Ethical Research Discussed

Monkey research

This week’s blog post for our Marketing Research & Strategy class instructed us to take a closer look at our classmates’ blog posts and what point of view they took towards ethical research. Reading through many interesting posts, one of the post that stood out was a post by Katlyn Hoge, “Monkey Drug Trials”. Her blog post took a closer look at how monkeys were used to test the effects of drug and more particular the effect of overdosing on drugs. They were conditioned to inject themselves with drugs. Once they became addicted, they were giving large amounts of drugs which would give them the choice of continuing their addiction or not. The results described in her blog were horrific. Examples ranged from monkeys breaking limbs in order to escape to animals dying of an overdose.

I completely agree with Katlyn’s statement that these practices are considered to be very unethical and that we should come up with different practices were these innocent animals get spared from tests and possible death. What seemed pretty meaningless to me when reading the article that she read, is that the reasoning for conducting these experiments on animals is needless. I think there are plenty of cases in the past that have shown the devastating effects of large amounts of drugs on the behavior and health of humans. Why would we try to further investigate this research on innocent animals while we have humans dying daily from overdosing on these types of drugs?

Lab mouseAnother blog post by Stephanie Liou, called “Animal Research: The Ethics of Animal Experimentation”, argues both sides of the topic. I think she is bring forth some very interesting points for both cases. She also presents a middle ground with tries to limit the use of animals for scientific research, but doesn’t necessarily completely ban it. In her case against animal experiments, her strongest argument is that animals deserve to receive the same respected treatment as humans.
On the other end, in her statement for animal experimentation the main argument is turns to moral status. Researchers that are for animal experimentation state that “humans have higher moral status than animals and fundamental rights that animals lack.”

Stephanie provides a middle ground at the end of her blog post that brings both sides together. The middle ground provides an argument that allows further animals experimentation but under strict rules. One of those rules for example is that animal research should not be allowed when there is already extensive literature research out in the scientific community. Another argument she addresses is that when there is no research out there yet that researchers have to ensure the best possible treatment of the animals while being studied. This includes first of all, reducing the pain and suffering the animals have been through in the past as much as possible, through for example the use of anesthesia.

Both Katlyn’s blog and Stephanie’s blog are very interesting readings and worth checking out in case you’re interested in reading the full article.

Unethical Behavior in Marketing Research


In this week’s blog, I’m taking a closer look at ethical practices within marketing research. In an article called Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers (Hunt, Chonko, Wilcox, 1984), the authors assess four research topics:

  1. The major ethical problems of marketing researchers;
  2. To what extent professional codes of conduct address the major ethical problems of marketing researchers;
  3. How extensive are ethical problems of marketing researchers;
  4. How effective are the actions of top management in reducing the ethical problems of marketing researchers?

In order to find out more about the major ethical problems the authors conducted a research based where they asked marketing researchers the following question:

“In all professions, managers are exposed to at least some situations that pose a moral or ethical problem. Would you please briefly describe the job situation that poses the most difficult ethical or moral problems for you?”

After they conducted their research, they concluded that “Research integrity” was the leading category and accounted for 33% of all responses. Research integrity includes withholding information, falsifying data, altering research results, misusing statistics, ignoring pertinent date, compromising the design of a research project, and misinterpreting the results of a research project with the objective of supporting a predetermined personal or corporate point of view. “Treating outside clients fairly” was the second highest category with 11%, where one of the researchers that was being surveyed responded that “hidden chargers are often passed on to the customer and reversed only if the customer complains.” The third highest category that resulted from the research that the authors conducted was “Confidentiality”, where most confidentiality problems came from trying to balance their obligations toward different outside clients. Other ethical issues that resulted from the research that was conducted were (in order of importance): social issues, personnel issues, treating respondents fairly, treating others in the company fairly, interviewer dishonesty, gifts, treating suppliers fairly, legal issues, misuse of funds, other.

