In conducting management studies, researchers have to observe the moral provisions outlined by the authorities governing the conduct of research. The intensity of ethical requirements varies depending on the type of study design adopted by the study team (Jiang, Lepak, Hu & Baer, 2012). This paper seeks to review the ethical compliance for both qualitative and quantitative studies. To achieve the stated purpose, the authors conducted a document analysis of articles reporting the study findings of the topic of HRM practices as a management area.
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Twenty articles were reviewed based on either a qualitative or a quantitative study method in an attempt to uncover their ethical compliance or non-compliance. The study identifies five major types of principled issues prevalent in management researches namely confidentiality of the participants’ data, informed consent, bias, honesty, and responsible publication (Du Plessis, Paine & Botha, 2012). Out of the 20 articles reviewed in this research, 17 complied with the participants’ privacy and informed consent provisions.
However, three of them did not mention anything about their consideration of the stated moral provisions. All the articles showed some deficiencies regarding bias and honesty provisions based on their reporting of the results. Lastly, the ethics of responsible publication scored high based on the inclusion of a reference list and in-text citations.
The academic field has recorded a rapid increase in the number of studies conducted to investigate different topics that are crucial to the learning process. The studies take the form of either qualitative or quantitative research, which mostly involves the exploration of new or emerging issues (Schutte, Barkhuizen, & van der Sluis, 2015). In the past, not much consideration was placed on the integrity of the research.
However, following the abusive use of studies to manipulate certain decisions and policies, the US government created legal authorities to ensure that the researchers maintain professionalism and high ethical standards (Thill, Venegas, & Groblschegg, 2014). Before the establishment of the institutional review board, researchers would infringe on the rights of the participants, owing to the lack of clear guidance on the appropriate procedures for conducting such studies (Ngo, Lau, & Foley, 2008).
The objective of this paper is to investigate the ethical issues evident in the field of HRM practices and knowledge management. To achieve the stated objective, the study team selects a set of 20 articles reporting the findings of HRM practices and knowledge management research topics. The paper begins with an abstract, which offers a summary of the entire content. In the introduction, the problem statement is provided before proceeding to the methodology section where research method/design, data collection, data reliability/validity, and data analysis are presented. Before concluding, the results section is given to discuss the selected ethical issues, which include confidentiality, informed consent, honesty, bias, and responsible publication.
Statement of the problem
Business managers are increasingly using the findings from investigators to make key decisions in their respective firms. The reliability of the results of any study is highly influenced by the ethical standards that the examiner observes (Chuang & Liao, 2010). Unethical investigators will most likely tend to exhibit bias in the reporting of the results, hence confusing the users of the study. Frechtling and Boo (2012) address the need for authors to ensure that their works comply with the laid down moral standards when publishing their works.
In lieu of the mentioned view, the US government has formulated a set of ethical standards through the relevant authorities to be followed when conducting academic studies (Jones, Kalmi, & Kauhanen, 2010). This study focuses on the ethical standards that govern the behavior of investigators in the field of management. To achieve the specified purpose, the author bases the report on the following study question:
What are the ethical issues prevalent in the management works of the specified area in HRM?
For the purposes of this study, the author utilizes a historical study design since it best fits the context. The historical study design involves the systematic review of the literature about the topic to come up with the above question (Van Buren, Greenwood, & Sheehan, 2011). The authors undertook a review of articles exploring the ethical issues inherent in the HRM practices. The articles used to gather the information regarding the topic of the study were obtained from online library databases (Scholar of Google and ProQuest).
Initially, the researcher obtained 35 articles based on the preliminary inclusion criteria. The preliminary inclusion criterion was that an article should be investigating HRM practices and knowledge management qualitatively or quantitatively. However, after a close examination of the articles and their contents, 15 articles fell short of the final inclusion criteria. Therefore, they were excluded from the study. To qualify for inclusion in the study, an article had to meet the following final inclusion standards:
- Authored within the past 10 years
- Investigated a management topic
- Expressly or impliedly indicated the ethical issues considered during the study
- The work on which the article was based on had to be approved by the relevant institutional review board
A group made up of two members undertook the data collection contemporaneously. The first stage of data collection involved dividing the articles into two and assigning 10 articles to each member. Each member read and reread the assigned 10 articles, which were from assignment one deducing the major ethical themes from the articles. After the exploration of the major issues, members exchanged the articles and repeated the process. The themes derived by each member were harmonized through negotiations to come up with a uniform set of ethical issues to be analyzed in the later stages.
