Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Mixed results motivation


I laugh a lot when I see mixed prior results as a motivation for a study UNLESS is accompanied by an analysis of the likely “root causes” of those mixed results.  Yet study after study is allowed to be published based on the dubious premise that yet another study, in a void by itself, will tell us something about prior research’s mixed results.

So I propose a simple criteria for my fellow editors – make every author who claims mixed results as a motivator for their work to provide a detailed root cause analysis and show how the current study will address those root causes!  If the study does not, then do not let the mixed results argument as a motivation for the paper, only as factoid.  For without an attempt at a “root cause” analysis, all the authors of the current paper have done is add another confusing data point to what is an already confused picture.

In the world of allowing “mixed results” to stand as a motivation for just another data point, no wonder some (most or indeed near all) social constructivists (also known as interpretivists) researchers in accounting suggest that positivist research has “failed” in its mission to produce a large number of empirically supported theoretically based regularities.

My belief is that with a wee bit more work, we could list many more empirically supported theoretically based conclusions in our research in financial accounting and auditing (and likely other areas of accounting research as well).  Why do I highlight financial accounting and auditing?  Because they are the closest to areas where we as accounting academics have the potential to inform society about the evidence basis for rules and standards and allowing such mixed results to stand and be added to without any attention to root causes of differences detracts from what the evidence could really show.

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