5.2. Research
methodology approach

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The study adopted the action research methodology approach. Action
research is a methodology which pursues change and an understanding at the same
time within a study (Koshy, 2005:1-2). It is concerned with inquiring or
examining a practice with understanding in order to refine it and contribute in
the improvement or enhancement of the practice (Koshy, 2005:1-2). Stringer
(2007) suggests that action research is a systematic approach to investigation
that enables people to effectively deal with the problems that confront them in
their everyday lives. Therefore, put simply, action research is concerned with
improving the quality of practice through intervention strategies. According to
Whitehead and McNiff (2006:62), AR tends to:

Require the use of steps that
are separate from each other but also dependant on each other

Be a research process that
participative in nature where both the researcher and thee participants in the
research are active throughout the process

Have data that is qualitative
in nature

Be a process that involves
thinking and reflecting and taking action

Action research is typically qualitative in nature hence, it is
important to differentiate the two methodologies. Qualitative research and
action research are similar in that, data is collected and presented as a
descriptive narration with words in order to provide an understanding (Thomas,
2010:303). However, the difference lies in the role of the researcher in the
study and the way in which the data is analysed and interpreted. Herr and Anderson (2005:3)
explains that action research is different from qualitative research in that,
action research is an “inquiry” that
is done “by” or “with” insiders to an organisation or community but never “to” or “on” them.

In qualitative research, the researcher sets and controls the
research according to his or her study boundaries by deriving data from
interviews, written descriptions of people, opinions and attitudes and
analysing it to making sense of the similarities and differences in opinions,
expressing the researcher’s observations and impressions and drawing conclusions
on the phenomenon (Thomas, 2010:303; Amaya and Yeates, 2015:8). Therefore, the
role of the researcher in qualitative research can be described as that of an
observer who probes questions on the participants in order to get an in-depth
understanding and build a picture out of it hence; from Herr and Anderson’s
explanation, qualitative research is research done “to” or “on” the

In action research, Nasrollahi (2015:18664) states that the role of
the researcher in the study is to be a facilitator who acts as a catalyst to
assist the participants in defining their problems and to support them as they
develop effective solutions to the issues that concern them. Therefore, in action
research, the researcher relies on the knowledge of the participants to
identify the problems and develop solutions thereby drawing conclusions.

5.2.1. Why Action Research?

Firstly, in contrast to all other research methodology approaches,
action research is the most practical in design, more democratic and flexible
as it incorporates the opinions and voices of multiple stakeholders that are
affected by the issue and problem (Zidack, 2013:11). As previously mentioned, whilst
action research is qualitative in nature by way of collecting and presenting data,
the difference lies in that, action research requires for participants to be
involved throughout the various stages of the research process; in designing
and conducting the study (Amaya and Yeates, 2015:6; Zidack, 2013:11).

The researcher’s stance in the approach to the study was that “in order to obtain an in-depth understanding
of the state of affairs and the most effective practical solutions, ensure that
traditional leaders and municipal planners, who are directly affected, are
active throughout the study in assisting the researcher to identify the issues
existing, their causes as well providing solutions that can be implementable.”

Secondly, action research is most commonly used in the fields of education
and health sciences. In urban and regional planning, researchers still rely on
traditional research approaches, such as quantitative and qualitative
approaches, to conduct their researches. From a localised context, very few
researchers have conducted urban and regional planning related action research
studies such as Barclay (2013) in a study titled “The applicability of gaming simulation in teaching and learning in
urban and regional planning: a ten-year case study at the University of the
Free State” and Strydom (2014) in a study titled “Towards place-making in urban planning through participatory research”
and. However, relevant to this study, there have not been any action research
studies previously conducted by researchers.

As conveyed in the literature review chapter, there still remains an
enormous “How” gap in the existing literature.
Previous studies have only been able to establish that the overlap of roles
between traditional leaders and municipalities is the reason for the tension
that exists between these two institutions. Furthermore, the previous studies
have similarly alluded to the need of strengthening the relationship between the
two institutions through meaningful collaborative planning and respecting the
cultural internal institutional arrangement of traditional leadership. However,
the “missing piece of the puzzle” is that none of the studies have proposed
recommendations on how meaningful collaborative planning should be undertaken
or how respect towards the cultural institutional arrangement of traditional
leadership should be conveyed.

Therefore, the motive to adopt an action research methodology
approach in this study stems from the researcher’s observation of the gap in
literature. The researcher’s intention of the study was to make an in-depth
inquiry of why the state of affairs between traditional leaders and
municipalities has continued even after various studies have been conducted
identifying the problems and solutions. Most importantly, the intention of the
study was to provide effective practical solutions obtained from those directly
affected as opposed to the researcher drawing conclusions and recommending
solutions to her own regard; hence action research was an appropriate
methodology in achieving the researcher’s intentions.  how the state of affairs can be improved for
better practice in future, particularly because the implementation of SPLUMA
has commenced.

According to Arthur, Waring, Coe and Hedges (2012:271), research
questions in action research typically begin with phrases such as “How can…,” “What is the best way…” or “Why…,”
and contain a language that indicates the action or change that the study
intends to implement in order to improve a practice. Therefore, the action
research methodology was appropriate for this study as the research questions sought
to be answered have similar characteristics as those of action research

5.2.2. The advantages of action

5.2.3. The disadvantages of
action research

5.3. Research
Design Strategy

5.3.1. Stringer’s “Look, Think,
Act” Action Research Model

5.4. Sampling

5.5. Data Collection

5.6. Data Analysis

5.7. Ensuring rigour in the study

5.8. Ethical considerations

5.9. Limitations to the study

Launching the study

5.10.1. The “Look” Stage

5.10.2. The “Think” Stage

5.10.3. The “Act” Stage



Koshy, V. 2005. Action research for improving practice: A
practical guide. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Whitehead, J.
& McNiff, J. 2006. Action research:
Living theory. London: SAGE Publications

Strydom, W.J.
2014. Towards place-making in urban and regional planning through participatory
action research. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Potchefstroom: North West

Barclay, E.
2013. The applicability of gaming simulation in teaching and learning in urban
and regional planning: a ten-year case study at the University of the Free
State. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Bloemfontein: University of the Free State.

Arthur, J.,
Waring, M., Coe, R. & Hedges, L.V. 2012. Research methods in and methodologies in education. California:
SAGE Publications Inc.

Zidack, A.M.
2013. Middle school responses to cyberbullying: An action research study.
Unpublished PhD Thesis. Pullman: Washington State University.

Amaya, A.B.
& Yeates, N. 2015. Participatory action research: New uses, new contexts,
new challenges. In: PRARI. Economic and
Social Research Council Conference on Poverty Reduction and Regional
Integration, London 9 September 2014. London: PRARI: 2-23. 

Thomas, P.Y.
2010. Towards developing a web-based blended learning environment at the
University of Botswana. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of South Africa

Leedy, P. D. Ormrod, J.
E. 2010. Practical research: Planning and
design. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Williams, C. 2007. Research Methods. Journal for Business &
Economic Research, 5(3): 65-72.


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