Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Yearly Archives: 2019

Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings etc. Etc. Etc.

Well folks that’s a wrap for another year on the old blog!

Lots of folks to thank this year!

  • My team of editors, editorial board members and reviewers at BRIA (not to mention Jake and Nate at the AAA)!
  • The great set of folks who assisted with my seven week tour of New Zealand and Australia (Mike and Hedy at Massey, Wai Fong and Shana at Sydney, David at Queensland, Kerry, Wei, Ken and Mandy at UNSW!)
  • My co-authors this year Yi and Nate at Queen’s, Kris at Alabama, Kerry at UNSW, and Theresa at Central Florida!
  • My Dean ( now former Dean) at Smith for his sixteen years of support!
  • All my current and former doctoral (and thesis based masters) students! We are now at 15 strong and likely will see a couple of more!

Looking forward to next year, there is still much to do. There will be announcements that will surprise folks, there will be a continued advance on the diversity in research front as our academic discipline continues to grow up (after all we are now close to 50 years old depending on whether you count from B&B, Hopwood or Ashton or Libby (1968, 1972, 1974 or 1975)). . . .

As usual MORE by Steve will continue to call them as he sees them and report on our discipline as it finally enters adulthood! While readers might not always agree with Steve, you know I am giving you my unfiltered fact based reactions to the strange academic world we call home!

My top ten

So what are MORE’s top ten?  My view is that to be considered a top ten accounting journal you should be a top 10 in at least one list!  What sources did I look at – see the previous post (i.e. SSCI 2018, 2017; SJC 2018; Google Scholar; FT 50 List) leaving aside the 2019 ABDC list.  Then I looked at the number of “top 10 hits” each journal has leaving me with three groups (O, RG, and G) that are listed in alphabetical order within group

Group O (outstanding – on all five top ten lists)

  • Accounting Organizations and Society
  • (The) Accounting Review
  • Journal of Accounting and Economics
  • Journal of Accounting Research

Group RG (really great – on four of five top ten lists)

  • Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory
  • Critical Perspectives in Accounting (Sorry folks – hard to be oppressed when you are tied for top 5 – you can work on it)

Group G (great – on three of five top ten lists)

  • Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
  • British Accounting Review
  • Contemporary Accounting Research
  • European Accounting Review
  • Management Accounting Research
  • Review of Accounting Studies

So that makes twelve journals in the top ten.  So in the end, MORE and the ABDC have a significant overlap with 11 journals on both lists with one on MORE (see bold above) not on the ABDC thirteen and two on the ABDC thirteen not on MORE’s top ten list!

The ranking evidence as I see it

I made up this little graphic to summarize how I see the evidence about journal rankings. The number column just shows the rank in each of the following sources

  • SSCI – Social Science Citation Index (the granddaddy of them all),
  • Google Scholar
  • SJR : Scientific Journal Rankings
  • N/R not included in the ranking source

Also think about the FT 50  where one would say JAR TAR and JAE would be ranked 2 as they were all added the same year, AOS 4 as added three years later, CAR as 5 as added six years later and RAST as 6 being voted in via a ballot exercise immediately after CAR was added by consensus.



13 A* – really. A pity. Only in Australia you say#

According to the Australian Deans of Business Schools there are now 13 accounting journals that are high impact on worldwide accounting research! Furthermore there are another 30 A level journals! 43 in total! In other words about between 25% and 35% of all accounting research journals get an A. Two words “grade inflation”!

But I guess as we relax standards for our students, we should also relax standards for our research???? After all, how many C’s and D’s have you given students lately!

In the end it is the individual paper in the stream of papers that are produced in an area that determines real impact, not some highly politicized process like the recent ABDC exercise was! It’s a bit of a pity, as those Aussie Deans used to do a good low profile consult, get a reasonable list in accounting that one could proudly say represented the diversity of high quality accounting research. Now in my books they are like the opposite extreme of the UT Dallas list of 23 top business journals that only contains the American Three accounting journals!

