Table 1. Summary of methods.

Methodological approach Application to research Rationale of use Specific methods
Single case study Overall research program - Exploratory character of whole research program
- Representative case of pathological WSES governed through a RIR, hence informative for other pathological systems
- Generalization of results to theory, not to populations (i.e., analytical generalization)
- Instrumental for the normative goal of elaborating policy-relevant recommendations
- Replication if evidence is found in other cases
Embedded design (Yin 2008):
- Case study: Doñana WSES
- Context: Guadalquivir Estuary
- Three subunits of analysis: the hydro-ecological system (not analyzed here) and the institutional regimes for WRM and WC (the focus of the present analysis)
Theoretical framework development Overall research program. Circumscribed here to the historical analysis - Propositional conceptualization of RIR, liable to empirical evaluation
- Guide analysis and inform interpretations, departing from a reasoned selection of existing theory
- Hypotheses derived deductively provide framework with explanatory power
- Ground the inquiry in updated theory, allows for a characterization of initial institutional conditions and potential transitions
Inductive and deductive inference procedures (see Thelen 1999 for a description of the use of both procedures in different institutionalism disciplines; Campbell and Pedersen 2001 for the application of both procedures in several case studies using institutional analysis; Holling and Allen 2002 for a depiction of “adaptive inference” in ecology, a method that employs both procedures at different stages of empirical evidence evaluation)
Systems narrative Historical analysis Instrumental for:
- Understanding and describing the history and genesis of the institutional regimes
- Addressing and embracing (vs. rejecting) the inherent complexity of WSES
- Assessing theoretical framework applicability
- Evaluating h1
- Informing future analyses of current institutional configuration
- Data collection and categorization through directed, deductive content analysis (see, e.g., Hsieh and Shannon 2005)
- Data analysis and interpretation (see e.g., Allison and Hobbs 2004, Beier et al. 2009, for different approaches to constructing a systems narrative)
Action research Overall research program. Informed by the historical analysis Instrumental for:
- Introducing new modes of actor involvement and collaborative understanding of current institutional problems
- Facilitating the long-term transition towards more adaptive and flexible institutional regimes
- Gathering qualitative data for future analyses of current institutional configuration (e.g., management narratives)
We employed the following methods (see Appendix 2 for a detailed description):
- Actor identification (see e.g., Mostert 2006)
- Semi-structured, open-ended interviews (Robson 2002)
- Workshops including: thematic talks, facilitated discussion, and Group Model Building (Vennix 1996) and Card Sorting (Hare and Pahl-Wostl 2002) methods in focus groups