Qualitative Organisational Research

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 Qualitative Organizational Research Table of Contents Introduction Codes and Policies for Research Ethics What is Ethical Research? Why ethical rules are specifically needed in research? Discussion of Qualitative Management research Breach of a code and misconduct in research Conclusion References


The ‘ethics’ focuses on the disciplines that study standards of conduct, such as philosophy, theology, law, management, psychology, or sociology. One may also define ethics as a method, procedure, or outlook for deciding how to act and for analyzing complexity of problems and issues. For example, in considering a complex issue like global financial crisis, one researcher may take an economic, environmental, political, or ethical perspective on the problem. While an economist might examine the cost and benefits of various policies related to global financial crisis. Qualitative research possesses ethical issues and challenges unique to the study of human beings and animals. Traditional science, such as physics, chemistry and biology allows the researcher to assume a standpoint removed from the object of study phenomena in question. In contrast to positivist inquiry, in which independence, measurement and probability are all elements or expected outcomes, qualitative inquiry can’t predict, non-replicable, and unclear in its ability to ensure a consistently objective stance toward the research work. Qualitative research requires a common standpoint, researcher to participant, human being to human being.

Codes and Policies for Research Ethics

Given the importance of ethics for the conduct of research, it should come as no surprise that many different professional associations, government agencies, and universities have adopted specific codes, rules, and policies relating to research ethics. Many government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and etc. have ethics rules for funded researchers. (National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2013) Other influential research ethics policies include the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, the Chemist's Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, Statements on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Statement on Professional Ethics and etc. (National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2013) Although codes, policies, and principals are very important and useful, like any set of rules, they do not cover every situation or aspect, they often conflict, and they require significant clarification. It is therefore important for researchers to learn how to understand, assess, and apply various research rules and how to make decisions in various situations.

What is Ethical Research?

As a researcher, and indeed as a member of society, it is important that ethics in practice and research are understood and formed the basis of all activities. The principles of ethics do not change, but the understanding and application may change time to time. Research ethics have been developed over the past century, and landmark events and statements have been shaped on understanding of ethical research practice. International and national statements, codes and guidelines are the framework for ethical conduct of research. As an example, in Australia, the leading documents for guidance are the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, which provides working guidance and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. This expresses the ethical basis for the conduct of research involving humans. Every person involved in conducting any type of research activity is bound to follow to these principles. Small scale projects on research as well as major researches should be well planned, conducted, and reported according to these principles. These documents are not for the researchers only, in fact many professionals, particularly involved in clinical practice at hospitals in a research environment use these documents as primary guide lines and resources. The documents are ‘living’, as updates are regularly made and it is important and useful the researcher to note what is ‘new’ about the “National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research”. The National Statement is organized around four values:
  • Respect for human beings
  • Research merit and integrity
  • Justice
  • Beneficence
These four values provide a broad framework of principles to guide the concept, review and conduct of research. The National Statement also covers the specific guidance for different types of research, e.g. research using qualitative methods and research using human tissue samples, as well as guidance for research involving particular kinds of participants, e.g. children and people in dependent relationships. In addition, it contains detailed guidance for research institutions, e.g. hospitals, universities, and their human research ethics committees formed to review on proposed studies. (Australian code for the responsible conduct of research, 2013)

Why ethical rules are specifically needed in research?

Even if it is often said that ethics is about drawing the line between 'right' and 'wrong', ethics has a natural justification of its own as a disciplinary field. Most research questions have some ethical aspects: if not directly related to the research questions, then they might be related to research practices, processes or to the overall research field, or the ways we understand the relationships between the researcher and research topic and communicate about the research. And also there are several reasons why it is important to follow the ethical standards in research.
  1. This supports the purposes of research, such as knowledge, truth, and therefore avoidance of error is vital. For example, it is extremely important that prohibition should be made to avoid the lies, forgery, or misrepresentation of research data to promote the truth and avoid the errors in contents.
  2. Since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different characteristics and societies, ethical standards promote the values such as trust, responsibility, mutual respect, and equality. For example, many ethical standards in research, such as guidelines for ownership, copyright and patent policies, data sharing policies, and confidentiality rules in peer review are designed to protect intellectual property. Most researchers want to receive credit for their contributions and do not want to have their ideas stolen.
  3. Many of these standards help to guarantee that researchers can be held responsible to the public. For example, federal policies on research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the protection of human values, and animal care and use, are necessary in order to make sure those researchers who are funded by public money to be held accountable to the public.
  4. These standards also help to build public support for research. People are keener to trust on research project if they can trust the quality and truthfulness of the research.
  1. Many of the norms of research promote a range of other important ethical and social values, such as social responsibility, human rights and animal welfare, compliance with the law, and health and safety.

