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Methodology in business ethics research: A review and critical assessment


Using 94 published empirical articles in academic journals as a data base, this paper provides a critical review of the methodology employed in the study of ethical beliefs and behavior of organizational members. The review revealed that full methodological detail was provided in less than one half of the articles. Further, the majority of empirical research articles expressed no concern for the reliability or validity of measures, were characterized by low response rates, used convenience samples, and did not offer a theoretic framework, hypotheses, or a definition of ethics. Several recommendations, including a reviewer rating form addressing methodological decisions and inclusion of methodologists on the review panel, are offered to improve methodological rigor in published ethics research.

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Donna M. Randall is an Associate Professor in Management and Systems at Washington State University. Her research interests include organizational commitment, media coverage of whitecollar and corporate crime, and ethical issues in management. Her publications have appeared in such journals as Decision Sciences, Academy of Management Review, and Social Science Quarterly.

Annetta M. Gibson is a doctoral student in accounting in the Department of Accounting and Business Law at Washington State University. She has a CPA and has worked as an auditor for a number of years. Her research interests include impression management and ethical issues in auditing, accounting, and management.

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Randall, D.M., Gibson, A.M. Methodology in business ethics research: A review and critical assessment. J Bus Ethics 9, 457–471 (1990).

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  • Ethic Research
  • Business Ethic
  • Empirical Research
  • Rating Form
  • Critical Review