Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Readability of Intermediate Accounting Textbooks

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Readability of Intermediate Accounting Textbooks

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The selection of a textbook for use in intermediate accounting courses is an important decision for faculty. Since the intermediate accounting course sequence is at the core of the typical accounting curriculum, all accounting majors are affected by their decision. But the text selection process is complicated by the large number of text attributes for faculty to consider. Such attributes may include: a text's pedagogical approach; coverage of material; exhibits, charts, and vignettes; end-of-chapter material; student and instructor supplements; and authors' reputations, as well as instructors' past experiences with the text. Faculty may also wish to consider a text's readability.

Readability may be defined as the degree to which a class of people finds certain reading matter compelling and comprehensible (McLaughlin, 1969). "Readability" should not be confused with "legibility," which refers to the ease of being read. Readability, in this context, refers to the qualities of writing which are related to reader comprehension. A variety of techniques have been used to predict readability, including several readability indexes (or formulas) which have been used widely since the 1950s. Examples of readability indexes include SMOG (developed by McLaughlin), Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning-Fog, and Fry.

Information on readability can be helpful to faculty when making textbook adoption decisions. Indeed, one of the criteria to which faculty attach the most significance in those decisions is textbook comprehensibility (Smith & DeRidder, 1997), which can be predicted, at least in part, using a readability index.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Little study of the readability of accounting texts has been undertaken over the last 25 years; only seven such published studies are identified. Three of the studies, Traugh et al. (1987), Sullivan and Benke (1997), and Plucinski et al. (2009), concerned introductory accounting texts only. The other four studies, Razek et al. (1982), Adelberg and Razek (1984), Flory et al. (1992), and Davidson (2005), concerned (at least in part) intermediate accounting texts.

Razek et al. examined the readability of six intermediate and six advanced accounting textbooks; they found no significant differences among the intermediate books. Adelberg and Razek, using a very different methodology from the Razek et al. study, found that the level of understandability varied significantly among some of the four intermediate accounting texts that they analyzed. The Flory study analyzed seven intermediate accounting texts and found little difference in the readability of the textbooks considered. Davidson considered the long-term trends of the readability of accounting textbooks, including that of 25 intermediate books published over five decades.

Since the Davidson study investigated trends over many years, it did not compare the readability of individual texts. And since the most recent readability study of individual intermediate accounting textbooks (Flory et al.) is over 15 years old, and the textbook offerings have changed significantly since the Flory study, an update of the readability of intermediate accounting texts appears to be in order.

METHODS

One of the seven accounting textbook readability studies completed in the last twenty-five years (Adelberg & Razek, 1984) used the Cloze Procedure. That procedure gauges readability by deleting every fifth word from passages, then measuring the reader's ability to restore the passages to their original form. The remaining six studies used readability indexes, specifically the Fog Index, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, or Flesch Reading Ease. These indexes use a formula based upon characteristics of text passages, such as average word length, average sentence length, and word complexity, to generate a readability score.

Choice of Readability Index

This study uses the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for several reasons. …

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