Comparing interview transcripts and survey data of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth: puzzles of reliability, validity and ontology
Diana van Bergen
(The Netherlands Institute for Social Research)
Paper short abstract:
The paper discusses the challenges posed by data triangulation, e.g. contradictions that emerged when survey data and interview transcripts were compared of the same research subjects. Employing these two sources of knowledge creation coined questions of reliability, validity and ontology.
Paper long abstract:
The paper discusses the challenges posed by data triangulation, e.g. contradictions that emerged when survey data and interview transcripts were compared of the same research subjects. The survey data consisted of the first large scale Dutch study (n=1650) of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth (LGB)and aimed for statistics on the amount of acceptance and wellbeing experienced by Dutch LGB youth. Subsequently, 30 interviews were conducted with Dutch LGB youth who experienced high levels of homo-negativity in order to understand processes of victimization and coping strategies. The survey results and the narrated experiences sometimes demonstrated contradictions. Puzzles that emerged between the two methods included inconsistencies of sexual identification and sexual attraction in respondents as well as contradictions observed in reports of experiences of homo-negativity in LGB youth. This renders it difficult to maintain the standpoint that quantitative and qualitative research strategies are complementary, and coins questions of reliability, validity and ontology. The aim of the paper is not to underscore which research method constitutes 'the most accurate account', rather the focus is on interpreting contrasting truth claims. Several epistemological arguments will be unfolded, discussed and assessed. For example, do these contradictions support the idea that we simply we have to deal with multiple realities that originate from situated and contextually informed knowledge? Or do these transcripts merely support the claim expressed by several ethnographers that questionnaires are never able to fully understand the dynamics of human sexuality? Alternatively, it could be argue that these transcripts guide the way to improve the quality of surveys designs.