The authors of the research came to nine different conclusions to answer their four research topics. The article Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers (Hunt, Chonko, Wilcox, 1984) states the following conclusions:

  1. The most difficult ethical problem facing marketing researchers is maintaining the integrity of their research efforts.
  2. The primary ethical conflicts for in-house researchers are: balancing the interests of self against the interests of other parties and balancing the interests of the company against the interests of other parties.
  3. All of the primary ethical conflicts of agency researchers involve balancing the interests of their outside clients against the interests of various other parties.
  4. Though marketing researchers perceive many opportunities for engaging in unethical behavior, they perceive a relatively low frequency of unethical behavior.
  5. Marketing researchers do not believe that unethical behaviors in general lead to success in marketing research.
  6. A relatively large portion of marketing researchers believe that successful managers reduce the ethical problems of marketing researchers.
  7. The actions of top management in dealing unethical behavior can significantly reduce the ethical problems of marketing researchers.
  8. The presence of either corporate or industry codes of conduct seem to be unrelated to the extent of ethical problems in marketing research.
  9. In comparison with the official American Marketing Association code of conduct for marketing research, the code proposed by the New York Chapter covers many more of the most difficult ethical issues facing marketing researchers.

ethics2The most interesting conclusion that the authors made was conclusion eight. I was surprised to see that the research results showed that corporate and/or industry codes of conduct have no significant relationship with the extent of unethical practices in marketing research. This means that a lot of marketing researchers neglect their company’s policies regarding marketing research to show “positive” results to top management. What I learned from this is that as a student doing research, we have to be careful and mindful about how we analyze data. As a student doing a research project, you can’t just read one journal article and perceive everything the author says as one hundred percent correct. You have to be able to proof what the author says by finding additional research that concludes the same thing.

After analyzing the top three major ethical difficulties represented in the article, I agree with conclusion seven of the authors. I think that the actions of top management within an organization to judge unethical behavior are extremely important to reduce this behavior within the company. When a company does not take the appropriate actions, it could result in making the wrong strategic decisions which will have a negative effect on not only the company’s profits, but also on the company’s image and reputation.

Several actions top management could take to deal with unethical issues like research integrity, treating outside clients fairly, and research confidentiality are presented in a blog by Emily Douglas called 7 Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior. I believe that the two last practices that she addresses are the most important ones. By building a culture of transparency, openness, and communication, the organization creates an environment where everybody feels comfortable about expressing their true thoughts. In this environment, marketing researchers wouldn’t feel the need to for example withhold information or falsify data because they know they are valued for speaking their mind. Also, and this refers to the last practice presented by Emily Douglas, it is very important that top management who present the importance of the policies of the organization to their employees. This goes along with conclusion seven made by Hunt, Chonko, and Wilcox (1984). Top management needs to make sure that they also stick strictly to the policies they inducted into their company. When employees find out that their top management is behaving unethically, this will cause distrust and give employees like for example marketing researchers to also break the policies made around ethical behavior.

Both the research article Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers (Hunt, Chonko, Wilcox, 1984) and Emily Douglas’ blog post 7 Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior are a very interesting read and worth checking out.

Marketing research boundaries

The-Living-Generations-And-Their-Peculiar-Traits-01.pngIn this week’s lecture, we took a closer look a setting up our surveys to conduct for our final project and which questions we are going to ask our survey takers. While thinking about relevant questions for our survey that would lead us in the right direction and would actually give us some valuable information about our topic, which is the WVWC MBA Program, we found that there are some boundaries and limitations to our research project.

In chapter 16 of his book, McQuarrie (2016) provides the reader with two types of boundaries that could occur while doing market research. The first boundary focusses on true uncertainty, which means that we can’t predict how something will be in the future. In the case of our study this can be seen as a boundary as well. For our research project, we are only limited to conducting surveys among WVWC students and staff. The problem is that our research topic looks at how WVWC can reach professionals already out in the business world and convince them into getting their MBA degree at WVWC. This is one example of a boundary in market research, because when we have students take our survey, we need them to place themselves within a situation where they are a professional. We have to ask them if they would consider participating in the WVWC MBA Program in the future.
It is a little easier for WVWC staff, because they have already spent some time within the business world and are able to explain why they would need an MBA degree and what the benefits for that employee would be.

The second boundary, discussed in McQuarrie’s (2016) book, takes a deeper look at the ratio of research costs to business payoff. This simply means that market research is possible, but that the cost of doing the research outweighs the benefits of the research. This is not a problem that we will have, because our market research is solely based on the input from WVWC students and staff, which is free information. The only cost we’ll have to counts towards our project is the cost for setting up a relevant survey that will provide us with all the information we need.

