Constructs and Measures
Edited by Bradley R. Agle, David W. Hart, Jeffery A. Thompson and Hilary M. Hendricks
Chapter 8: Challenges in business ethics research
Challenges abound for behavioral researchers in any discipline. Researchers in the burgeoning, cross-disciplinary field of behavioral ethics travel an especially bumpy road. They share the difficulties faced by researchers of psychology and sociology, management science and experimental philosophy, combined. Add in the ethics-specific problems of loosely defined constructs and extremely sensitive data, and even experienced researchers can run into hazards. In this chapter, we describe some of the most trying roadblocks in ethics research and offer practical suggestions. We organize our chapter around questions that any researcher should consider but that have specific applications in the field of ethics: 1. What shall I study? Because scholars have yet to arrive at a clear definition of “ethical” or “moral,” researchers must explain why they consider the behaviors in their study to have moral implications. At the same time, the value judgments inherent in such explanations distance the researcher from the scholarly goal of objectivity. 2. How will I access data? Individuals and organizations often hesitate to participate in studies they fear will expose their behavior as right or wrong. Researchers need creativity or pre-established relationships to access organizations’ sensitive ethics data. 3. Can I trust the data I collect? Ethics data are particularly vulnerable to respondent bias. Study participants consciously and unconsciously manipulate their answers to portray themselves in socially desirable ways. Careful study design can help researchers measure and reduce the effects of respondent bias.
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