What will you do when you inevitably face the CHOICE? The “choice” is when you find a significant result that was not the subject of your investigation either through adapting the dependent or independent variables or both
Examples of the “choice:”
A. In archival work you are attempting to rule out alternative explanations and you come across a much stronger relationship than the hypothesized one that was the subject of your investigation. Do you now change the paper to make it read like this is what you were looking for all along?
B. In experimental work you find that a question among the manipulation checks is a “better” measured variable than the variable you manipulated. Are you tempted to claim measured variable was the IV all along?
C. In experimental research you find that the intended dependent variables do not lead to statistical significance in the results but that a measure among the various additional questions you posed does lead to such results. Do you claim that was that measure was the real DV all along?
D. In a survey you use a scale that has been previously used to represent a construct. In your survey the items do not load but you find a set of items that do load and lead to the result you predicted. Do you claim an original measure with results?
In each of these circumstances the right “choice” may not be obvious if you are an assistant professor at a research school under tenure pressure or if you need that one publication at a teaching school to show you are a scholarly academic!
However, the “choice” should be clear! The real question is what will you do when you face the CHOICE. Take the short term gain that leads to long term soul destruction or face the short term pain that might require you to relocate or worse?
I hope you make the RIGHT “choice” for as an ethical researcher there really is NO choice!