world. The ability to reconcile opposites is the hallmark of health and allows for badly needed integration of contrary conceptual mapping that underlies mental illness. This issue of application is the cause of dissention and any extreme that results in behavior. In a complicated world never before has the need for leadership or for the power of research been more germane.

Triangulation has application in a set formula for such purpose. However, in qualitative research circles four different types of triangulation research strategies are acknowledged. They are respectively triangulation of data sources (things), methods triangulation (ways), analyst triangulation (levels), and theory or perspective (times) triangulation. Each approach offers strategies for reducing bias and increasing credibility, and quality of an investigative finding (Patton, 2002). When used together in a practical everyday application a new training module for leadership is realized. Alexander the Great for example, never conquered a city or a people without thoroughly researching the people, their culture, the condition of the empires status as well as any other type of information that would allow him to evaluate the means by which they could not just be conquered but ruled.

Qualitative studies typically employ multiple forms of evidence, and there is no statistical test of significance to determine if results “count” (Eisner, 1991, p. 39). There are also no strict criteria for sample size (Patton, 2002). Judgments about usefulness and credibility are left to the researcher and the reader. In judging qualitative research, it is important to understand that “there are no operationally defined truth tests to apply to qualitative research” (Eisner, 1991, p. 53). Instead, researcher and readers “share a joint responsibility” for establishing the value of the research product (Glaser and Strauss, 1967, p. 232). Qualitative researchers bear the burden of discovering and interpreting the importance of what is observed. They are responsible for establishing a real, plausible connection between what is observed, and what conclusions are drawn, although lacking the statistical tests for significance (Eisner, 1991).

However, when a combination of the two approaches can be realized the data can be deployed into action or the leverage of will. In taking observations together with doing our own form of inquiry individuals can ascertain what works best within a given situation to determine what phenomenon is under study, to what degree it is imperative and to make determinations about what it is not. Once a complete assessment can be made regarding a particular matter what is missing can be evaluated and by instrumentally using the available information one can make an interpretation of the relationships between them and identify what can potentially be. It is the ultimate expression of theory, application, and research in one takeaway.

By obtaining relevant information from a number of perspectives validity is increased, just as the credibility of an individual is expanded when all the partials that comprise a person combine to a new complete insight or an enlightened outcome. The Buddhists discuss the elements of Satori, the Chinese Chen Sing, the west talks about Nirvana but each of these depict the clear and sudden ah ha that occurs when previously unrecognized opportunity is revealed. Satori shares many of the elements comprised in the discovery of grounded theory founded by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Another aspect of grounded theory is the contextual and relational nature of knowledge that discovers social process within a structure.

One of the hallmarks of grounded theory is that a theory is developed from the data that is usually a blend of interviews and observational material (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Another element of this approach is that researcher bias influences the formulation of the research questions and analysis. Strauss and Corbin (1994) note that grounded theorists do not merely report the viewpoints of people studied, but "accept responsibility for their interpretive roles" (p. 274). By utilizing the sequential process of deduction and induction of data movement occurs and renders an increased perspective often associated with leaders that replicates the Satori experience. The sudden connective leap is the sought after outcome of artists, corporate mystics, individuals in adversity and those who seek the truth.

Researchers through their investigations and strategic methods hope to illuminate truth and obtain the power of increased knowledge. In many ways that power and wisdom is the realization that it is how we interpret reality that makes the difference in our perceptions and thus yields our universal composite and intuitive outcomes. The role of intuition is an important consideration in any type of endeavor as it is through the combining of two aspects by which creativity occurs. Just as reality can not be without matter, in order for the space to allow it to be. It is equally true, that anytime something wonderful enters the world, something equally diametrically opposed occurs with it. In considering the will or effort exerted by an individual (referred to as “conation” by Abraham Maslow, in the 1940’s) will is the combined forces of intellect and emotion.

The process of triangulation combined with other methods of analysis can offer an innovative way to process information and obtain an enlightened perspective useful in overcoming adversity. While leaving a legacy is popular in leadership now, the insight offered here is to survive the conditions of living while keeping the soul intact. The greatest gift of all is life, and in order to live it fully one must find their own talent, nourish it for the benefit of others, and in doing so actualize to become something more than the sum of one’s experiential parts.

