Vindicating methodological triangulation

Synthese 196 (8):3067-3081 (2019)

Liam Kofi Bright
London School of Economics
Remco Heesen
University of Western Australia
Social scientists use many different methods, and there are often substantial disagreements about which method is appropriate for a given research question. In response to this uncertainty about the relative merits of different methods, W. E. B. Du Bois advocated for and applied “methodological triangulation”. This is to use multiple methods simultaneously in the belief that, where one is uncertain about the reliability of any given method, if multiple methods yield the same answer that answer is confirmed more strongly than it could have been by any single method. Against this, methodological purists believe that one should choose a single appropriate method and stick with it. Using tools from voting theory, we show Du Boisian methodological triangulation to be more likely to yield the correct answer than purism, assuming the scientist is subject to some degree of diffidence about the relative merits of the various methods. This holds even when in fact only one of the methods is appropriate for the given research question.
Keywords philosophy of social science  methodological triangulation  formal epistemology  voting theory  W. E. B. Du Bois
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Reprint years 2016, 2019
DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1294-7
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Citations of this work BETA

Is Peer Review a Good Idea?Remco Heesen & Liam Kofi Bright - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz029.
Data, Epistemic Values, and Multiple Methods in Case Study Research.Julie Zahle - forthcoming - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.

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