Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Retrofitting theory in qualitative research


In qualitative research the goal of going into the field is often to gain a deeper understanding of what actors and systems in the field actually do and mean through the eyes of the actors.  Sometimes one enters the field with a well developed theory in mind, some times one has multiple potential theories at ready and the third results in a theory being developed on the basis of field observations (a neo-grounded theory approach).

I worry about research that is then written up as if the theory was present all along.  Only in the first case is that approach appropriate.  Otherwise one is engaging in writing creative fiction.  Editors and reviewers who insist that the paper must be written with the theory being presented as if it guided the research is intellectually dishonest.  However, an author does not have to “die on this hill” but ensure that the discerning reader understands how the theoretical perspective was born in the research process.

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