Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Reviewing positivist field research in accounting

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In my last post I noted the growing trend from editors and reviewers of positivist field research in accounting to require that it contribute to “theory”.  In my mind that is an inappropriate methodological (not methods) importation from interpretive field research in accounting.

WHY?  In interpretive research, the dance between theory creation and research reporting is an ongoing one as reality is socially constructed. So some argue it is natural that research reporting should engage with a dialogue with theory.  In other words, it should not be a one way street given the social construction of reality argument.

However,  positivist field research while understanding to some extent that argument, is focused on using theory to help make tentative predictive statements about the accounting world.  Positivists believe that there are regularities out there that can be discovered via research and predictions developed via theory.  Here, while there might be a dance between theory and research findings, the normal science approach does not require it except in cases of anomalies.

So editors and reviewers that are insisting on theory contributions from positivist field research are missing the point.  Positivist field research is about understanding in light of theory leading to tentative predictions.  Requiring more, as is often being done these days, is in my mind completely inappropriate.

That’s my thought!!!


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