Making quantitative research work: From positivist dogma to actual social scientific inquiry



Zyphur M & Pierides D (2020) Making quantitative research work: From positivist dogma to actual social scientific inquiry. Journal of Business Ethics, 167 (1), pp. 49-62.

Researchers misunderstand their role in creating ethical problems when they allow dogmas to purportedly divorce scientists and scientific practices from the values that they embody. Cortina (J Bus Ethics., 2019), Edwards (J Bus Ethics., 2019), and Powell (J Bus Ethics., 2019) help us clarify and further develop our position by responding to our critique of, and alternatives to, this misleading separation. In this rebuttal, we explore how the desire to achieve the separation of facts and values is unscientific on the very terms endorsed by its advocates—this separation is refuted by empirical observation. We show that positivists like Cortina and Edwards offer no rigorous theoretical or empirical justifications to substantiate their claims, let alone critique ours. Following Powell, we point to how classical pragmatism understands ‘purpose’ in scientific pursuits while also providing an alternative to the dogmas of positivism and related philosophical positions. In place of dogmatic, unscientific cries about an abstract and therefore always-unobservable ‘reality,’ we invite all organizational scholars to join us in shifting the discussion about quantitative research towards empirically grounded scientific inquiry. This makes the ethics of actual people and their practices central to quantitative research, including the thoughts, discourses, and behaviors of researchers who are always in particular places doing particular things. We propose that quantitative researchers can thus start to think about their research practices as a kind of work, rather than having the status of a kind of dogma. We conclude with some implications that this has for future research and education, including the relevance of research and research methods.

Quantitative research; Quantitative methods; Statistics; Probability; Pragmatism; Positivism; Regression; Research design; Data analysis; Inductive inference

Journal of Business Ethics: Volume 167, Issue 1

Publication date30/11/2020
Publication date online29/05/2019
Date accepted by journal16/05/2019