ERIC Number: EJ790383
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar-21
Research on Accounting Should Learn from the Past
Granof, Michael H.; Zeff, Stephen A.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n28 pA34 Mar 2008
Starting in the 1960s, academic research on accounting became significantly more quantitative and analytical than in previous decades. The new paradigms have greatly increased our understanding of how financial information affects the decisions of investors as well as managers. However, those models have also crowded out other forms of investigation. The result is that professors of accounting have contributed little to the establishment of new practices and standards, have failed to perform a needed role as a watchdog of the profession, and have created a disconnect between their teaching and their research. A triumvirate of developments in the 1960s markedly changed the nature of research, which had previously been largely descriptive, and its consequential impact on practice. Results were: (1) Computers emerged as a means of collecting and analyzing vast amounts of information; (2) Academic accountants recognized that argument was not a substitute for empirical evidence; and (3) Business faculties sought academic respectability by employing the methods of disciplines like econometrics, psychology, statistics, and mathematics. In response to those developments, professors of accounting not only established new journals that were restricted to metric-based research, but limited existing academic publications to that type of inquiry. The unintended consequence has been that interesting and researchable questions in accounting are essentially being ignored. By confining the major thrust in research to phenomena that can be mathematically modeled or derived from electronic databases, academic accountants have failed to advance the profession in ways that are expected of them and of which they are capable. The author suggests a three-prong approach: (1) Journal editors, department chairs, business-school deans, and promotion-and-tenure committees need to rethink the criteria for what constitutes appropriate accounting research, not diminishing the importance of the currently accepted modes or lowering standards, but by expanding the set of research methods to include historical and field studies, policy analysis, surveys, and international comparisons when they meet the tests of sound scholarship; (2) Chairmen, deans, and promotion and merit-review committees must expand the criteria they use in assessing the research component of faculty performance, establishing criteria for meritorious research consistent with their own institutions' unique characters and comparative advantages; and (3) Ph.D. programs must ensure that young accounting researchers are conversant with the fundamental issues that have arisen in the accounting discipline and with a broad range of research methodologies. The writers express hope that the research pendulum may swing back from narrow lines of inquiry to a rediscovery of what accounting research can be.
Descriptors: Accounting, Research, Intellectual Disciplines, Research Methodology, Field Studies, Policy Analysis, Surveys, Comparative Analysis, Global Approach, Scholarship, Teacher Role, Time Perspective, Criteria, Theory Practice Relationship
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Publication Type: Journal Articles
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A