Discussion of Qualitative Management research

In Qualitative management research is to improve awareness and knowledge of organizational issue through the observation and interview the people who are working. At the nature of this investigative process is the need, to collect data in an appropriate manner. But what if the method of data collection is considered as unethical or creates difficult personal or emotional issues for the researcher? Whether engaging in long periods of covert participant observation, reflecting on people, processes and the interactions is an ethical way to learn about organizational problems. The literature reviews regarding this research method focusses on the knowledge of the subject, methodological relationship and the associated problems of researcher subjective, bias, and research outputs that are often distinctive descriptions of the issue being researched. The ethics of the management research have been broadly discussed in the literature review, as the research ethics involved in investigating organizational issues. At the same time, allow the valuable contributions made in the literature, little credence has been given to the ethical thoughts and concerns for the researcher affecting to the collection and use of data. In positioning the contribution of this discussion makes to the concerning ethical nature of covert participant observation in management research, but researchers also need to consider the consequences on themselves when choosing to conduct management research in a covert way. The use of covert participant observation in management research has historically raised serious questions. However, perhaps just as important to the subject knowledge and methodological debate regarding this research method, is that of the ethical debate pertaining to the collection and use of data from research participants. For example, correct approaches focus on the essential rights of research participants, such as the right to privacy, respect and self-freedom. Much of the literature on ethics is filled with terms such as informed consent, confidential and the avoidance of harm and misuse. But in practically the participants in the research process not being informed in full and accurate way and giving their freedom to participation. So based on consequential perspective focused on outcome, research is considered being ethical, and the benefits are balanced. A view could thus be taken on the relative costs and benefits of the research, considering the contribution of the research against the chances and level of harm. This view was supported by the ethic of comparable reason in observational research. In terms of potential benefits, the researcher’s role as a manager-researcher in a business provided the opportunity to become immersed in a generally under-researched area of employee coping strategies in small businesses. The collection of data on the issues being researched might not generally be available to external researchers. Researchers need to consider that, the research has the potential to make a contribution within the company. Having a fuller understanding of the actions and reactions of staff in a aggressive and very unstable working environment was likely to contribute to the researcher managerial role. Being able to recognize the actions of staff as coping strategies and recognizing when staff was acting to use some identity or control over their work would be valuable information for the researcher in understanding and getting some stability to the workplace. Recognizing these actions for what they are, and accepting or perhaps even helping them where this is appropriate would be an important method and was likely to be beneficial to the individuals concerned and the workplace. Therefore, that the research had a number of potential benefits and these were considered against the potential harms. At the same time the research was covert, and had been carried out without the informed consent of staff, it was also undertaken without the knowledge of the chief executive and management. Whilst rarely can absolute guarantees be given that identities will remain hidden, it was likely that the identity of the company would remain confidential. Thus, the potential harm to participants and the impact on participants’ would also be minimal. It was on this basis, covert participant observation was deemed ethical.

Breach of a code and misconduct in research

Charges of deviations from this Code and of misconduct at research works will be up dated from time to time. A prompt and effective response is required in each case. All affected parties must be treated fairly and reasonably and the situation remedied, and appropriate steps be taken to maintain public confidence in the research endeavor. As an example: In Australia, minor matters have been handled entirely within institutions. However, more serious matters have been dealt with in various ways, to avoid lacking consistency and public acceptance. Recent studies in Australia, United States and the United Kingdom indicate a higher rate of unreported offences than expected. Reviewers have revealed that growth in the rate of serious offences is factual and is the result of commercial and other pressures for success, particularly in areas such as biotechnology and medicine. A complaint on which researcher has not acted responsibly, requires a response that may include the following steps:
  • a discreet investigation
  • a formal inquiry
  • The imposition of a sanction or penalty
  • Actions to remedy the situation
  • Advice to expert groups and public statements as appropriate.
In most cases the response will not be required in all form of these steps. For example when the complaint cannot be sustained or when the researcher has been conceded. However, an allegation of serious misconduct that may attract a significant penalty, if proven, will require all the steps and great care. The process outlined above resembles the process for almost all complaints of misconduct. However, research is complex and requires great care to get it right because of the number of interested parties and the extent to which a serious offence may lead to collateral damages. The number of serious misconduct cases may be increasing, but it is still negligible, and there is the number of people with experience in managing such cases. Therefore, it is important that processes are consistent and that there is a repository of experiences and advice to guide future cases.


It is important to have ethics in research since it promoted the aims of research. It provides values that are essential to collaborative work like faith, responsibility, shared respect and equality. It also helps to build public support for the research and promotes a variety of other important moral and social values. And also it is a need for research to be done on more serious topics such as drugs and chemicals. In these instances, the need for ethics is greater than ever as a lot of the research is undertaken on animals or humans. In these cases there are strict rules and ethical guidelines that need to be followed when research is done. The animals and humans must be treated fairly, understand each step of the research and, in the case of humans, must fully consent before the research can begin. There are also guidelines about the confidentiality of personal information, as well as protecting the rights and the privacy of those involved in the study. This goes for the participants of research surveys too as guidelines dictate that the sensitive information given should be used in an ethical manner.


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Qualitative Organisational Research. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved July 20, 2024 , from

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