Week 2: Research ethics and research design
This week, you’ll learn more about the building blocks of business research. Last week’s readings and guidance introduced you to the concept of hypotheses and research questions. Let’s go into hypothesis testing a bit further.
Let’s reconsider last week’s sample research question: “Why are some of Ashford University’s students not successful in school?” Assume that Ashford’s management noticed that not all students are as successful as they would like them to be: some students fail courses, others drop out, and so on. This is considered the problem they would like to solve with the research. After some background evaluation, the administration develops a hypothesis about the problem and the question: “Ashford students don’t succeed when they have old computers.” The hypothesis states the problem (lack of student success) and an “educated guess” about why the problem is happening (students have old computers).
In the research, Ashford’s administrators need to operationalize the study and test the hypothesis; this means they need to do the research to find out whether their hypothesis is correct. They could study it by sending a survey to students in order to find out how old their computer is. They could give a new computer to some of the students with an old computer, and they could not give a new computer to students with an old computer. Then, the researchers could observe whether there is a difference between the old-computer students and the new-computer students.
In this study, the “null hypothesis” would be: “There is no statistically significant difference between the success of students with old computers and students with new computers.” If the study found there is, in fact, no difference in the success of the two groups, the researchers would fail to reject the null hypothesis. If there is a difference between the two groups, the researchers would reject the null hypothesis.
he process of collecting data to observe differences might be new to you. Remember that if you are not collecting data to answer a research question, you are not doing original research. You might have thought previously that if you write a paper in which you summarize what other researchers have done, then you are “doing research.” That’s not true in this class. In business research, you go beyond summarizing others’ work; you’re making observations from data that are your own.
It’s important to make sure that whatever research you do that involves people, or data from or about them, is conducted ethically. If research is ethical, it means (among other things) that the researchers are protecting the privacy of the participants and any research data collected about them.
In business settings, companies conduct research all the time to learn how to serve customers better, how to increase profits, and so on. If you surveyed your customers about their experience in your store using an online survey, it wouldn’t be ethical to force them to provide their names and addresses. They might choose to provide their names and contact information if they wanted you to follow up with them about a negative experience in the store, but to protect their privacy, you should not demand that information.
In university settings, ethics boards (also called Institutional Review Boards or IRBs) review the plans for all the studies that involve human participants, such as people who complete surveys or participate in interviews. The IRB’s main objective is to ensure the safety, privacy, and confidentiality of participants. You can read about Ashford’s IRB at http://www.ashford.edu/about/institutional-review-board.htm.
Ty, R. (2009, June 16). Types of research & research designs [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49_u-pXwx7g
Marianne102. (2009, December 8). Unethical research methods [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmEDdVEwkHc
Ethics in Internet Research
Read the journal article: The Ethics of Internet Research and this week’s lecture. In your own words, provide a summary of the article and add your own thoughts on how the Internet can affect the research process, including, but not limited to, ethics concerns.
Google’s business model includes state-of-the art research. Pick a research study that Google’s researchers have done from their list of Research Areas & Publication. What do you think about this research? Find details about related research to support your argument. Cite the studies in APA format.