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AAA – the broom closet with no room for brooms

About a decade ago if you had held a panel session on qualitative accounting research at the AAA you could have held it in a broom closet with room left over. Today over 100 folks came to a panel discussion at the AAA on quality in qualitative research! Even better was the fact slightly less than half the room had done it and nearly 100% were interested in doing so!

Most of my readers are familiar with my views on research diversity and the need to use the most appropriate methods to identify and address practice issues. Field research enhances your engagement with the field of practice ( however you define practice). And with doctoral programs like Georgia, Illinois, UMASS Amherest all recently graduating PHD’s with this method in their toolkit, we may be on the verge of the breakthrough I have long advocated for in the USA. Further the placements of those students has been stellar Emory, WISCONSIN, Northeastern, and more.

This combined with the first qualitative interview paper being published in TAR in the last 30 years coming this fall, along with the combined survey interview research being done by Shiva Rajgopal (Columbia) and Michel Clements (Texas) and others in financial accounting published in JAE and JAR means the ” big 6″ Accounting journals ( however you define them from among TAR, CAR, AOS, JAE, CPA, JAR, MAR, AAAJ, AJPT, RAST) have all published such research in recent years – many with multiple articles!

And that’s the way I see it at the first day of work at the AAA.

Changing a field, eh???

After the Audit Section MYM I was am amazed at the number and quality of experiential surveys and interview based studies at the meeting. Top people from both an archival and experimental background are doing these studies and have been following the various suggestions that gibbins, myself and our co-authors put forth over the years to improve quality!!!

It seems like a majority of both experimental and archival sessions have either one or the other of these study types as one of the three or four studies being presented. Yet 20 years ago gibbins and i were considered “odd” with our interest in data from the field. Only goes to show what two determined Canadians can do to the world! Eh??.?

The fall of normative accounting research

In what I found to be an interesting article, July 2013’s Accounting Organizations and Society features a paper on the “The tale of ARIA” (or the more provocative title is “Accounting academic elites:  The tale of ARIA” – I wonder if the authors when coming up with titles like this just want to ensure their readership is only those from the critical school – but I digress).

ARIA – Accounting Researchers International Association – was founded by a group of normative accounting researchers in 1974.  No doubt it was a reaction to the onslaught of positive empirical research that was rising steadily in the then handful of accounting journals in the first round of paradigm wars to sweep our discipline.

These were researchers such as Yuji Iijiri, Robert Sterling and the like would wanted to reason about what accounting should be from a deductive principles based approach with as little a node to empirical research as they could get away with.

This earned them the title, from the positivist empirical camp, of the “arm-chair researchers.”

Anyhow, the story of how this group of what was in their day some of the leading lights of the academic accounting profession’s attempt to maintain their research tradition in light of the positivist revolution in accounting research is instructive.

It also, at least to me, gives me some insights as to why an earlier generation of positivists researchers reacted so negatively to qualitative methodology based research.  More on this later.

In any case the 19 year history of ARIA is an interesting read albeit as usual I recommend a quick scanning of the theory section unless you want an incomplete tutorial on Bourdieu’s social theory.  pp. 370 onward tells and analyzes the story of this very interesting organization that was dedicated to what became a rearguard action as all the leading accounting journals but a couple, became to be completely dominated by positivist researchers.

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