Unethical Dilemmas in Carrying out Market Research

Definition of objectives and the problem

Before starting a marketing research the core issues to be investigated need to be identified including objectives which are clearly defined. This is more important for the satisfaction of client-needs than an appropriate definition of the research problem. All the effort, time and money invested in this point will be unsuccessful, if the problem is interpreted or poorly defined. A frequent ethical conflict which researchers face is their attempts to balance self interest and responsibility to the client (Kotler and Keller, 2009).

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Determining the research design

Here it is necessary to understand factors affecting the research approach like the economy and environment while deciding on the hypotheses. Research integrity involves designing without any deliberate withholding of information, falsification of figures, or compromising the design in any way. Unethical dilemmas are faced when the research is not fully honest and predetermined corporate and personal views do not bias the research objective. Conflicts between self-interests and pressure from the management must be eliminated (Terpstra, 2012).

Designing and preparing the research instrument

Questionnaire design involves major use of time and thought. If questions are badly framed, data which is collected will also be inferior. During designing of the research survey sampling and data analysis methods must be taken into consideration. Designing the survey approach and the questionnaire is one of the more important steps in a research process and unethical dilemmas occurring when using short-cuts in data collection without informing the client.

Collecting the data

Citing business confidentiality and copyright researchers often hide details of research methods from clients to hide facts of data being manipulated. This will be faced when budgets are low and research is expected to be conducted over large spatial scales. Unethical dilemmas are faced when important decisions have been based on the basis of data collected from few respondents residing in a small city (Kotler and Keller, 2009). This data is then used for generating decisions for a large geographical area. Ethical issues also arise with respect to respondents in survey methods. Ethical dilemmas occur where declared research anonymity is abused by using respondents personal data for different purposes (Nunan, 2013).

Analysing the data

The kinds of analysis planned to be performed on collected data must be decided earlier. After data collection actual survey analysis must be performed using analytical tools. After a research project is completed, ethical dilemmas emerge when researchers use information from research results for a different purpose without taking client-approvals.

Visualizing the data and communicating results

The final step of a market research project is presenting research findings and communicating conclusions. Researchers have a responsibility for gathering reliable and accurate data for clients. Non-fulfilment of these duties creates conflicts and gives rise to ethical dilemmas (Kotler and Keller, 2009). While meeting client- needs for reliable and accurate data, researchers could be less than frank with respondents regarding objectives of the research study for avoiding biases in their responses. It is essential to avoid any factor which leads to an unethical marketing research practice. We must get an approval from the client about research purpose and show them results of the research. Also interviewers must be trained to avoid asking questions in inappropriate ways so that respondents do not like to answer them or lie while answering. It is essential to learn ethical issues existing in market research studies before starting on the research.


  1. Kotler, P., Keller, K. L., & Lu, T. (2009). Marketing management in China. Prentice Hall.
  2. Nunan, D. &. (2013). Market research and the ethics of big data. International Journal of Market Research, 55(4) , 505-520.
  3. Terpstra, V. F. (2012). International marketing. Naper Press.
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Unethical Dilemmas In Carrying Out Market Research. (2019, May 18). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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