Oh well, the average is probably about right with a fair bit of right skewing!

( For my friends at CPA, this is a clear miss by the Aussie Deans – ain’t no way you can have 13 A* journals and not include one of the top ten most cited journals in the world in it! But no doubt the CPA editors will like it as it oppresses them like they like to be! 😁)

#The headline of this is a take off on the Canadian red rose tea commercials whose long time tag line was ” available only in Canada, pity!”

One, two or three experiments in one paper

Over my time as an accounting academic I have seen lots of trends in accounting research. Capital markets readers probably recognize the era of the “toy model”, where every capital markets paper had to feature some linear algebra! (Yep this actually occurred in the late 1990’s in partial response to the Feltham Ohlson work on accounting valuation models!)

In experimental research ( in the 1990’s when auditing was the main area of experimental research) we had a two experiment minimum that by the early 2000’s became one experiment with exactly the right subjects/participants to do the task. Experiments in the 1980’s tended to feature three or more experiments depending on whether you counted the 3a and 3b experiments as one or two!

Today we are in the era of an single experiment plus a mediation or moderation model often done using the Preacher and Haynes macro! But I am beginning to sense this era too is passing, that while models are still invited, we are slowly seeing the norm move back towards the multi- experiment paper. While this observation is still somewhat tentative, I think I am spotting a new trend.

But did you ever wonder WHY? Is it merely a matter of taste? Mimicking? Or I something deeper at work?

Writing a good paper introduction

Having just spent seven weeks on a grand trip to New Zealand and Australia, I have been privileged to read, or be consulted on, many young scholars’ manuscripts.

Today I want to address a common problem I observed that I call ” Guess the topic of my paper “!!! A senior colleague of mine, now nearly retired, suggests that every paper begins with “the thesis of my paper is . . . . “. This is a play on words that makes a point, one should not have to guess what the paper is about after the first paragraph.

Bill Kinney suggests that all positivist accounting research should be planned using variants of his three paragraph approach. The three paragraphs should address:

  • What is the problem or issue that I am attempting to address in this paper?
  • Why is it important that the problem is addressed? Or whom are you attempting to inform with the findings of your research into the problem? ( this makes ” gaps in literature” NOT a reason for writing a paper as a gap is not a person you are informing).
  • How are you addressing the problem? ( the methods you will employ and why they are appropriate)

Finally, when writing the results of a project up there is one more paragraph to add.

  • What did you find and how does it inform us about the problem or issue you intended to address?

At the end of the four to five page introduction, all of this should have been explicitly covered (and NOT much more or you are writing the paper in the introduction)!

The need for consistent editor engagement

As we expand our editor set ever wider to deal with manuscript volume and diversity, we as a community need to better understand the role of the manuscript editor. I will return to this topic from time to time but today I deal with one issue: editor engagement in the process.

First, the editor is not merely a scribe that summarizes the review comments. The editor must be engaged with the manuscript and the reviews. (This is problematic where private journals randomly assign papers to editors, but all association journals attempt to assign based on editor expertise).

The engagement on the first round, and likely others, should include

  • Careful reading of manuscript by the editor PRIOR to reading the detailed reviews. In earlier days I would recommend prior to reading reviewer recommendation but Editorial management software makes that nearly impossible to do.
  • Editor reading of reviews with care in light of reading manuscript.
  • Editor consideration if there is a potential path that could lead to publication. If not, and if giving a revise a resubmit on the first round, ensure you convey the speculative nature of the revision (I.e. outcome risk remains as high as an initial submission).
  • Finally, write a decision letter that reflects what needs to be done that lays out potential choices for authors in light of the editor’s and the reviewers analysis.

Second, and above all, remember – the editor is not merely a scribe for the reviewers but an active participant in the process. For those being asked to be editors, ensure you are comfortable with this engagement, at least in principle, before agreeing to such a role! For if you are not comfortable, then you as an editor, the reviewers you enlist and most of all the authors will suffer excessively during what is already a rigorous process!!!

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