To ensure that the data obtained from the articles were valid, the study team included only the articles that strictly met the inclusion criteria. All the qualitative articles reviewed in this paper were approved by the relevant IRBS. The requirement of the relevant institutional review boards to approve the study on which the articles were based was specifically important for validity checks. Articles approved by the IRBS are highly reliable and valid compared to those that do not pass through the approval stage (Kang, Morris, & Snell, 2007).
The institutional review board is an exceptional body that only endorses studies that meet the ethical requirements. Hence, it was important to consider only the articles that had received approval from the board.
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Two groups drawn from among the study team did the analysis of the data contemporaneously. Articles containing similar arguments regarding ethics were grouped and given special codes to facilitate their analysis using the relevant software. The grouped data was then fed into the Computer Assisted/Aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) for processing. The program allows the investigator to input the data based on the relevant codes. After inputting the data, an ‘enter’ key appears on the screen (Roebuck, 2012). After pressing the enter key, the computer automatically analyses the data and gives results. However, it is advisable to deal with individuals who have been trained to use the software.
The results from the study revealed that, indeed, numerous ethical issues mar articles that address management topics. The examiners identified five major ethical issues prevalent in HR as a management area. The identified issues include confidentiality, informed consent, bias, honesty, and responsible publication (Ileana & Simmons, 2008). The issues are in line with Handa and Vohra’s (2010) findings from a study they carried out to determine the occurrence of ethical issues in India as shown in table 1 below.
All the articles reviewed in this study unanimously identified the privacy of the participants as a key ethical issue. Confidentiality refers to the obligation of the researcher to ensure that the participants’ data is not accessible by unauthorized people to avoid its leakage to third parties (Paré & Tremblay, 2007). To guarantee the safety of data, the qualitative articles were reviewed using two major strategies. Firstly, they banned the inclusion of the participants’ names on both the questionnaires and in the recorded interview scripts. Secondly, the investigators stored the data in computers protected by encrypted passwords (Boxall & Macky, 2009). The two methods proved effective in alleviating unlawful, access hence aiding compliance with the principle of privacy.
The other theme deduced from this study is the requirement for informed consent from the participants of a qualitative study. The law requires people conducting studies using human subjects to obtain the participants’ consent prior to the commencement of the work (Purce, 2014). Failure to obtain the participants’ consent may lead to successful suits on the grounds of obtaining the respondents’ information on false pretense. To avoid legal liabilities, the parties informed the participants about their rights and obligations during and after the study and the purpose of the investigation (Khilji & Wang, 2006). After the relay of all the material facts concerning the study, the examiners requested the respondents to sign a document declaring their consent to participate.
In this context, honesty refers to the truthfulness and sincerity in the reporting of the findings. Only the information that has been substantiated with facts is included in the results section. The principle of honesty requires the investigator to report his or her findings without bias (Salie & Schlechter, 2012). The concept of honesty in both qualitative and quantitative work is important since it prevents the researcher from advancing his or her personal agenda through manipulating the findings. Besides, the concept ensures that the users of the findings do not make wrong decisions based on biased reporting.
Next, the law requires examiners to refrain from exercising bias either when conducting the study or when reporting the findings. Bias manifests itself in the form of preconception on the part of the investigator. It results from his or her predetermined judgment about the outcomes of the study and may cause a diversion from the primary purpose (Chen & Huang, 2009). Bias may compromise the reliability and validity of the work since the findings from a biased examiner will tend to represent his or her opinion as opposed to the actual results.
Lastly, the authors identified the ethics of responsible publication as a key concept of study. Responsible publication in the context of work refers to the respect for intellectual property by the investigator (Nel & Little, 2015). Under the concept, the investigator is obliged to publish only his or her original work to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism in the academic field is taken as a civil wrong, which may attract public penalties in the form of damages (Little & Nel, 2008). The authors of the articles reviewed in this paper avoided copyright infringement by citing the sources of the outside materials used.
One of the major limitations of the study revolves around the use of secondary data as the basis for the study. The use of the secondary data may limit the reliability of the results since errors and the author’s bias may be transferred to the new study (Du Plessis & Sukumaran, 2015). The results would be more reliable if primary data was used alongside the secondary data. The other limitation of the study is the small number of articles reviewed. The authors only reviewed 20 articles drawn from various works in the specified management field. It would be advisable to use more articles to obtain information regarding the topic of research.
The field of academic research is one of the most regulated areas apparently due to its speedy growth and the numerous irregularities involved. The research reported in this paper sought to establish the major ethical issues affecting researchers in the HRM field. To achieve the stated purpose, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of management articles, which were based on either qualitative or quantitative studies. The results revealed five major types of ethical standards, namely, confidentiality, informed consent, honesty, bias, and responsible publication. All the listed issues have been discussed in detail in the result analysis section of this report.
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