Serious research into corporate ethics is nearly half a century old. Two approaches have dominated research; one is normative, the other empirical. The former, the normative approach, develops theories and norms that are prescriptive, that is, ones that are designed to guide corporate behavior. The latter, the empirical approach, investigates the character and causes of corporate behavior by examining corporate governance structures, policies, corporate relationships, and managerial behavior with the aim of explaining and predicting corporate behavior. Normative research has been led by scholars in the fields of moral philosophy, theology and legal theory. Empirical research has been led by scholars in the fields of sociology, psychology, economics, marketing, finance, and management. While utilizing distinct methods, the two approaches are symbiotic. Ethical and legal theory are irrelevant without factual context. Similarly, empirical theories are sterile unless translated into corporate guidance. The following description of the history of research in corporate ethics demonstrates that normative research methods are indispensable tools for empirical inquiry, even as empirical methods are indispensable tools for normative inquiry.
Thomas Donaldson and Diana C. Robertson
Heather A. Haveman and Gillian Gualtieri
Research on institutional logics surveys systems of cultural elements (values, beliefs, and normative expectations) by which people, groups, and organizations make sense of and evaluate their everyday activities, and organize those activities in time and space. Although there were scattered mentions of this concept before 1990, this literature really began with the 1991 publication of a theory piece by Roger Friedland and Robert Alford. Since that time, it has become a large and diverse area of organizational research. Several books and thousands of papers and book chapters have been published on this topic, addressing institutional logics in sites as different as climate change proceedings of the United Nations, local banks in the United States, and business groups in Taiwan. Several intellectual precursors to institutional logics provide a detailed explanation of the concept and the theory surrounding it. These literatures developed over time within the broader framework of theory and empirical work in sociology, political science, and anthropology. Papers published in ten major sociology and management journals in the United States and Europe (between 1990 and 2015) provide analysis and help to identify trends in theoretical development and empirical findings. Evaluting these trends suggest three gentle corrections and potentially useful extensions to the literature help to guide future research: (1) limiting the definition of institutional logic to cultural-cognitive phenomena, rather than including material phenomena; (2) recognizing both “cold” (purely rational) cognition and “hot” (emotion-laden) cognition; and (3) developing and testing a theory (or multiple related theories), meaning a logically interconnected set of propositions concerning a delimited set of social phenomena, derived from assumptions about essential facts (axioms), that details causal mechanisms and yields empirically testable (falsifiable) hypotheses, by being more consistent about how we use concepts in theoretical statements; assessing the reliability and validity of our empirical measures; and conducting meta-analyses of the many inductive studies that have been published, to develop deductive theories.
Robert P. Gephart and Rohny Saylors
Qualitative research designs provide future-oriented plans for undertaking research. Designs should describe how to effectively address and answer a specific research question using qualitative data and qualitative analysis techniques. Designs connect research objectives to observations, data, methods, interpretations, and research outcomes. Qualitative research designs focus initially on collecting data to provide a naturalistic view of social phenomena and understand the meaning the social world holds from the point of view of social actors in real settings. The outcomes of qualitative research designs are situated narratives of peoples’ activities in real settings, reasoned explanations of behavior, discoveries of new phenomena, and creating and testing of theories. A three-level framework can be used to describe the layers of qualitative research design and conceptualize its multifaceted nature. Note, however, that qualitative research is a flexible and not fixed process, unlike conventional positivist research designs that are unchanged after data collection commences. Flexibility provides qualitative research with the capacity to alter foci during the research process and make new and emerging discoveries. The first or methods layer of the research design process uses social science methods to rigorously describe organizational phenomena and provide evidence that is useful for explaining phenomena and developing theory. Description is done using empirical research methods for data collection including case studies, interviews, participant observation, ethnography, and collection of texts, records, and documents. The second or methodological layer of research design offers three formal logical strategies to analyze data and address research questions: (a) induction to answer descriptive “what” questions; (b) deduction and hypothesis testing to address theory oriented “why” questions; and (c) abduction to understand questions about what, how, and why phenomena occur. The third or social science paradigm layer of research design is formed by broad social science traditions and approaches that reflect distinct theoretical epistemologies—theories of knowledge—and diverse empirical research practices. These perspectives include positivism, interpretive induction, and interpretive abduction (interpretive science). There are also scholarly research perspectives that reflect on and challenge or seek to change management thinking and practice, rather than producing rigorous empirical research or evidence based findings. These perspectives include critical research, postmodern research, and organization development. Three additional issues are important to future qualitative research designs. First, there is renewed interest in the value of covert research undertaken without the informed consent of participants. Second, there is an ongoing discussion of the best style to use for reporting qualitative research. Third, there are new ways to integrate qualitative and quantitative data. These are needed to better address the interplay of qualitative and quantitative phenomena that are both found in everyday discourse, a phenomenon that has been overlooked.