Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Order and accounting writing

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Back in the day when there were lots of experimental economics papers in accounting – an unfortunately dying breed of papers it seems – there was an interesting order of presentation of the experiments.

Motivation or grand issue – description of the experimental setting and what the various features represented – a theory section that made both point predictions (that rarely worked) and directional predictions (that often worked – at least in published papers) – results – supplemental results and conclusions.

I think that most good interpretive work would do well to follow this approach, especially when grand concerns lead the researcher into the field, not specific theorizing ex ante.  My suggested ordering:

The global concerns and what motivates that concern – a description of the case or field setting (rich enough so that nothing new needs to be added later in the paper – just more depth) – a section introducing the theory that will allow the case setting to be analyzed/interpreted – a description of the research methods if not done in the descriptive section –  an analytical section where theory is used as an interpretive lens and a discussion section that draws us back to the global concern that motivated the work.

I think too many interpretive researchers are falling into the trap of writing as if they were positivists – concern, theory, methods, case, analytical and discussion.  It makes no sense to have an up front theory section in a paper where the theory followed the emprics.  Nothing wrong with that if theory did guide the emprics – but that is relatively rare or so I am told by my interpretivists’ friends (which may decline in number after they read this analogy).


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