Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 423–434

The Use of Secondary Data in Business Ethics Research

  • Christopher J. Cowton

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005730825103

Cite this article as:
Cowton, C.J. Journal of Business Ethics (1998) 17: 423. doi:10.1023/A:1005730825103


The relatively recent increase in empirical research conducted in business ethics has been accompanied by a growing literature which addresses its present shortcomings and continuing challenges. Particular attention has been focused on the difficulties of obtaining valid and reliable primary data. However, little or no attention has been paid to the use of secondary data. The aim of this paper is to stimulate the interest of business ethics researchers in using secondary data, either as a substitute or complement for primary data, bearing in mind both the benefits and shortcomings of doing so. It is suggested that secondary data not only offer advantages in terms of cost and effort, as conventionally described in research methods books, but also that in certain cases their use may overcome some of the difficulties that particularly afflict business ethics researchers in the gathering of primary data. In order to help business ethicists respond to this call for greater consideration of the potential offered by secondary data, the wide variety of forms that such data may take is indicated and a number of themes regarding their use discussed.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Cowton

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