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Soldiers of Character

Project Overview

Together with piloting new measures, the Soldiers of Character research will investigate how far junior officers display and aspire to personal characteristics described in the Army Values and Standards Guide. It will also investigate a broader range of character strengths among all ranks from the perspective of junior officers.

Read David Walker's Virtue Insight blog, introducing the project. 

The British Army is always seeking to improve the way it develops character in its personnel. Army officers are key upholders of ethical and professional standards in the profession. This study will provide an overview of how Army Values and Standards feature in the professional lives of junior officers. The research will also develop a valid and reliable measure of moral judgement for this rank group. The successful development of such a measure will have a significant and long lasting impact because the Army wants to use this measure to identify gaps in moral judgement among junior officers in order to inform some of their training programmes.

David has written a second blog on 'Saluting military courage on the 100th anniversary of The Battle of the Somme'



The research design is inter-disciplinary, drawing on the disciplines of philosophy, psychology and sociology. A combination of three methods will be used: moral dilemmas (Intermediate Concept Measure Army (UK)), a self-report measure (Values in Action-Inventory of Strengths-E1) and semi-structured interviews. A key aim of this study is to test and develop component research measures, especially the ICM Army (UK).

Literature Review & Findings

Character, virtue and ethical decision making have been the focus of a number of recent empirical studies in military contexts. The most extensive research of this kind is available in Canada with the Defence Ethics Survey, administered in multiple years since 1999. More generally, the literature suggests that the British Army is at a crucial historical juncture in terms of character. For instance, there have been more than two decades of challenging conflicts, a Revolution of Military Affairs (swift advancements in technological development); increasing pressures from the realities of asymmetric warfare (where ethical standards are different between opposing forces), rapidly changing military roles and some disturbing examples of moral failure among international forces.

Project Milestones

Fieldwork is planned to begin in March 2016. This will involve data collection from three main locations. Analysis of data from the three methods will commence in January 2017 and report and academic writing will begin in June 2017.