Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 143, Issue 1, pp 1–16

Is Quantitative Research Ethical? Tools for Ethically Practicing, Evaluating, and Using Quantitative Research

Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Quantitative research Quantitative methods Statistics Probability Regression Research design Data analysis Inductive inference 

References

  1. Abrahamson, E., Berkowitz, H., & Dumez, H. (2016). A more relevant approach to relevance in management studies: An essay on performativity. Academy of Management Review, 41, 367–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  3. Bettis, R. A., Ethiraj, S., Gambardella, A., Helfat, C., & Mitchell, W. (2016). Creating repeatable cumulative knowledge in strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 37(2), 257–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. *Buchholz, R. A., & Rosenthal, S. B. (2008). The unholy alliance of business and science. Journal of Business Ethics, 78(1), 199–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell, D. T. (1957). Factors relevant to the validity of experiments in social settings. Psychological Bulletin, 54, 297–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, D. T. (1991). Methods for the experimenting society. Evaluation Practice, 12(3), 223–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (1963). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research on teaching. In N. L. Gage (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (pp. 171–246). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  8. Cartwright, N. (1993). In defence of this worldly’causality: Comments on van Fraassen’s laws and symmetry. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53(2), 423–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cartwright, N. (2004). Causation: One word, many things. Philosophy of Science, 71(5), 805–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cartwright, N. (2006). Well-ordered science: Evidence for use. Philosophy of Science, 73(5), 981–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cartwright, N. (2007). Hunting causes and using them: Approaches in philosophy and economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. *Collison, D., Cross, S., Ferguson, J., Power, D., & Stevenson, L. (2012). Legal determinants of external finance revisited: The inverse relationship between investor protection and societal well-being. Journal of Business Ethics, 108(3), 393–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cunliffe, A. L. (2003). Reflexive inquiry in organizational research: Questions and possibilities. Human Relations, 56, 983–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Daston, L. (1995). The moral economy of science. Osiris, 10, 2–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Daston, L. (2005). Scientific error and the ethos of belief. Social Research, 72, 1–28.Google Scholar
  16. Davies, W. (2017, January 19). How statistics lost their power—And why we should fear what comes next. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/19/crisis-of-statistics-big-data-democracy.
  17. Davis, M. S. (1971). That’s interesting! Towards a phenomenology of sociology and a sociology of phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(4), 309–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Deetz, S. (1996). Describing differences in approaches to organization science: Rethinking Burrell and Morgan and their legacy. Organization Science, 7, 191–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dewey, J. (1929). The quest for certainty. New York: Minton, Balch, & Co.Google Scholar
  20. Dunn, W. N. (1982). Reforms as arguments. Knowledge, 3(3), 293–326.Google Scholar
  21. Erturk, I., Froud, J., Johal, S., Leaver, A., & Williams, K. (2013). (How) do devices matter in finance? Journal of Cultural Economy, 6(3), 336–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ezzamel, M., & Willmott, H. (2014). Registering ‘the ethical’ in organization theory formation: Towards the disclosure of an ‘invisible force’. Organization Studies, 35, 1013–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Falleti, T. G., & Lynch, J. F. (2009). Context and causal mechanisms in political analysis. Comparative Political Studies, 42(9), 1143–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Farjoun, M., Ansell, C., & Boin, A. (2015). Pragmatism in organization studies: Meeting the challenges of a dynamic and complex world. Organization Science, 26(6), 1787–1804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feldman, M. S., & Orlikowski, W. J. (2011). Theorizing practice and practicing theory. Organization science.Google Scholar
  26. Freeman, R. E. (2002). Toward a new vision for management research: A commentary on “Organizational researcher values, ethical responsibility, and the committed-to-participant research perspective”. Journal of Management Inquiry, 11(2), 186–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gabbay, D. M., Hartmann, S., & Woods, J. (2011). Handbook of the history of logic: Inductive logic (Vol. 10). Oxford: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gelman, A. (2015). The connection between varying treatment effects and the crisis of unreplicable research a Bayesian perspective. Journal of Management, 41, 632–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gigerenzer, G., & Marewski, J. N. (2015). Surrogate science the idol of a universal method for scientific inference. Journal of Management, 41, 421–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gigerenzer, G., Swijtink, Z. G., Porter, T. M., Daston, L., Beatty, J., & Krüger, L. (1989). The empire of chance: How probability changed science and everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. *Greenwood, M. (2016). Approving or improving research ethics in management journals. Journal of Business Ethics, 137, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hacking, I. (1990). The taming of chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hacking, I. (1992a). Statistical language, statistical truth and statistical reason: The self-authentification of a style of scientific reasoning. In E. McMullin (Ed.), The social dimensions of science (Vol. 3, pp. 130–157). Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  34. Hacking, I. (1992b). The self-vindication of the laboratory sciences. In A. Pickering (Ed.), Science as practice and culture (pp. 29–64). Chicago: Chicago Unviersity Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hacking, I. (1999). The social construction of what?. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Hacking, I. (2001). An introduction to probability and inductive logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hacking, I. (2002). Historical Ontology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hacking, I. (2006). The emergence of probability: A philosophical study of early ideas about probability, induction and statistical inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hakala, J., & Ylijoki, O.-H. (2001). Research for whom? Research orientations in three academic cultures. Organization, 8(2), 373–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hardy, C., & Clegg, S. (1997). Relativity without relativism: Reflexivity in post-paradigm organization studies. British Journal of Management, 8, 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hardy, C., Phillips, N., & Clegg, S. (2001). Reflexivity in organization and management theory: A study of the production of the research “subject”. Human Relations, 54, 531–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. *Hill, R. P. (2002). Stalking the poverty consumer a retrospective examination of modern ethical dilemmas. Journal of Business Ethics, 37(2), 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. *Holland, D., & Albrecht, C. (2013). The worldwide academic field of business ethics: Scholars’ perceptions of the most important issues. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(4), 777–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Howie, D. (2002). Interpreting probability: Controversies and developments in the early twentieth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Huhtala, M., Feldt, T., Lämsä, A. M., Mauno, S., & Kinnunen, U. (2011). Does the ethical culture of organisations promote managers’ occupational well-being? Investigating indirect links via ethical strain. Journal of Business Ethics, 101(2), 231–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jeanes, E. (2016). Are we ethical? Approaches to ethics in management and organisation research. Organization. doi:10.1177/1350508416656930.
  47. *Kaptein, M., & Schwartz, M. S. (2008). The effectiveness of business codes: A critical examination of existing studies and the development of an integrated research model. Journal of Business Ethics, 77(2), 111–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. *Keeble, J. J., Topiol, S., & Berkeley, S. (2003). Using indicators to measure sustainability performance at a corporate and project level. Journal of Business Ethics, 44(2), 149–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. *Kerssens-van Drongelen, I. C., & Fisscher, O. A. (2003). Ethical dilemmas in performance measurement. Journal of Business Ethics, 45(1), 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. *Knox, S., & Gruar, C. (2007). The application of stakeholder theory to relationship marketing strategy development in a non-profit organization. Journal of Business Ethics, 75(2), 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kozlowski, S. W. J., & Klein, K. J. (2000). A multilevel approach to theory and research in organizations: Contextual, temporal, and emergent processes. In K. J. Klein & S. W. J. Kozlowski (Eds.), Multilevel theory, research, and methods in organizations: Foundations, extensions, and new directions (pp. 3–90). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  52. Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1986). Laboratory life: The construction of scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Law, J. (2009). Seeing like a survey. Cultural Sociology, 3(2), 239–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. MacKenzie, D. A., Muniesa, F., & Siu, L. (2007). Do economists make markets? On the performativity of economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Martela, F. (2015). Fallible inquiry with ethical ends-in-view: A pragmatist philosophy of science for organizational research. Organization Studies, 36, 537–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. *Michalos, A. C. (1988). Editorial. Journal of Business Ethics, 1, 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Misangyi, V. F., Greckhamer, T., Furnari, S., Fiss, P. C., Crilly, D., & Aguilera, R. (2017). Embracing causal complexity the emergence of a neo-configurational perspective. Journal of Management, 43(1), 255–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  59. OED Online. Oxford University Press, (June 2016). Retrieved June 10, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/orient.