Besides these two boundaries as described by McQuarrie, there are a couple other factors that will end up limiting the precision of a research. As discussed we can only target WVWC students and staff, where we’ll be able to gather a lot more information from students because there are more students than staff members on this campus. In regards to this we also have to keep in mind that current WVWC students are from a different generation than some of the professionals in the field. At the moment, we have Generation X and Generation Y. These two generations have most likely different thoughts towards how to learn new information. Where people from Generation Y will probably favor online tools of education because they feel more comfortable using these tools, some professionals who below to Generation Y might still prefer face-to-face interactions with professors when it comes down to learning new information. This could skew our results towards a preference for the use of online platforms and interfaces, because we are only able to target current WVWC students and staff (of which the students represent the majority of the researched population).

These boundaries don’t mean that we can’t conduct effective qualitative or quantitative research about our topic, but it definitely complicates it. We’ll have to draw two different conclusions from the results of our surveys based on WVWC students and WVWC staff. The results that we’ll get from WVWC staff will be the most accurate data and could help us directly in guiding our research project in the right direction, while the results from WVWC students will be more helpful towards the future. The main reason for this is again the fact that we are looking at two different generations that could possibly have two different points of view when it comes down to learning new material, like for example getting their MBA degree from WVWC online or through face-to-face interactions with professors.

Calculating Sample Sizes

The market research toolboxThroughout this week’s lectures in our Marketing Research & Strategy class, we’ve been taking a closer look at how to determine a sample size for a research project. McQuarrie (2016) provides a relatively easy way to calculate how big your sample size should be in his book The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners. In his book, he describes a three-step process that will help you calculate the sample size based on the preferred confidence level and margin of error (precision) that is proposed by management judgement:

  1. Square the Z value associated with the desired confidence interval.
  2. Multiply it by the population variance.
  3. Divide by the square of the desired precision.

To find the population variance, you have to use the following formula:

Variance = proportion #1 x [1 – proportion #1]

sample size

Now we know how to theoretically calculate the sample size, we can apply this to a problem. One of the problems that was presented by McQuarrie (2016) stated: “To determine the effectiveness of an ad campaign for a new DVD player, management would like to know what percentage of the market has been made aware of the new product. The ad agency thinks this figure could be as high as 70 percent. In estimating the percent aware, management has specified a 95 percent confidence interval, and a precision of ±2 percent. What sample size is needed?”

Following the method presented by McQuarrie for calculating the sample size, the first thing we need to do is to square the Z value associated with the confidence interval. The problem states that management decided on a confidence interval of 95 percent which means that our Z value equals 2. In the next step, we have to multiply our squared Z value with the population variance, which can be calculated through the formula shown above for variance. In this case the variance equals 0.21 [0.70 x (1-0.70)]. Once, we’ve established this, we have to divide our nominator (Z2 x variance) through our denominator, which equals the square of the desired precision. This means that our final formula will look like this:

[22 x 0.21] / 0.022
= 2100

I think a margin of error (precision) of ±2 percent is a reasonable confidence interval. At first, it seemed really tight but after taking a closer look at an article by Billy Hulkower, a Senior Technology Analyst for Mintel, on the market for Movie Sales and Rentals in the US in 2014, we can conclude that the market for movie sales and rentals is declining rapidly. The tables show that movie sales in the US, when adjusted for inflation will decline from $17.5 billion in 2014 to $14.6 in 2019. Based on this information, it is extremely important for a company, that is about to introduce a new DVD player into the market, to know how effective their ad campaign will be.

Another reason why it is so important for companies in the DVD player market to know how effective their ad campaign will be, is the increasing competition of digital movies provided by for example Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play which is also discussed in Hulkower’s article. Technology is constantly evolving and helps us make our lives easier. Customers now have the option between buying movies at home from their computers or running to the store to physically buy the movie. I think we can all agree that it is a lot more attractive to stay at home and buy a movie online without having to leave your couch instead of driving all the way to the store for that same movie.

Due to these two reasons, a ±2 percent precision level in this problem seems a very reasonable estimate, because as a company in a declining market with a lot of competition wants to get an accurate reflection of the percentage of the market that is aware of the new DVD player that you are to introduce into the market.