Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Rediscovering your inner researcher


Hi folks,  sorry for the two months absence but the move to Gainesville was challenging in many ways combined with trips to the Management Accounting Conference in LA and the Audit Mid Year meeting in Miami!  Then I had to pay for my supper – so to speak – by giving a workshop at Florida (thanks folks for being a great audience); setting up a three part doctoral seminar on field research and working on getting our textbook back in print with Robert!  Also did a little thingee called an SSHRC grant application!!!!

But my first message back is one that might appeal to any academic (or student) who has not been doing research (for a while or learning to do it for the first time), whether they were taking heavy administrative or editorial responsibilities or whether they are a doctoral students learning to be researchers.   In my case I found the transition from being an Editor back to being a researcher hard even though I had published (with co-authors) at least one substantive piece of research every year  I was editor.  However, I found the transition back to being a researcher not going smoothly until I realized that the skills that one has as an administrator (being in departmental or editorial in nature) or as a young professional are almost orthogonal to being a social science researcher.

Why?  The pace of life is very different.  Being a good social science researcher means being able to devote long hours of uninterrupted time to thinking about research issues from theory to design.  It also means being able to have enough focus in the rest of your life that research ideas can percolate at the back of your mind while doing other things – be it attending sports events, plays, doing exercise. teaching etc.  In other words you just cannot be so distracted with everyday life that only when you are deliberately focused on a project that you are cogitating about it.  Yet life as an administrator or young professional is full of short focused tasks that take complete concentration with little time for reflection.  Your life in those venues is divided in one hour or smaller sets of time and require complete focus on those tasks!  No time for background thinking here.  Plus you get used to the rush of moving from task to task including being able to cross them off your list rather than spending hours on  a single task.

So, I have relearned some valuable old lessons about how to focus on research, how to be present and active in other parts of my life but to allow for background thinking about research, I have learned that the rush of getting things wrapped up in an hour or two or three and the good feeling that goes with that is not something that happens when one is doing serious research.  In other words, I have transitioned back from the dark side of the force of academic life (i.e. administration or editing) into the world of a teacher/researcher.  In many ways this is what I see doctoral students struggling with every day.  How not to get caught up solely in the web of tasks they are assigned – R.A., teaching, courses etc – and how to learn to focus on developing research ideas that are of substantive interest.

From sunny and warm Florida,

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