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Insights Regarding the Applicability of the Defining Issues Test to Advance Ethics Research with Accounting Students: A Meta-analytic Review


  • Anne L. Christensen

    () (Montana State University)

  • Jane Cote

    () (Washington State University)

  • Claire K. Latham

    () (Washington State University)


Abstract Numerous researchers have investigated accounting students’ levels of moral reasoning, ethical choice and judgment employing the Defining Issues Test (DIT) and using its P score as an indicator of moral reasoning. Not surprisingly, a number of DIT studies report conflicting results. Moreover, despite widespread use of the DIT, there is concern that it may not adequately measure all facets of ethical judgment (cf. Bailey et al., Behav Res Account 22(2):1–26, 2010). Thus, we endeavor to provide insight not only into the contradictory results but also about the applicability of the DIT for studying accounting students. To do so, we collect published and unpublished DIT studies employing accounting students as subjects and use meta-analysis to aggregate findings across these studies to quantify their results, examining commonly employed variables. We show significant relationships between P scores and some variables (length of professional experience, choice of major, political ideology, gender, GPA and education level) but not others (age). Further, our findings demonstrate that the DIT provides added insights when exploring questions of ethical choice, and ethics instruction, particularly when the instruction is embedded in an accounting course. Finally, we find that the level of DIT P scores reported in the studies relates to whether the study was published. We discuss the implications of our findings for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne L. Christensen & Jane Cote & Claire K. Latham, 2016. "Insights Regarding the Applicability of the Defining Issues Test to Advance Ethics Research with Accounting Students: A Meta-analytic Review," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 133(1), pages 141-163, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:133:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s10551-014-2349-7
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-014-2349-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ethan Waples & Alison Antes & Stephen Murphy & Shane Connelly & Michael Mumford, 2009. "A Meta-Analytic Investigation of Business Ethics Instruction," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 87(1), pages 133-151, June.
    2. Ponemon, Lawrence A., 1992. "Ethical reasoning and selection-socialization in accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(3-4), pages 239-258.
    3. Markus Milne, 2001. "Commentary on: Some thoughts on social and environmental accounting education," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(4), pages 369-374.
    4. Scofield, Stephen B. & Phillips, Thomas Jr. & Bailey, Charles D., 2004. "An empirical reanalysis of the selection-socialization hypothesis: a research note," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(5-6), pages 543-563.
    5. James Bloodgood & William Turnley & Peter Mudrack, 2010. "Ethics Instruction and the Perceived Acceptability of Cheating," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 23-37, August.
    6. repec:eee:joaced:v:27:y:2009:i:4:p:185-196 is not listed on IDEAS
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