Ethical Issues in Management Research Studies


Ethical issues are significant to all types of research, as they can influence the outcomes of research, study results, or the dissemination of knowledge following a study. Ethical planning helps to avoid ethical issues in research, thus improving study design, as well as the validity and reliability of results. Moreover, procedures such as the collection of informed consent and preserving respondents’ confidentiality can also help to avoid legal action (Saunders & Lewis, 2014). The report will aim to determine the presence of ethical issues in 20 separate management research studies, as well as to outline possible ethical fallacies that can be encountered in management research.

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Data Collection

First, it was crucial to establish a theoretical foundation for the report. Therefore, a search of scholarly databases was performed to find recent sources on ethical issues in management research. Search results were limited to articles and books published within the past five years to ensure that sources are reliable and appropriate. No separate search for articles for analysis was performed. Instead, articles reviewed by the group members in the previous assignment were used. A total of 20 articles were collected, which created a sufficient sample size for the case study.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was the second stage of research. In order to create a theoretical framework, coding was applied to articles and books on ethical issues in management research. This helped to obtain clear examples of ethical fallacies, such as lack of informed consent, weak research hypotheses, or small sample size. Then, the 20 articles chosen for the study were reviewed for compliance with ethical rules and standards presented in the theoretical framework. The results can be found both in text and in a table below.


Literature Review

Although ethical issues in research are widely studied in the academic literature, few works address ethical issues in management research specifically. Myers (2013) discusses ethical issues related to different designs of qualitative research used in management studies. For instance, in action research, the two key issues are determining the key stakeholder of the study and accepting sponsorship (Myers, 2013).

Other issues that might be relevant to management studies include those affecting the write-up of the research project. Myers (2013) stresses that researchers must ensure that they maintain the privacy of research subjects, use a balanced approach to interpreting and analyzing data, and take responsibility for the findings. Saunders and Lewis (2012) address similar themes in their study of business and management research.

For instance, they explain that using secondary data might be considered unethical if the authors of the primary research did not stipulate secondary research in their agreement with the subjects. However, Saunders and Lewis (2012) also state that the key ethical issues for researchers are ensuring that the results are reliable and avoiding bias. For instance, non-probability sampling could create ethical concerns if researchers attempt to generalize the findings to other populations.

Moreover, formulating a research question or hypothesis could also create ethical concerns, if the theoretical foundation for the study is weak or misinterpreted (Saunders & Lewis, 2012). A small sample size could also be considered an ethical fallacy; this is primarily due to the large variety of company structures and management styles available. If the sample is small, it is difficult for researchers to ensure that the study is comprehensive and that the findings can be applied to practice.

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Finally, Frechtling and Boo (2012) examine the application of various research codes of ethics to management research. Codes of ethics are considered to be useful, especially in studies that involve living subjects, such as humans or animals. A code of ethics usually consists of a list of rules that researchers should adhere to during the design and implementation of their study. Different codes of ethics are used by different organizations, establishing norms of conduct for researchers working in specific areas.

For instance, research in psychology and social science is usually guided by the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics, whereas nursing research might use the American Nurses’ Association’s Code of Ethics. Frechtling and Boo (2012) apply the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) Code of Professional Ethics and Practices to management research articles in order to determine their compliance with ethical standards and norms.

One of the key provisions of the WAPOR Code of Ethics is that researchers must make comprehensive information about the study available to the audience. Therefore, research write-ups should include components such as methodology, the purpose of the study, sample description, response rate, and other data that is critical to assessing the study (Frechtling & Boo, 2012).

Overall, the review of the literature identified four key ethical issues that are evident in management research:

  • Privacy and confidentiality of subjects;
  • Provision of information about the study;
  • Validity and effectiveness of the research design;
  • Reliability of results and conclusions.

All of the twenty articles obtained from previous assessments were analyzed for the presence of these ethical issues.

Overview of Ethical Issues

Overall, none of the articles explored in the study complied with all of the requirements stated above. Table 1 describes the articles’ compliance with the four key ethical requirements. During the analysis of articles, certain themes and patterns were noticed. First of all, very few articles provided reliable and justified results and conclusions. This was primarily due to design failures. For instance, a study by Devi ​and​ ​Rani (2016) was largely based on assumptions and had a limited research scope, which is why the findings are inconclusive. However, in some cases, effective study designs did not help researchers to achieve viable conclusions.

For example, Neff, Spiker, & Truant (2015) relied on the self-reported behavior of the participants to conclude. Secondly, very few studies addressed ethical issues, such as privacy and confidentiality. The only research that provided an explicit ethics statement was the study by Neff et al. (2015). The vast majority of other studies did not provide any information on the participant’s privacy and confidentiality. Thirdly, one of the key ethical fallacies was the lack of comprehensive information about the study. Although a lot of researchers provided all important information, a lot of studies did not report the response rate (Devi & Rani, 2016; Kanwar, ​Singh, ​&​ ​Kodwani, 2012).

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This affects the validity of conclusions and the reliability of the study, as low response rates decrease the stated sample size. Finally, about one-half of the studies also had design or methodology failures, which affected their validity. The most common ethical problem was the small sample size or research scope. For example, several studies focused only on specific companies or geographical areas. Although the design of the study might not impair its value, it creates difficulties for interpreting the results.

Table 1. Compliance with ethical requirements.

