Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Being social . . . .

Readership is up and I thank you for reading these musings!!!

In an attempt to be more user friendly I have added buttons to allow followers to receive updates by email.  Thanks for the suggestions from readers to do this!!!!

I also have made it easier to post blog content to social media, especially to LinkedIn and Twitter.

Problems in positivist field research evaluation

I have been noticing a real problem with evaluation of field research in accounting that accepts positivist view of the world (i.e. that there is something out there that we can find and reliability report on in such a way that it may lead to predictions about general behavior within a context).  This is due to editors of these pieces taking on the practice that I established at CAR of involving one interpretivistic researcher and one substantive area researcher in evaluating manuscripts.

The idea of the pairing of researchers as reviewers on positivist field research was good in the early days (in my biased view given I invented it and preached about it). Positivist field research had much to learn about research methods from interpretive researchers and reviewers.  While there is still things to learn, a great amount of positive transfer has occurred and some transfer has also gone back to interpretive research.

One flaw in this review practice is emerging across all journals that encourage field research, that flaw is requiring positivist field research in accounting to contribute to theory.  This, I think, can be attributed to the interpretive accounting field research community focusing more on a contribution to theory for studies within their domain (and while I think this is problematic I leave it to those researchers to back themselves out of the corner I think they are creating for themselves).  That transfer of norms is in my mind an inappropriate methodological importation (NOT methods) and unfortunately many editors of these papers come from interpretive backgrounds and are somewhat oblivious to the harm it creates.

In the next post will discuss the harm more explicitly and what needs to be done about it.

Is this academic research?

An author has six or seven ideas about what might cause a financial accounting phenomena to be observed in markets.

All the six or seven ideas can be argued to be captured by one proxy variable, ABC.

The author proceeds to show that ABC is related to some capital markets construct of interest.

The author goes on the road with the goal of determining which of the six or seven ideas should be focused on as the “story” that goes with the empirical finding of a relationship.

WAIT!!!!  Is that not a form of data mining????

Unfortunately it appears today this is what passes for “successful” research in some areas of accounting. But you cannot tell this is what happened from the final journal article – indeed from reading the article one would think the paper based on this process was a fine case of positivist research at its best. Hypothesis development is presented as being done up front and proxies being picked based on that development.

I will explore what this means for us over the coming weeks as I think about this phenomena more.

Rites and doctoral defenses

One of the great joys of being in the research game is seeing PhD students successfully defend their thesis.  Number 9 defended today and number 10 is coming right along!!!!  But each student represents a story and a journey, one that often has false starts and dead ends, but one that for the most part has been successfully completed.

Some outside of academia (and indeed some inside) say we are intent on replicating ourselves.  Perhaps some do but I can safely say – not I.  For better or worse I have mentored two archival students (one audit and one financial reporting), four experimental students (three psychology and one experimental economics), and three field study students (two interpretive and one positivist).  These students who I have had the pleasure to work with over the past 18 years have been a source of pleasure and pride.  Indeed, I have had the pleasure of meeting the new PhD who was mentored by one of my former students!

We as faculty members sometimes forget the great privilege it is to share these journeys!!!  Just a thought for today.

The rest of the story . . . . .

Some folks have asked me why I was picking on AIS and/or the UW Conference in last week’s posts?  Whoops, that was not my intention on either score. So just in case a wider readership thought that my comments were too unkind, let me elaborate on the good side.

First, the Conference was excellent – amazing gathering of faculty and practitioners that I wish more conferences had.  Very well organized (by staff who I had known years ago and thought were among the most competent staff I had ever worked with – you know who I mean).  Compared to the early years of the Conference there was a lot of synergy between  the panels of professionals/academics and academic papers presented between panels.

Second, The professional development sessions at the day before the conference were great.  Learned a lot about information visualization and cybersecurity.

Third, as for the AIS research – two of the three papers I got to see were great.  Indeed, one of them I urged to be sent to a much better journal than it currently was at.  No doubt that editor will not be happy with me.

So there you have it, the rest of the story. . . . . .



Under the this just in . . . . 

Research for the masses or a step too far?  

Cross disciplinary research in our realm

A long time ago I laughed at my good friend Gord Richardson when he talked about the need to transfer findings across silos in financial accounting empirical research!  I teased that if this is what we needed to diversify our research we were in real trouble.  In part I was right, but in part I was wrong – I knew that at the time.

Indeed, I saw an application of this very problem last weekend at the information systems assurance symposium I attended.  Three AIS researchers did an analysis of the contents of PCAOB inspection reports to determine what they said about information systems controls.  Now one would think that AIS and Audit research are close enough that folks would read each others work.  Nope!!!!  Next to no references in the paper to the extensive work done in audit research on PCAOB report contents and types of misstatements disclosed.  Not only is this a huge waste of time for the research team but it results in research that is of the quality that was done in auditing a decade ago!!!!

I was too tired to enter the fray, but please folks, do proper literature reviews – at least across the domain of accounting and auditing journals.  Given the low-cost of search, we should be able to rely on every researcher to be up to date on developments affecting areas that they think they are qualified to write a paper in.  OR am I asking too much????

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