Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Saturation is not spelt 12

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There are two extreme reactions to field studies that I find especially bothersome.

  1. Based on a reasonably thorough study of the literature, a qualitative meta-analysis concluded that MOST studies reach saturation after about 12 cross-sectional interviews suggesting that somewhere between 15 and 20 interviews should be enough in a qualitative accounting field study!!!!

WRONG or right!  It depends.  In some studies that number will never be reached as there are not 15 to 20 people to interview in the position (see my work on Central Research Units in the 1990’s.  There is only one CRU director per the then Big 6 plus 1 and I interviewed 6 of them  and not surprisingly as we later learned, Arther Andersen would not cooperate.)

Other studies are still achieving new insights when they reach 20 or 30 or rarely 40 or 50 interviews.  Saturation’s first criteria is several interviews in a row with no new insights!!!!  The more homogenous the population, the smaller the number of interviews to achieve saturation.  The more heterogenous the population, the more interviews to achieve saturation.

So the correct answer class is RIGHT and WRONG depending on when saturation is really reached.

Tomorrow myth 2.


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