Quantitative and qualitative research in finance
Quantitative and qualitative research in finance

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Quantitative and qualitative research in finance

8 Research ethics

Ethical issues in doing research arise in a variety of ways, and at all stages of the research process. They vary considerably in their seriousness, and in how difficult they are to resolve. Furthermore, how they are interpreted and dealt with is likely to depend upon what the goal of the research is, how valuable and important it is judged to be, and what is being studied. Moreover, as will become clear, divergent views about these matters are to be found among researchers.

Judgements differ about the value of knowledge in itself, and of different kinds of knowledge. Where research is directed towards some practical or political goal, this will guide evaluations of what are legitimate and illegitimate research strategies. Similarly, views about what is and is not justified may vary according to who is being studied. For instance, many of us would take different views about research that focused on national government policymakers, CEOs in financial organisations, trade union leaders, and very young children. What is seen as legitimate in one context may not be judged legitimate in another; though, of course, judgements about these and other cases will differ to some extent according to our political views, and for other reasons as well.

Activity 7

Timing: About 15 minutes

Question 1

Can it ever be justified to observe people covertly (in other words, without their knowing) for the purposes of research?

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Discussion

Yes, sometimes. This might be legitimate, for example, where the behaviour takes place in a public place. It could also be acceptable under some other conditions, for example where the research topic is important and there is no other way of gaining the knowledge required.

Question 2

Should participants always be told ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’?

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Discussion

What is true and what is the whole truth are often not matters that are easily decided, and there are sometimes good reasons for not telling participants everything that is known about the research project in which they are participating.

Question 3

Are there some matters that are so private or sensitive that they should not be the focus for research?

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Discussion

There may well be, but often what is more important is how such matters are approached by a researcher. Also, it should not be assumed that we know what will be too private or sensitive from others’ points of view.

Question 4

What types and level of costs, both financial and otherwise, are acceptable for participants in a research project?

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Discussion

This question is impossible to answer in the abstract, though it would certainly be hard to justify research which has very serious consequences for people’s health or financial circumstances.

Question 5

What, if anything, can participants reasonably expect in return for their participation?

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Discussion

Again, this is impossible to answer in the abstract. Like many other issues surrounding research ethics, what judgements we make will depend upon the context. Please note that these are only our answers: there is even more disagreement about ethical than about methodological matters.

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