Academic journal article Accounting Historians Journal

Tracing the Development of Accounting Thought by Analyzing Content, Communication, and Quality in Accounting Research over Time

Academic journal article Accounting Historians Journal

Tracing the Development of Accounting Thought by Analyzing Content, Communication, and Quality in Accounting Research over Time

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper analyzes the longitudinal development of accounting thought by characterizing the content of accounting research over several decades (1963 to 2003). The paper also investigates the interaction among accounting scholars and examines the relationship of research quality, topical coverage, methodological tools, and citation behavior. Thus, this analysis describes how accounting research has evolved, both in its content and in the way it has been used and perceived by its adherent scholars.


The motivation for this study is to improve our understanding of the relationships exhibited in academic research over a period of several recent decades. This paper represents a study of accounting research as embodied in three scholarly accounting journals (Contemporary Accounting Research, Journal of Accounting Research, and The Accounting Review) as related to the objective of improving our understanding of this literature by employing a set of taxonomic properties in our analysis about the content and context of said literature. Further, this study characterizes the content of accounting research, the communication of this research through the interaction among accounting scholars, and how both this content and this interaction help define research quality. By this characterization, the paper seeks to provide a conception of how accounting research has evolved over time based on the efforts of those who produce, use, and evaluate it. The paper also seeks to improve our understanding of the topical and methodological content of accounting literature and in this way contributes to the literature of the history and development of accounting thought.

The content of accounting research is described by a taxonomic analysis of its topical and methodological characteristics. Taxonomic (Greek "taxis" + "nomia" = arrangement + method) analysis is a method of systematically classifying and arranging items according to their attributes. Therefore, the content of accounting research is defined by classifying the artifacts of the research; that is, papers published in scholarly journals according to what topics these papers cover and what methods their authors used to gather data and arrive at conclusions.

The interaction among accounting researchers is characterized by citation analysis. Citation analysis identifies which research papers have been referenced in other research papers, and thereby endeavors to trace the development of ideas, to chart the interdependencies between groups of researchers, and to evaluate the influence of particular research papers, organs, or paradigms.

Finally, this paper explores the possibility of a new measure of research quality based on the content of research over several years and the citation patterns that have developed over time. This measure would be comprised of a component measuring the diversity of the research content and a component measuring the degree of integration of that research. As discussed later, both these characteristics may be correlated with research quality.

Taxonomic Analysis Defined and Exemplified: The philosopher Thomas Kuhn [1962, pp.16-17] proposed the idea that all research is characterized by "intertwined theory and methodological belief." Therefore, one way in which research may be defined and described is by identifying its topical loci and methodological techniques. Consequently, taxonomic analysis, which classifies artifacts according to their salient characteristics, will be used to profile the content of accounting research by identifying its topical and methodological attributes.

Several accounting history research papers have taken the form of taxonomic studies of literature by analyzing papers ac- to certain topical or methodological attributes. These include Haseman [1978] who concentrated on management accounting literature; Vasarhelyi et al. [1988] who studied papers published in Contemporary Accounting Research; Parker [1988], Carnegie and Potter [2000], and Fleischman and Radcliffe [2005] who focused on accounting history studies; Previts and Brown [1993] who categorized papers published in the Journal of Accountancy; Fleming et al. …

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