Is Quantitative Research Ethical? Tools for Ethically Practicing, Evaluating, and Using Quantitative Research
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This editorial offers new ways to ethically practice, evaluate, and use quantitative research (QR). Our central claim is that ready-made formulas for QR, including ‘best practices’ and common notions of ‘validity’ or ‘objectivity,’ are often divorced from the ethical and practical implications of doing, evaluating, and using QR for specific purposes. To focus on these implications, we critique common theoretical foundations for QR and then recommend approaches to QR that are ‘built for purpose,’ by which we mean designed to ethically address specific problems or situations on terms that are contextually relevant. For this, we propose a new tool for evaluating the quality of QR, which we call ‘relational validity.’ Studies, including their methods and results, are relationally valid when they ethically connect researchers’ purposes with the way that QR is oriented and the ways that it is done—including the concepts and units of analysis invoked, as well as what its ‘methods’ imply more generally. This new way of doing QR can provide the liberty required to address serious worldly problems on terms that are both practical and ethically informed in relation to the problems themselves rather than the confines of existing QR logics and practices.
KeywordsQuantitative research Quantitative methods Statistics Probability Regression Research design Data analysis Inductive inference
This research was supported by Australian Research Council’s Future Fellowship scheme (project FT140100629).
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