This chapter describes the research methodology of the study whose main focus was to investigate the country’s recycling industry that is an emerging economic sector. Philosophical assumptions that informed the study are presented as well. Research methodology focuses on data collection and analysis procedures used in order to address the research problem as Walter, 2013; Cresswell, 2009 and Mouton 1996) emphasized.
3.2 Research paradigms
Research is usually guided by certain beliefs as highlighted by (Saunders, 2013). These are known as research paradigms. These are considered as the starting point of any research. Despite the fact, they are often taken for granted. The search for reality is therefore influenced by a set of assumptions that the research may have. The term paradigm was first used by Thomas Kuhn in his 1972 whist referring to overall theoretical research framework (Saunders, 2013). Positivism and interpretive are considered to be the broad frameworks of paradigms in which research is conducted, (Ngulube, 2015) cited in Matangira, (2016).
The positivist paradigm is mainly associated with natural sciences (Neuman, 2014) whose emphasis is on scientific methods. The main assumption of this paradigm is that the nature of reality can be observed through scientific (measurements and testing) and statistical analysis methods. Reality is considered to be ‘out there’, independent of human consciousness; is objective, rests on order, is governed by strict natural and unchangeable laws, and can be realised through experience (Sarantakos, 2005).
Despite its relevance, positivism paradigm has been criticized. This gave birth to constructivism or interpretivism ideologies. Interpretivism is concerned with text interpretation and understanding of social life (Neuman, 2014; Sarantakos, 2005). The fundamental assumption of this paradigm is that social reality depends on people’s views and interpretations. The same idea is supported by Saunders, 2013). The world in social phenomena has different meanings. As a result, different researches can have different conclusions for one observation. There are three assumptions in research: ontological, epistemological and methodological.
3.3 The Ontological Orientation of the Research
Ontology is concerned with the nature of reality (Neuman, 2014). There are different assumptions to see the world as outside individual. From a realist point of view, knowledge development is based on careful observation and measurement of the objective reality that exists out there (Neuman 2014; Creswell (2009)’. Reality is considered independently of humans and their interpretations. The nominalist on the other hand, is subjective based on human influences and interpretations.The world in social phenomena has different meanings. As a result, different researches can have different conclusions for one observation.
Nominalist assumptions informed this study. In order to have an in depth understanding of the nature of recycling industry in Namibia, the researcher relied on views of different actors of the industry who were identified, namely local authorities, government ministries and recycling companies.
3.4 Epistemology Orientation of the Research
Epistemology is concerned with ways of acquiring knowledge or how people know the world around them (Neuman 2014; Bryman, (2001). In natural sciences, new knowledge is produced through deductive thinking whereas, in social sciences, it is produced through induction according to Neuman, (2014). Through, interpretivism assumptions, investigating a social phenomena can result in many interpretations.
Based on the interpretive ontological and epistemological assumptions, the study was guided by interpretive paradigm of research. Information was gathered through different respondents in order for the researcher to have an understanding of why companies were recycling, policies and legislation guiding the operations of the industry, networks, trends and benefits of the industry through interpretation of the responses.
3.5 Methodological Assumptions
Quantitative and qualitative research methods are the main techniques used in research. Methodological assumption focuses on analysis of the methods used for gaining the data. Quantitative approach relies on the use of scientific methods in order to produce new knowledge Bryman (1989), In this case, measurements, calculations and testing of hypotheses are done. In contrast, the qualitative approach concentrates on the use of words and observations to express reality (Creswell, 2009) As a result, the findings can be open to many interpretations. In order to understand the recycling industry in Namibia, the researcher made use of interviews, observations as well as document searches.
3.6 Research design
Research design is a plan that guides the investigator in the process of data collecting and analysis(Yin, 2009). The study was a case study design which was qualitative in nature.
3.6.1 Case Study
A case study is the study of ‘an instance in action’ according to Adelman et al.
1980 as cited in Cohen et al. 2005.Case study was chosen for the study due to its versatile nature as a research method (Hancock , 1998). By using case studies, a researcher is able to employ any research method in gathering data. In this study, semi- structured interviews, observations and document search were used to gather data on the investigations of the recycling industry. In addition, case studies allow grater in depth studies of situations, cases or phenomena in their natural or real settings (Creswell 2002) enabling the researcher an understanding of ‘ideas more clearly than simply by presenting them with abstract theories or principles’ Cohen, 2005 p.253, as the researcher is ‘able to penetrate situations in ways that are not always susceptible to numerical analysis’. Hancock (1998) further emphasizes this idea that case study provide in depth of information not usually offered by other methods. Case studies also enable the study of the causes and effects of situations in real contexts. According to Bell (1993), this is one of the greatest strength of the case study method. It allows the researcher to concentrate on a specific instance or attempt to identify the various interactive processes at work. Through interviews and observations, the researcher was able to get first hand information of how recycling companies were operating. At some companies, the researcher witnessed the production processes that were involved in the manufacturing of goods such as plastics.
