Many organizations today mobilize vast volunteer translation efforts, but there is little research into how the volunteering of translation may be understood in sociological and psychological terms. This paper introduces translation scholars to some of the complexities of investigating volunteering and motivation, informed by research from sociology, behavioural economics and social psychology. It then makes a methodological contribution to the study of volunteer translation motivation by assessing the potential of qualitative analysis of translators' discourse to derive conceptually sound categories of motivation. This methodology is tested on a small set of statements from volunteer translators for TED. The test case prepares the ground for much-needed, larger-scale studies into volunteer translation motivations. The paper concludes by advocating a mixed-methods approach which can accommodate multidimensional perspectives and contexts of volunteering.
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