In defence of triangulation: A critical realist approach to mixed methods research in management accounting

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Abstract

The notion of triangulation constitutes a key component of mixed methods research but has been contested on ontological and epistemological grounds, especially where this entails integration of theories and/or methods rooted in different philosophical assumptions (or paradigms). Drawing on critical realism, this paper addresses two criticisms of the use of triangulation in mixed methods research straddling between the functionalist and interpretive paradigms, namely (1) its propensity to suppress variations in situated meanings and (2) its treatment of empirical observations as objectively verifiable rather than inherently theory-related. The modified notion of triangulation advanced in this paper counters these criticisms by re-conceptualizing it as firmly grounded in abductive reasoning. This provides a foundation for maintaining researchers' sensitivity to context-specific variations in meanings in efforts to derive theory-related explanations. The possibilities of using such a modified notion of triangulation in management accounting research are illustrated through a review of two empirical studies straddling between the functionalist and interpretive paradigms. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-221
Number of pages13
JournalManagement Accounting Research
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009

Keywords

  • Critical realism
  • Management accounting
  • Mixed methods research
  • Triangulation
  • Validation

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