Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Thanks to my readers

October’s stats on readership and page reads are in and it looks like a lot of first timers visited this month! How do you tell? The ratio of pages read to number of visitors is off the chart this month. Normally new visitors read a lot of the backfile and this month we have had more pages read than any in the past 18 months!

New registrations of those who gets these musings via email alert are also up!

So, thank you for dropping by. Musings is fun to write and I do it because of you!

Taking opportunities versus being opportunistic

There is a very fine line between taking advantage of opportunities to carry out research versus being opportunistic! The former is reacting to circumstances that make the timing, viability of project or the set of potential co-authors available sooner then you might expect. The latter is doing a project because others appear to be successful in publishing in that area and you once had a vague idea you might like to do some work there.

Now you think you may be able to bluff your way through, but I guarantee that those of us around a little longer will see through the bluff! And we will remember the attempt to bluff even if you get lucky and publish the paper in a good home.

In the end you only have one reputation. To have a viable research career sometimes means not running after apparent low hanging fruit! Especially if you cannot tell really why it is a fruit and not a vegetable.

Libby Bloomfield and Nelson (2002) – using it correctly

If there ever was an experimental reference that was misused it has to be Libby Bloomfield and Nelson (2002) AOS.  LBN summarize and integrate the then relatively new to the modern age line of experimental research in financial accounting.  While unfortunately the key example in the first part of the paper is a retracted article, my problem lies with the misuse of the participant matching part of the paper.

It is often used to excuse using undergraduate student participants in financial accounting and tax experimental papers (and more rarely in management accounting and more rarely still in audit experiments).  Now the principle is rather straightforward – acquire participants that are appropriate to the research question being asked.  So when asking about work financial analysts do use financial analysts or analysts in training.  If looking at controller’s accounting decisions use controllers and when using investors and taxpayers – specify the type.

The last one is where problems begin.  Undergraduate students in business are at best novice investors but more often naïve investors. Ditto with many of the participant providing services (e.g. MTurk)  if careful prequalification is not done.  The problem is that rarely does an experimental issue call for naïve investors or taxpayers.  Maybe novices but almost never naïve.  Yet often young researchers will blindly quote LBN to justify the use of such participants.  A strong suggestion – reread LBN through the eyes of a reviewer and then tell me that naïve participants are good surrogates for investors and taxpayers!!!!!

Yes, there is a place to use such participants when ensuring that basic cognitive processes apply to this task environment.  But the moment you go beyond basic cognitive processes (ensuring that transfer and apply works) naïve participants are not warranted – at least without some pretty substantial corroboration of key results with more appropriate participants!  See Panel musings  for some ideas on this topic.

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