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If research is not cited did it actually matter

I am Sherlock Holmes fan, the nerdy Holmes not the sexy ones. I wonder what Holmes would find out if he investigated the case of the Missing Citations? Almost 25 years ago Larry Brown carried out a detailed study of citations of accounting research and concluded that an article with 4 ( four) cites a year in the SSCI ( known to younger readers as web of science) from the time it was published was a “classic” accounting article!

Now I think I have authored a couple of ” classics” but a wonder what the cutoff would be these days? Also, I wonder what % of top journal articles are never cited in Accounting? Finally, and to me the key question is, is it a necessary, but not a sufficient condition, for an article to be cited for it to matter?

Mulling over these thoughts!

Disney is doing behavioral economics research!!!!

After 30 plus years in this business I am rarely surprised at anything I hear about anymore.  But the fact that Disney Research (a division of the Disney TV and Movie and Theme Park company) has a behavioral economics research program as well as a social psychology research program floored me.  Apparently Disney Research both hires researchers directly and engages in contract research with all sorts of academics – including social psyhologists and behavioral economists!  And that does not sound too Mickey Mouse to me!!!!  Maybe a little Goofy!!  But what do I know living up North in a Snow White world!!!  Okay enough puns for today.

The lack of research in core texts

Have you ever noticed that accounting textbooks rarely mention accounting research? Compare that to textbooks in organizational behavior, marketing, human resource management, finance and economics. Indeed, one has to turn to methods courses like statistics to find a similar lack of emphasis on research. Mind you statistical books have proofs and you know that someone had to come up with those proofs in the first place!

So does that mean there is no research underlying accounting? As you know by now most textbooks in financial accounting and tax are focused on standards (financial) and the law and its interpretation (tax). Indeed, about the only book you might have seen there is research underlying its recommendations is in the Management Control Systems course that uses the Merchant and van der Stede textbook.  Sure there is lots of research in financial statement analysis books but what about the core audit, tax and financial accounting texts????  Even in “Accounting Theory” which should be known as “Financial Accounting Theory (FAT is a great abbreviation) there is only one textbook that is heavily research based.  If we were textbook writers in many evidence based fields they would laugh at our texts!!!

A contribution to theory . . .

Increasingly I am seeing claims in experimental papers about their “contribution to theory”, normally psychology.  I find this strange, except for when the contribution is about a boundary condition to psychology theories.

If we believe the accounting setting is worthy of study, then that means that there must be something unique about the human activities in the setting that causes us to doubt that psychology research can be simply transferred and applied to the setting.  Indeed, one of the critical points for psychology research in accounting came when Katherine Schipper, in a letter that is one of the most misunderstood missives in the history of accounting research, called for accounting researchers to stop simply transferring and applying psychology research (especially heuristics and biases research) to the accounting setting.  In essence, she was willing to accept that accountants and auditors are human and if you transfer and apply psyhcology theory to a setting where there is no countervailing force, auditors and accountants are going to act as humans.

But what is interesting about the accounting and auditing setting is that they are often implicitly designed to try and reduce/eliminate these biases (one cause of ineffectiveness) while recognizing where the heuristics work well (one cause of efficiency).  Of course,  by trial and error systems were put in place to achieve that goal.  As psychology based researchers we are attempting to see if that goal has been achieved (among others).

Hence, I find that most claims to contribute to psychology theory based on accounting specific research are problematic.  For if the accounting researcher is studying a setting where theory applied as tested can be generalized to all people, then by definition, the researcher is not studying a setting in the accounting context.  So when I read about contributions to psychology theory, it starts me thinking about whether this research is within the domain of accounting at all.  Of course, I am always open to an argument to the contrary but a “throwaway line” about contributions to psychology by itself is more of a “red flag” than anything else.

That is my take anyhow.

A week in bria 5 . . . . . .

Expanding on the call , , , , ,

3.    In a call somewhat replicating Anthony Hopwood’s call for papers in what he called his “biblioscence” section (or to be more precise my interpretation of his call) we express an interest in

a. Papers focusing on important theoretical developments in base disciplines (experimental economics/behavioral finance, psychology, sociology etc.) that the larger behavioral accounting research community should be exposed to.

b. Papers that encourage a constructive dialogue between research methodologies in accounting (i.e. ethical, interpretive, critical and positivist).

I get really tired of folks that shout “my method is better than your method.” I would like to see a constructive dialogue across research methods that explores their intersections and highlights what we can learn from different approaches.

For more details, see the Expression of Editorial Interest at

A week in bria 4 . . . .

Enchancing the last call!!!!  At BRIA we are interested in :

2. Methods papers that address study design and analysis issues. These papers could focus on:

  1. Statistical issues (e.g. how to use a particular technique in behavioral accounting research or how to correct prior misuse of a technique that has been used in behavioral accounting research).
  2. How to use a particular technique or construct (e.g., accounting applications of how to use of qualitative software for analysis of qualitative data, how to do interviews, how to set up a survey).
  3. Broad issues related to designing research (e.g. how to carry out a field study with particular application to accounting, how to carry out an experiential survey.

Check out the BRIA website for more details including references to example papers.


A week in bria 3 . . . .

A new call(ing)

Okay, enough poor puns that are just for fun . . . . .  Now some real stuff!!!

Behavioral Research in Accounting should be the natural home for articles that discuss behavioral methods and methodology. Hence, the Editorial Team at BRIA is interested in receiving manuscripts that discuss and/or illustrate advances in behavioral methods, methodologies and theories.  To understand this call better – three examples:

Example 1

  1. Papers that serve to validate the creation of a survey scale or experimental variable measure of a construct of interest to accounting researchers, or to validate that a scale/measure transferred from another domain reflects a critical accounting attribute.
    1. This sort of study would require following a generally accepted method for scale/measure development to show that the scale/measure is conceptually distinct from close rival measures and results in a stable measurement. Those writing papers in this line should consider Churchill (1979) and its descendants (e.g. MacKenzie et al., 2011) as exemplars of how to do scale/measure development.

Almost every other area of management research separates the scale/measure development and validation from the substantive use of the validated scale/measure to study an issue.

Check out the BRIA website for more details including references to example papers.


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