Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

The Dawning of the Age of Quantitative/empirical Methods in Accounting Research: Evidence from the Leading Authors of the Accounting Review, 1966-1985

Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

The Dawning of the Age of Quantitative/empirical Methods in Accounting Research: Evidence from the Leading Authors of the Accounting Review, 1966-1985

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study documents changes that took place in The Accounting Review during 1966-1985 compared with earlier 20-year periods, 1926-1945 and 1946-1965. The comparisons are based on examining the articles published in The Accounting Review and written by its leading authors (i.e., those authors who published the most articles). The article considers topics, research methods, financial accounting subtopics, citation analyses (including influential journals, articles, books, and authors), length, author background, and other items. This study shows that The Accounting Review evolved into a journal with demanding acceptance standards whose leading authors were highly educated accounting academics who, to a large degree, brought methods and tools from other disciplines to bear upon accounting issues.


Accounting research changed noticeably in the 1960s. Various factors played a role in this change, including criticisms of business education in the 1959 reports by Gordon and Howell and by Pierson [Dyckman and Zeff, 1984]; the adoption by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business in 1967 of the doctorate as the terminal degree for accounting faculty [Bricker and Previts, 1990]; change in research and writing standards as required by business faculties in promotion and

Acknowledgments: The authors are grateful to Dale Flesher and two anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Also, the authors wish to thank Tom Koster for his assistance on this project.

Submitted June 1999 Revised November 1999 Accepted January 2000 tenure decisions [Langenderfer, 1987]; and a general belief that scientific methods could help solve social and business problems [Whitley, 1988]. Chatfield [1975] noted that The Accounting Review was in transition during the late 1950s and early 1960s, with nonaccountants making contributions using methods from other disciplines. In addition, Chatfield [1975, p. 6] noted that in the 1960s, there was a trend toward empirical studies.

While it is generally acknowledged that there was a change in the type of research published in The Accounting Review, the extent of that change has yet to be documented. Were previous methods abandoned altogether? Among the newer research methods, which were the most popular? Did interest in financial accounting topics continue to decline? Were new, neverconsidered topics addressed? Which journals/authors/articles/ books influenced the contributors to The Accounting Review? What was the educational/professional background of the contributors, and how did their work differ from that of their predecessors?

These questions are here addressed for the leading authors (i.e., those authors who published the most articles; see Table 1 for the list of names) of The Accounting Review during the 19661985 period.' The results are directly comparable with The Accounting Review's leading authors during the 1926-1945 and 1946-1965 periods as reported by Fleming et al. [1990, 1991].2 Hence, this study extends our previous work by analyzing the output of the leading authors during 1966-1985, the next 20year period.3

Specifically, this research analyzes, relative to the earlier studies, the following attributes of the articles published by the leading authors: (1) topic, (2) research method, (3) cross-classification of topic and research method, (4) financial accounting subtopics, and (5) citations of articles and books including journals and authors. Other details are also provided, such as article length, background information on the leading authors, and other changes in The Accounting Review. Through examining and classifying the individual articles of the leading authors, conducting a "single" citation analysis (similar to that of Brown and Gardner [ 1985a, 1985b] and others), reporting other details, and comparing the 1966-1985 results to those of the earlier periods, a perspective emerges on the evolving nature of accounting research in the work of the leading authors. …

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