Essential Question: How can data mining assist you in triangulating your research findings?
What is data mining? How can it help triangulate your research findings? To me, data mining is looking at all available resources to determine what is useful for your research. In doing this, you can “triangulate” your acquired knowledge with other data, both qualitative and quantitative (Jick, 1979). Palace (1996) calls data mining “a process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information.” Jick (1979) uses the triangulation metaphor fromnavigation and military strategy, where multiple reference points are used to locate an object’s exact position.
The word “document” is often used as an umbrella term to cover a wide range of written, visual, digital, and physical material relevant to your study (Merriam & Tisdell, 2009). By using a variety of sources you increase the chances of finding something that is useful to your study. A “document” gives us a snapshot of what the author thinks is important, based on qualitative or quantitative study results. Personal observations, on the other hand, “allow us to see overt behavior” for ourselves (Merriam & Tisdell, 2009).
“Overall, the triangulating investigator is left to search for a logical pattern in mixed-method results” (Jick, 1979). You are sorting through, looking at many sources and kinds of data. According to Jick, the researcher then begins to feel like a “builder and creator, piecing together many pieces of a complex puzzle into a coherent whole.” This can make you feel like an artist trying to create something from a bunch of scraps. Jick also points out that triangulation can give researchers greater confidence in their results.
I think the more data that you can pull together and the different types you can find, the more confident you will be that the data you have collected is correct and relevant. The use of multiple methods can lead to an “integration of theories,” according to Jick. To find the “thread linking all of these benefits is the important part played by qualitative methods in triangulation.”
The triangulation strategy is not without some shortcomings. First of all, replicating research results from a different kinds of sources can be tricky. Jick admits that triangulation may not work well for all research purposes.
I think how much you can mine for data depends on what your research project is and if you need more data or can get more data. Sometimes the research just isn’t out there in articles or in other media. If the materials exist, though, I do think triangulating research would have benefits. If you can assemble more data, why not?
Jick, T. D. (1979). Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Triangulation in Action. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4).
Merriam, S., & Tisdell, E. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Palace, B. (1996). Data Mining: What is Data Mining? Retrieved October 20, 2015, from http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/jason.frand/teacher/technologies/palace/datamining.htm