Study (authors, year) Privacy and confidentiality are addressed sufficiently Full information about the study provided in the write-up Study design is effective and valid Results and conclusions are reliable
Abeliotis, Chroni, & Lasaridi, 2016 Yes Yes Yes No
Ali, ​Bin, Piang, ​&​ ​Ali, 2016 No No Yes Yes
Arivazhagan, Geetha, & Ravilochanan, 2016 Yes Yes No No
Diala ​​​&​ ​Nemani, ​2011 No Yes No No
Devi ​&​ ​Rani, 2016 No No No No
Garrone, Melacini, & Perego, 2014 Yes No Yes No
Hanssena, Syversenb, & Støc, 2016 No No No No
Kanwar, ​ ​Singh, ​&​ ​Kodwani, 2012 No No No Yes
Kowal,​ ​&​ ​Roztocki, 2015a No Yes Yes No
Kowal, & Roztocki, 2015b No No Yes No
Lanfranchi & Giannetto, 2017 Yes No Yes No
Mirosa, Munro, Mangan-Walker, & Pearson, 2016 Yes Yes Yes No
Neff, Spiker, & Truant, 2015 Yes Yes Yes No
Padney & Sharma, 2015 Yes No Yes Yes
Principato, Secondi, & Pratesi, 2015 Yes Yes No No
Setti, Falasconi, Segrè, Cusano, & Vittuari, 2016 No Yes Yes Yes
Silvennoinen, Katajajuuri, Hartikainen, Heikkilä, & Reinikainen, 2014 Yes No No No
Thakur, 2014 No No Yes No
Tong, Tak, & Wong, 2015 No Yes Yes Yes
Verma, Malhotra, & Bedi, 2012 Yes Yes Yes No


Abeliotis, K., Chroni, C., & Lasaridi, K. (2016). Measuring food waste generation from households in Greece: Behaviours, attitudes, and potential for prevention. Current Politics and Economics of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, 31(3), 467-482.

Ali, A., Bin, L. Z., Piang, H. J., & Ali, Z. (2016). The impact of motivation on the employee performance and job satisfaction in IT Park (Software House) sector of Peshawar, Pakistan. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 6(9), 297-310.

Arivazhagan, R., Geetha, P., & Ravilochanan, P. (2016). Assessment of wastages in fruit supply chain with respect to fruit processing units in Tamilnadu, India. International Food Research Journal, 23(2), 723-732.

Diala, I., & Nemani, R. (2011). Job satisfaction: Key factors influencing information technology (IT) professionals in Washington DC. International Journal of Computer Technology and Applications, 2(4), 829-830.

Devi, K. R., & Rani, S. S. (2016). The impact of organizational role stress and work family conflict: Diagnosing sources of difficulty at work place and job satisfaction among women in IT Sector, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 219(1), 214-220.

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Frechtling, D. C., & Boo, S. (2012). On the ethics of management research: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 106(2), 149-160.

Garrone, P., Melacini, M., & Perego, A. (2014). Surplus food recovery and donation in Italy: The upstream process. British Food Journal, 116(9), 1460-1477.

Hanssena, O. J., Syversenb, F., & Støc, E. (2016). Edible food waste from Norwegian households—Detailed food waste. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 109(1), 146–154.

Kanwar, Y. P. S., Singh, A. K., & Kodwani, A. D. (2012). A study of job satisfaction, organizational commitment and turnover intent among the IT and ITES sector employees. Vision, 16(1), 27-35.

Kowal, J., & Roztocki, N. (2015a). Do organizational ethics improve IT job satisfaction in the Visegrád Group countries? Insights from Poland. Journal of Global Information Technology Management, 18(2), 127-145.

Kowal, J., & Roztocki, N. (2015b). Job satisfaction of IT professionals in Poland: does business competence matter? Journal of Business Economics and Management, 16(5), 995-1012.

Lanfranchi, M., & Giannetto, C. (2017). Economic analysis of food waste in the catering activity: Results of a survey conducted in south Italy. Calitatea, 18(159), 105-110.

Mirosa, M., Munro, H., Mangan-Walker, E., & Pearson, D. (2016). Reducing waste of food left on plates. British Food Journal, 118(9), 2326-2343.

Myers, M. D. (2013). Qualitative research in business and management. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Neff, R. A., Spiker, M. L., & Truant, P. L. (2015). Wasted food: U.S. consumers’ reported awareness, attitudes, and behaviors. PLoS One, 10(6), 1-16.

Padney, S., & Sharma, V. (2015). A preliminary study in determining job satisfaction of IT professionals in Delhi/NCR. Journal of Business Management & Social Sciences Research, 3(6), 476-483.

Principato, L., Secondi, L., & Pratesi, C. A. (2015). Reducing food waste: An investigation on the behavior of Italian youths. British Food Journal, 117(2), 731-748.

Saunders, M. N. K., & Lewis, P. (2014). Doing research in business and management: An essential guide to planning your project (3rd ed.). London, England: Pearson Education.

Setti, M., Falasconi, L., Segrè, A., Cusano, I., & Vittuari, M. (2016). Italian consumers’ income and food waste behavior. British Food Journal, 118(7), 1731-1746.

Silvennoinen, K., Juha-Matti Katajajuuri, Hartikainen, H., Heikkilä, L., & Reinikainen, A. (2014). Food waste volume and composition in Finnish households. British Food Journal, 116(6), 1058-1068.

Thakur, P. (2014). A research paper on the effect of employee engagement on job satisfaction in IT sector. Journal of Business Management & Social Sciences Research, 3(5), 31-30.

Tong, C., Tak, W. I. W., & Wong, A. (2015). The Impact of knowledge sharing on the relationship between organizational culture and Job satisfaction: The perception of information communication and technology (ICT) practitioners in Hong Kong. International Journal of Human Resource Studies, 5(1), 19-65.

Verma, A., Malhotra, M., & Bedi, M. (2012). Exploring the relationship between HR practices and job satisfaction across selected IT companies. IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11(1), 7-23.

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