However, case studies are not without their own weaknesses. According to Hancock(2003, p.7) one of the weaknesses of a case study approach is that ‘the case under study is not necessarily representative of similar cases and therefore the results of the research are not generalisable’. The other disadvantage of case studies is that they may be biased and subjective as the researcher may both be the participant and observer. It is not easy to cross check for such incidences as (Cohen, 2005, p. 257) noted.
3.6.2 Qualitative Research
Qualitative research was used in this study due to its advantages over quantitative research. It allows for the research to be carried in a natural setting or field where phenomena is described as it occurs. Researchers do not bring participants into a lab( a contrived situation) as Creswell, 2009 p.175 puts it. The advantage is that no attempt is made to manipulate the situation under study Hancock (1998). In addition, Qualitative data are collected through direct encounters with individuals, through one to one interviews, by observation or through examining documents rather than relying on a single data source. Out of twenty recycling companies identified, fifteen companies were investigated in order to have an in depth understanding of the recycling industry in Namibia.
3.7 Research Population
In this study, the population comprised of companies which were involved in solid waste recycling in Namibia. Babbie (2004, p.190) defined a study population as an aggregate of elements, from which a sample is actually selected ,while Bryman (2001) defined a population as a universe of units from which a sample is selected.
For this study, all the 20 identified companies were selected for the study and considered the target sample population. However, not every company was willing to engage the researcher and also some of the companies were no longer operational. Eventually, through accidental sampling 15 companies were interviewed, hence the sample size was 15 companies. Accidental sampling refers to the process of picking those participants who are available and willing to participate in the study (Hoyle et al., 2002).
Johnson and Christensen (2004) defined a sample as a representative group of individuals, items, or events that actually participate in the study. At times it is not possible to study an entire population or ‘everything we are interested in’ (Becker, p. 67 as cited in Neuman, 2014) due to time or budget constraints as Saunders (2009) points out. Thus sampling is used. According to Patton (2002), no rules exist for sample size in qualitative inquiry .It depends on the ‘purpose of the study and the nature of the population under scrutiny’ according to (Cohen et al., 2005, p. 101). Qualitative studies have been carried out with as many as 50 cases and as few as one (Patton, 2002; Yin, 2003).
3.9 Data collection techniques
This section describes the data collection techniques and the instruments used for this study. Data collection techniques used comprised interviews, direct observation and document search. Multi-methods or triangulation is encouraged in empirical studies according to (Creswell 1994; Denzin,1978; Patton, 2002 ; Yin, 2003). A variety of sources and resources are important to assist the researcher to build on the strengths of each type of data collection method. This minimizes the weaknesses of any single approach (Patton, 2002).
Interviews involve an exchange of views between two or more people on a topic of mutual interest according to (Kvale (1996: p. 14 as cited in Cohen et al. 2005 ). An interview entails collection of data according to Koshy (2010) from individuals through conversations.
There are different types of interviews. Patton (1980) as cited in (Cohen et al. 2005) identifies four types of interviews namely informal conversational interviews, interview guide approaches, standardized open-ended interviews and closed–ended interviews. The study used semi-structured open-ended which were a combination of interview guide approaches and standardized open-ended interviews . Interviews were conducted with company directors, managers (site, logistics,) supervisors and any other officials that were availed to the researcher since there was no control of who to choose to interview.
Interviews are known to have some advantages as research methods. Interviews allow for more information through discussion, follow?up questions which may not be possible in a group context (Chiromo, (2009).Additional information may be acquired through facial, bodily expressions, tone of voice as well as gestures of respondents. During the interviews, the open-ended questions allowed respondents room to air varied views unlike structured closed ended interviews, where the respondents sometimes are limited to a range of responses previously developed by the researcher. Even though certain questions were asked, the respondents were given freedom to talk about the topic and give their views in their own time. Besides flexible in the method, the researcher was able to follow up areas of interest during and after the interviews. The participants were also able to give a broader picture on the situation on the ground.
However interviews have shortcomings, which include distortions due to a number of factors such as bias, emotional state of the interviewee at the time of the interview and lack of awareness as noted by Patton (2002). Face to face interviews are also time consuming. Thus the interviewer needs to be well prepared and organized in conducting the sessions. The researcher overcame these shortcomings by making sure that interviews were conducted when the time was convenient to the interviewees.