4.5 the method of data collection, the method

4.5 Control variables

In light of current literature on the topic of CSRD, it is considered
necessary to incorporate a number of control variables in the research design.

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Company size is considered to have a significant positive effect on CSRD,
given that larger companies are more visible and tend to be under stronger stakeholder
pressure (Branco and Rodrigues, 2008; Khan et al., 2013). Given the scope
of the study, the methodology should control for company size when testing the
outlined hypotheses.

Previous literature confirms that stakeholder pressure for CSR
disclosure is influenced by the industry to which a company belongs (Gamerschlag,
Möller and Verbeeten, 2011). Thus, I control
for industry profile. Consistent with Chan, Watson and Woodliff (2014), and Brammer and
Pavelin (2006), the research
design will control for industry differences by measuring industry profile. Chan
and colleagues (2014) classify the
financial sector as a low profile industry, the materials sector as a high
profile industry, and all other sectors as medium profile industries.

Previous research on the relationship between corporate social
performance and financial performance is largely inconclusive (Margolis
and Walsh, 2003). However, in
line with Majeed and colleagues (2015) the regression
analysis will control for financial performance, given that recent research suggests
a positive relationship (Ehsan
and Kaleem, 2012).

5. Proposed Research Design

The
final part of the research proposal will outline the proposed research
approach. The outline will include a discussion of the population and sample,
the method of data collection, the method of data analysis and the limitations
associated with the design of the proposed research. Finally, a time schedule
of the major milestones is proposed, under the assumption that the research is
to be conducted within the time limits of a bachelor’s thesis.

5.1 Population and Sample

The population, to which the results of the proposed research is meant
to apply, will be multinational corporations in the Nordics. Regardless of the
results obtained, the research is important to legislators and investors, among
others. In order to draw inferences about the total population, a sample of the
60 most-traded publicly listed companies from Denmark, Finland, Norway and
Sweden will be selected. This sample size is congruent with similar studies (Majeed et al., 2015; Dias et al., 2017).

The
chosen sample is a convenience sample. Similar studies have chosen to use a
similar sample type, expecting that these companies are the most visible and
have the highest levels of disclosure (e.g., Dias et al., 2017). Given the
variables assessed and the methods used, it is necessary to select companies
that disclose information in English, which limits the sample severely. The
selected 60 companies currently all publish annual reports in English. Any of
problems of access should, therefore, be avoided by using the selected sample.

My sample will focus on the reports published for the accounting year 2017.

5.2 Data Collection

The methods
of data collection for each of the selected variables are outlined in the
following section. 

5.2.1 Dependent Variable

CSR
disclosure is the chosen dependent variable of the study. Similar to previous
studies, CSRD is examined using content analysis. Content analysis is a method used
to codify a piece of text based on an established criterion (Weber, 1990, p. 9). Content
analysis is regularly used when analyzing annual reports and is considered
empirically suitable within CSR research (Guthrie and Parker, 1990).

5.2.1.1
Unit of observation

One of
the main issues in content analysis is the unit of observation. Previous
studies have used various units for analysis including word count, number of
sentences and number of pages (Ali
et al., 2017).

Another method of analysis is to used advances software applications, for example
Leximancer. The study will use words as the unit of observation for two
reasons. The use of words removes the obligation of the coder to make
subjective judgements about the topic. Beyond that, this method allows for
easily repeated and replicated trials that yield the same results (Gamerschlag
et al., 2011). Given
the simplistic approach to the content analysis, the collection of data from
the annual reports is to be conducted with the word finder function installed
in Adobe’s PDF reader or similar tools.   

5.2.1.2
Identification of keywords

In
line with previous research (Holder-Webb
et al., 2009; Gamerschlag et al., 2011) the keywords for
the content analysis are based on the framework of the Global Reporting
Initiative (GRI). Within the area of CSRD, GRI is considered the most relevant
institution (Moneva,
Archel and Correa, 2006) and the organization
refers to its guidelines as the global standard. Based on the GRI guidelines,
and in line with previous research (e.g.,
Gamerschlag et al., 2011), a list of 32
keywords for the content analysis is outlined in Table 1. When conducting the
content analysis, the researcher should consider both singular and plural
forms, as well as both British and American spelling.

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