Essays on Current Trends and Concepts in Accounting Research Case Study

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The paper 'Current Trends and Concepts in Accounting Research' is a good example of a Finance and Accounting Case Study. This paper reviews some of the recent literature that addresses currently popular ideas in accounting research. As recently as four years ago, some observers worried about a trend towards greater specialization in accounting research, a departure from the interdisciplinary approach favored since the 1980s. Areas of focus such as in public sector accounting, organizational change management, and accounting history are, on the one hand, developing greater bodies of specific knowledge, but on the other hand, present the risk of fragmenting the greater “ community” of accounting research into narrow and not very well connected parts.

(Guthrie & Parker, 2006, p. 6 & 13) In the past two years, however, there has been a growing interest in areas of accounting research that are difficult to ascribe to the specialization trend: Qualitative Accounting Research and Interpretive Accounting Research. The differences between the two are subtle but significant; interpretive research could be said to be more rigorous in its approach than purely qualitative methodology, but either is a marked departure from the purely analytical, quantitative, “ classical” approach to accounting research.

The research literature reviewed here summarises the key concepts, advantages, and criticisms of the two approaches.   Qualitative Research Qualitative research, according to its advocates, can be a much more accurate and realistic approach to studying a research problem, because it is based in a real-world context. Researchers might prefer the approach to quantitative research for a number of reasons. It can provide insights into empirical phenomena discovered through quantitative research by examining their applications in real-world circumstances, and explain the causes and relationships of statistical variables.

(Northcott & Doolin, 2008, p. 6) The implication is that the opposite may be true as well; in particular applications or business sectors, specific accounting or management practices may not at first clearly suggest the quantitative approach that should be used to study them, and so a case study might be the best place to start. This is also part of the rationale for interpretive research, discussed in the next section. The justification commonly given in the literature for the qualitative research approach is that “ ... the organizational reality we usually encounter does not match the implicit ontological simplifications of the textbook view. ” (Vaivio, 2008, p.

66) Quantitative research is better at establishing broad contexts, such as demographics, but sometimes does not describe the cause and effect of particular variables and scenarios within a broad context. (Jeacle, 2009, p. 132) Since organizations are unavoidably subject to social, political, and cultural influences, it is necessary to consider the organizational context in which the phenomenon to be studied is occurring in order to identify the relevant “ external” theory which may apply.

(Durocher, 2009, p. 144) Conversely, a clear understanding of the organizational dynamic and environment is necessary to provide proper examples and justification for external theories. Qualitative methodology avoids the difficulties that can arise in properly understanding a particular research problem through strictly quantitative means because it does not follow any of the three limiting “ views” of the latter: the “ textbook view, ” which regards accounting as strictly functional; the “ economics view, ” which reduces the measurement of the impact and results of accounting function to strictly economic effects; and the “ consultancy view, ” which provides normative, prescriptive solutions to accounting management problems.

(Vaivio, 2008, p. 65)

References

von Alberti-Alhtaybat, L., and Al-Htaybat, K. (2010) ‘Qualitative accounting research: an account of Glaser’s grounded theory’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 208-226. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766091011050868 [Accessed 18 August 2010].

Baxter, J., and Chua, W.F. (2008) ‘The field researcher as author-writer’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.101-121. [on-line] Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/11766090810888917 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Boedker, C. (2010) ‘Ostensive versus performative approaches for theorising accounting-strategy research’, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 23, No. 5, pp. 595-625. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/09513571011054909 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Durocher, S. (2009) ‘The future of interpretive accounting research’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 137-159. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090910973902 [Accessed 18 August 2010].

Elharidy, A.M., Nicholson, B., and Scapens, R.W. (2008) ‘Using grounded theory in interpretive management accounting research’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 139-155. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090810888935 [Accessed 18 August 2010].

Gurd, B. (2008) ‘Remaining consistent with method? An analysis of grounded theory research in accounting’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 122-138. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090810888926 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Guthrie, J., and Parker, L. (2006) ‘Editorial: The coming out of accounting research specialisms’, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 5-16. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/09513570610651911 [Accessed 18 August 2010].

Jeacle, I. (2009) ‘Accounting and everyday life: towards a cultural context for accounting research’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 120-136. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090910973894 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Khalid, S.N.A. (2009) ‘Reflexivity in Qualitative Accounting Research’, Journal of Financial Reporting & Accounting, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 81-95. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/19852510980000005. [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Modell, S., and Humphrey, C. (2008) ‘Balancing acts in qualitative accounting research’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 92-100. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090810888908 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

Northcott, D., and Doolin, B. (2008) ‘Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management – the journey so far’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 5-10. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090810856732 [Accessed 18 August 2010].

Vaivio, J. (2008) ‘Qualitative management accounting research: rationale, pitfalls and potential’, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 64-86. [on-line] Emerald, DOI 10.1108/11766090810856787 [Accessed 19 August 2010].

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