Triangulation? That’s something in Maths…..right?”  – she quipped, someone who just completed her UX bootcamp. Understandably, one who hasn’t been in the UX industry or had a formal education in social sciences, the word ‘Triangulation’ does not sound relevant to User research.

In the UX industry and with user researcher communities, ‘Triangulation’ is a buzzword or sorts. Triangulation does not necessarily mean a combination of user interviews and surveys or qualitative and quantitative approach. The concept of triangulation can be applied to qualitative as well as quantitative studies separately. In essence, several sources and methods of collecting information help to cross check / validate the information collected, thus making the results more reliable. Several research methods can be used to gather data, such as interviews, observations, questionnaires, and documents – triangulation can be applied irrespective of the number of methods used.

Why do we need Triangulation at all? 

Every research is expected to be credible and reliable! However, a single research method can miss out on some sources of information. Moreover, the quality of information may be compromised due to researchers’ bias in 

  • understanding of research goals,
  • conducting the research itself, or 
  • analysis of the data gathered 

….during the research.

To increase the confidence level on the findings from a research, triangulation is used. This may involve one or a combination of several research methods, researchers, data points, variety of participants, and analysing the data from different perspectives.

When to use Triangulation?

You guessed it! Most often when the decision to be made has a significant impact to the business. There needs to be a balance between business risk and amount of research, so it pays off to use triangulation as early as possible to reduce the risks. With a limited research budget, triangulation isn’t the first choice.

Triangulation vs mixed-method approach

Mixed methods are focused on combining qualitative and quantitative methods. In Triangulation, the combination is not necessarily limited to research methods; it can be researchers, data or methods of analysis. In the UX research industry, the researchers’ resources are very limited, therefore multiple researchers analysing the same pieces of data is hardly possible. Both triangulation and mixed methods strive to establish validity and reliability of research. 

Triangulation may increase confirmation bias and therefore best used when experienced researchers are onboard the team. The reliability of a research highly depends upon correctly understanding the problem. Simply using triangulation isn’t enough.

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