In the eastern philosophy nirvana, Satori, or other “transcendence”, occurs when a person has the realization through whatever struggle that they are a part of, a greater cosmic collective is operative and designed to act out the drama of opposites as they attempt to reconcile. Conflict resolution is the most important aspect to the survival process that entails a combined effort of both problem-solving and decision making. These two process tools instrumentally expose what can be, from what is, and by defining what is not, set about to create it. It is important to note that true intuitive insight comes from not only rational strategy but irrational leaps of imagination that have a certainty that belies definition.

As characteristic of the Satori experience there is a strong affirmation as well as a neutrality or impersonal tone. In addition, the sense of a temporary condition or momentariness provides a true sense of the beyond which subordinates the self producing exaltation (Stace, 1960). These conditions are combined with the certainty that all aspects of self are involved in the vision, desire, and purpose required to maximize reality but not to alter it. There are and always will continue to be certain absolute and universal truths that thinking, feelings, and actions can not change. Our power is both finite and infinite.

Triangulation is rich in symbolism from the four panels of the pyramid to the use it psychology for creating interference between two individuals. It is also used as a multi-level research strategy and the concept of rounding the triangle and cycling information assists in obtaining new perspectives akin to the opposite strategy of the squaring of the circle. This opposing process has been thought to unite heaven with the earth (Fontana, 1994). Perhaps the rounding of the triangle is the inverse relationship of uniting earth or us with the divine and an eternal or ongoing sense of time and space. The Egyptians combined the square base and four triangle panels to foster strength to last throughout the ages. It is notable that the height of the pyramid can be obtained in its exact proportion by obtaining the circumference of the circle that would enclose the base.

Such is the same as the process that takes a triangle with three elements. By combining two of opposing elements particular takeaways are obtained in order to utilize multiple approaches to informational data that can render certain outcomes in various forms such as numerical information placed in a context such as statistics, or monetary values. Theme categories and their conceptual groupings are very useful in therapeutic process as well as in symbols that can provide a snapshot picture of representation in terms of a positive, neutral or negative force. These assigned values lend themselves to assessment and evaluation each of which can be used as a planning template. The fusion of two forces creates a third possibility and engenders creativity to the effort and produces a process by which creativity is enhanced.

Carl Jung asserts that there can be no solid personality without “definiteness, wholeness, and ripeness” and that no one can train the personality unless one has it in their possession. Only the adult can achieve personality, not the child and to then direct it towards the future. The achievement of the personality for Jung was the full development of the human being or their potential as such. Individuals who are for example, unable to reconcile opposites as established by Sigmund Freud developed neurosis for they failed to integrate and complete. The triangle as a structural problem solving template used as a power chip can access that sought after pinnacle within allowing for external opportunity and health.

Jung also stated that the ultimate union would be symbolized by quaternities and mandalas, so that it logically follows that the most obvious pairs of opposites are good and evil both of which are to be found in the self (p. 299). There can not be one without the other. To make an extrapolation, it is the world which is flawed, the universe which is perfect, and the triangle as a representation of humanity that reconciles both and in doing so the self, together. This is the ancient idea of the alchemists who sought an amalgam as a fusion of natures both celestial and concrete that would produce synthesis and understanding, as the juncture between triangulation is the reconciliation between statistical (hard science) and research cycling (soft artistry).

Copyright © 2007 Interpretive Leadership, Inc., Patent Pending. All Rights Reserved.

Eisner, E. W. (1991). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.

Fontana, D. (1994). The secret language of symbols: A visual key to symbols and their meaning. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Glaser, B. G., Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co.

Jung, C. J. (1983).  The essential Jung. Selected and introduced by Anthony Storr. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality. (3rd. Ed). New York: Longman.

Patton, M., Q.  (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. (5th Ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Stace, Walter, (1960). The teachings of the mystics. The New American Library of World Literature Inc, New York.

Strauss, A., Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 273-285). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

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