Table 3. The influence of various philosophical assumptions on research into volunteer motivation within the Cairngorms Water Vole Conservation Project. Based on Table 2ís framework.

Positivism Transcendental Realism Hermeneutics Subjectivism
Question What Factors influence participant motivation? What factors do participants understand as influencing their motivation? What causes differences in motivational behavior between participants in the CWVC project What factors influence participant motivation in the CWVC project
Research Strategy Stratified survey of samples from categories of volunteers identified a priori Ethnographic study involving key participants Use of different kinds of documents, i.e., meeting minutes, emails, documents about project involvement, as well as past documents, which may help to understand previous projects and past information about participants Ethnographic (a research strategy attempting to describe meanings and understandings of members of a culture in detail) study involving key participants identified by the study. There is no specific hypothesis
Method of data collection Questionnaires Questionnaires using qualitative and quantitative questions Structural semiotics (the study of signs and texts and how they are represented and interpreted) Interviews
Type of Analysis Inferential statistics. Estimation and test of hypotheses Phenomenological analysis (interviews are transcribed and key themes identified from frequency of appearance) A dialectical process involving three “moments:”: social historical analysis, formal analysis, interpretation–reinterpretation Thematic analysis
Presentation Type Graphs, Tables Discussion Discussion Discussion
Potential Interpretation Evidence that some types of participants are more likely to be retained (e.g., single volunteers vs. members of organized groups) or and identification of variables and interventions that increase this, (e.g., presence of otters, water voles/, mink) Phenomenological analysis will gain insight into how individual participants understand what they are motivated by. The use of quantitative questions alongside this gives insights for the project management, but can also be generalized and provide guidance for other similar projects Using the results of this hermeneutic approach, trends in behaviors, which may motivate participants in the project, are elucidated, including past project involvement, their family’s historic involvement in the Cairngorms The thematic analysis allows themes to be identified in the interviews as to participant motivation, thus giving insight into the participants’ real motivations. This is of particular use to the management of the project
How is management guided by the results? Management has knowledge on what type of volunteers are better retained that can be extrapolated to a large number of volunteers. Results can be combined with biological data Management can incorporate insights given by volunteers as to what motivates them. Quantitative results can be combined with biological data to analyze if motivation is linked to mink encounter frequency Management is able to identify differences in levels of motivation and provide a varied means of re-motivating volunteers. Data cannot be combined with ecological data as they are not quantitative Results are specific to the project, allowing management to provide varied means of re-motivating volunteers. Data cannot be combined with ecological data as they are not quantitative