NATURALISTIC INQUIRY AND TRIANGULATION The following is the outline of our lecture notes for class. Qualitative research is often called the NATURALISTIC APPROACH to social inquiry. "Naturalism" is a reaction against positivist research, and naturalist researchers object especially to: 1) Positivist "objectivity" 2) Hypothetical-deductive theory 3) External Law like relations 4) Exact and formal language 5) Separation of "facts" from "meaning" (Denzin, 1989: 69) Naturalist researchers, Denzin (1989: 70) argues, are committed to: 1. Combining a native's symbolic meanings with ongoing patterns of interaction 2. Adopting the perspective, or "attitude," of the other and viewing the world from the subject's point of view, while maintaining a distinction between everyday and scientific conceptions of reality 3. Linking the native's symbols and definitions with the social relationships and groups that provide those conceptions. Examining the place of gender and power in the social situation 4. Recording the behavior settings of interaction 5. Adopting methods that are capable of reflecting process, change, and stability 6. Viewing the research act as an instance of symbolic interaction 7. Using sensitizing concepts, which point to the construction of interactive causal explanations of social process (Denzin, 1989: 70). Because naturalistic inquiry relies on the observer's perceptions as data, care must be taken to assure that the data are as credible as possible. Denzin (1989) has developed a method called TRIANGUALATION for improving the quality of data. Triangulation reefers to a combination of methods that focus on the same phenomenon. For example, a study of how college students respond to different teaching styles in the classroom might use focused interviews as the primary data gather observation and documentary analysis of student records as ways of verifying what interview respondents tell us. Denzin argues that interpretative sociologists, such as ethnographers, are committed to SOPHISTICATED RIGOR, which means that they are committed to making their empirical and interpretive schemes as public as possible (Denzin, 1989: 234): The phrase SOPHISTICATED RIGOR is intended to describe the work of any and all sociologists who employ multiple methods, seek out diverse empirical sources, and attempt to develop interactionally grounded interpretations (Denzin, 1989: 234-35). Denzin argues that multiple methods are helpful because researchers cannot agree on which methods are "best" for research. There are several reasons for the lack of methodological consensus: First, the methods a researcher chooses, he says, imply a different line of action toward reality. Therefore, a given method will reveal different aspects of our object of study in the same way that a kaleidoscope, depending on the angle at which it is held, will reveal different colors and configurations of the object to the viewer (Denzin, 1989: 235). As a consequence, different methods help provide a richer picture of our topic. Second, consensus can't be attained because researchers brings their own interpretations of methods to their study, and these interpretations can vary. Third, agreement cannot be attained because definitions brought to bear on our topics may differ because of the past perspectives and experiences that shape how we conceptualize a topic and ask questions, interpret data, and sort it all out. Finally, methods can't be consensual because the world of observations is always in change, which makes things at one point in time possibly different from them at another time. To resolve this, Denzin suggests several types of triangulation: First, DATA TRIANGULATION involves a) time, b) space, and c) persons. Person analysis itself has three subtypes: a) aggregate (e.g., survey research); b) interactive (laboratory or natural settings); and c) The collectivity (the larger social unit, such as the community). Second is INVESTIGATOR TRIANGULATION: This simply means multiple observers used as checks. Third is THEORY TRIANGULATION, in which different theoretical approaches are used to interpret the same body of data to assess the power and utility of one theory and the adequacy of the data across theories (Denzin, 1989: 239-40). >From Denzin (1978: Soc methods: A sourcebook): Triangulation forces the observer to combine multiple data sources and to SITUATINALLY check the validity of "causal propositions (e.g., comparing a family's socialization strategies at home and in public places) (Denzin, 1971: 21). This can lead to contradictions because of low credibility of some data sources, which underscores need for familiarity with all data sources to help identify which ones to discount (p 22). Denzin (1978: 22-24) recognizes importance of reliability, repeatability and validity. But sees it as "frequencies" of behaviors of various types (types of freqs, not types of behaviors) In Sum: Triangulation is simply data from different sources that are compared as they relate to the topic being examined.
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