  60. *Orlitzky, M., Louche, C., Gond, J. P., & Chapple, W. (2015). Unpacking the drivers of corporate social performance: A multilevel, multistakeholder, and multimethod analysis. Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2822-y.
  61. *Painter-Morland, M. (2011). Rethinking responsible agency in corporations: Perspectives from Deleuze and Guattari. Journal of Business Ethics, 101(1), 83–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Panter, A. T., & Sterba, S. K. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of ethics in quantitative methodology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  63. Parkhurst, J. O., & Abeysinghe, S. (2016). What constitutes “good” evidence for public health and social policy-making? From hierarchies to appropriateness. Social Epistemology, 30(5–6), 665–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Pashler, H., & Wagenmakers, E. J. (2012). Editors’ introduction to the special section on replicability in psychological science a crisis of confidence? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(6), 528–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pedhazur, E. J., & Schmelkin, L. P. (2013). Measurement, design, and analysis: An integrated approach. Washington, DC: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  66. *Prado, A. M., & Woodside, A. G. (2015). Deepening understanding of certification adoption and non-adoption of international-supplier ethical standards. Journal of Business Ethics, 132(1), 105–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. *Ralston, D. A., Egri, C. P., Furrer, O., Kuo, M. H., Li, Y., Wangenheim, F., et al. (2014). Societal-level versus individual-level predictions of ethical behavior: A 48-society study of collectivism and individualism. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(2), 283–306.Google Scholar
  68. *Rathner, S. (2013). The influence of primary study characteristics on the performance differential between socially responsible and conventional investment funds: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(2), 349–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rorty, R. (2009). Philosophy and the mirror of nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Rose, N. (1985). The psychological complex. London: Routledge Kegan.Google Scholar
  71. *Rousseau, D. M., Manning, J., & Denyer, D. (2008). Evidence in management and organizational science: Assembling the field’s full weight of scientific knowledge through syntheses. Academy of Management Annals, 2(1), 475–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Russell, J., Greenhalgh, T., Byrne, E., & McDonnell, J. (2008). Recognizing rhetoric in health care policy analysis. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 13, 40–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schön, D. A. (1992). The theory of inquiry: Dewey’s legacy to education. Curriculum Inquiry, 22(2), 119–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. New York: Wadsworth Cengage learning.Google Scholar
  76. Shapin, S., & Schaffer, S. (1985). Leviathan and the air pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Singleton, V., & Law, J. (2013). Devices as rituals: Notes on enacting resistance. Journal of Cultural Economy, 6(3), 259–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. *Soares, C. (2003). Corporate versus individual moral responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 46(2), 143–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Stone, D. A. (1989). Causal stories and the formation of policy agendas. Political Science Quarterly, 104(2), 281–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tuck, E., & McKenzie, M. (2015). Relational validity and the “where” of inquiry: Place and land in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(7), 633–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Turker, D. (2009). Measuring corporate social responsibility: A scale development study. Journal of business ethics, 85(4), 411–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wasserman, L. (2013). All of statistics: A concise course in statistical inference. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  83. Werhane, P. H., & Freeman, R. E. (1999). Business ethics: The state of the art. International Journal of Management Reviews, 1(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wicks, A. C., & Freeman, R. E. (1998). Organizational studies and the new pragmatism: Positivism, anti-positivism, and the search for ethics. Organization Science, 9, 123–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wooldridge, J. M. (2010). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: MIT press.Google Scholar
  86. Young, I. M. (2011). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Zyphur, M. J., Pierides, D. C., & Roffe, J. (2016a). Measurement and statistics in ‘organization science’: Philosophical, sociological, and historical perspectives. In R. Mir, H. Willmott, & M. Greenwood (Eds.), The Routledge companion to philosophy in organization studies (pp. 474–482). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  88. Zyphur, M. J., Zammuto, R. F., & Zhang, Z. (2016b). Multilevel latent polynomial regression for modeling (in) congruence across organizational groups: The case of organizational culture research. Organizational Research Methods, 19(1), 53–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and MarketingUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Alliance Manchester Business SchoolUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations