Quality & Quantity 33: 169–183, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Use of Triangulation in a Study
of Refugee Well-Being
JANICE KATHERINE KOPINAK
University of Toronto, Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, McMurrich
Building, 12, Queen’s Park Crescent West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8,
Abstract. This article illustrates the use of triangulation in a study of refugee well-being. While the
study was driven by a qualitative paradigm, information and data from qualitative and quantitative
methods were integrated in order to fully explore, describe and understand the phenomena being
studied. Hence, through triangulating information and data from an ethnographic interview, demo-
graphic and health questionnaires, and observations, the subjective and objective aspects of refugee
experience and well-being were fully revealed. The advantages of triangulation, its pitfalls, and the
controversy surrounding this methodology within the scientiﬁc health community are discussed.
Finally, the author offers recommendations pertaining to the use of methodological triangulation
for other investigators who might consider employing this design in future research.
Health research has been greatly inﬂuenced by a quantitative positivist view in
which the investigator manipulates and observes the environment in various ways
and then records the effects on study subjects. Knowledge discovered within this
perspective is largely a deductive process and there is an emphasis on searching
for facts and causes that might impact on health through objective, observable, and
While the quantitative perspective has, and continues to contribute to knowl-
edge about health and human behaviour, some investigators have recognized short-
comings associated with this approach. These shortcomings include, focussing on
outside perspectives, facts, and causes; structuring situations and controlling en-
vironments in order to isolate study variables and rule out bias; an emphasis on
proving or disproving a priori assumptions; a strong focus on data that is easily
replicated (reliability) and; a separation of feelings and thoughts from facts (Duffy,
1987). Hence, while the quantitative approach has proven to be useful in investi-
gating health and human behaviour, the assumption that individuals are reducible
and measurable presents serious limitations.
An alternative methodology that addresses these limitations is that of quali-
tative inquiry. The primary goal in this perspective is to inductively document