Management And Accounting Web

Accounting Research Paper Ideas

Provided by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Research Methods Main Page

1. An article identifying corporate training programs in accounting. I got this idea from the following article: Lincoln, J. T. 1929. Company training for college graduates. Harvard Business Review (July): 432-443. (EBSCO Host database). Lincoln discusses G.E.'s business program for electrical engineers and several other programs including those at Goodyear, GM, Westinghouse, and R. H. Macy. This idea needs a literature review to find out how many times this has been done and whether there are any recent papers in this area related to accounting programs. Then a survey could be developed for say the Fortune 500 or 1000. Individual company interviews could generate additional papers. I think this idea has potential. Perhaps Accounting Horizons, Issues in Accounting Education, and some other Journals would be interested.

2. There have been at least four or five articles that ranked accounting journals. I believe two or three were in Issues in Accounting Education. My idea here is to develop a survey to find out what faculty subscribe to and what they actually read. I think the rankings would be upside down. I base this on intuition and the Google rankings of MAAW's journal bibliography pages. The Journal of Accounting Research gets a zero ranking although it has been on MAAW for more than 3 years. The Accounting Review, which I divided into four sections, gets a 3 on the A-D section, but a zero for the other 3 sections. The Journal of Management Accounting Research gets a 4 ranking which indicates that the section journals are much more popular than the top journals. Perhaps a paper like this would just show what we think we already know, but it would be interesting. I believe Issues would be interested in this as a follow-up paper.

For some another ways to rank journals see:

Chan, K. C., K. C. Chan, G. S. Seow and K. Tam. 2009. Ranking accounting journals using dissertation citation analysis: A research note. Accounting, Organizations and Society 34(6-7): 875-885.

Matherly, M. and R. T. Shortridge. 2009. A pragmatic model to estimate journal quality in accounting. Journal of Accounting Education 27(1): 14-29.

3. An article related to the culture of Schools and departments of Accountancy. I believe every college has a culture. The college of business is different from the college of engineering and college of education. But every department has a culture. Why do faculty in the economics department spend more time in their university offices than SOA faculty? Part of faculty behavior can be explained by recognizing that academic people are very individualistic, egocentric, and competitive. Part of it is related to the vertical top down (silo or stovepipe, rather than flat) organization of universities and colleges. We don't share, cooperate, or communicate very well. We don't work together. We talk about teamwork, but we don't "walk the talk". Classes are mostly private affairs. Perhaps Hofstede's work could be used to shine some light on this behavioral issue. If faculty spent more time at the university, would their overall research productivity increase? I think this is a researchable topic. For example, a survey could be conducted on the top research schools and middle level schools and see what sort of cooperative or non-cooperative culture they have. There are some papers (I think in Issues) that identify the top research schools.

4. Another aspect in the cultural-behavioral area mentioned above relates to how the number of authors or coauthors have increased over the years. If you look at the bibliographies for most of the older journals you find that most articles were single authored papers. Now days single authored papers are relatively rare. Does this mean that there is more academic teamwork now than in the past, or is there some other reason for this change? I think there are perhaps several other reasons. Some possibilities include: stronger tenure and promotion hurdles, more difficult publication requirements from editors and reviewers, more competition for journal space because more faculty are conducting research, unethical behavior by authors who add each other as coauthors when there is little if any work to support the co-authorship, and the willingness or those who evaluate faculty to treat coauthored papers the same as single authored papers. A survey of faculty, editors, and reviewers might provide a way to research this idea, but there is a paper here for someone to write.

5. Another idea has to do with supplemental readings. When I was a student in the early 60's the faculty put extra readings on reserve in the library. We had to wait for them to be returned, check them out, read them or copy them and it was a time consuming pain. Later there were several readings books published. This was better, but expensive for students. Although many courses became less rigorous after student evaluations became popular, I believe extra readings are needed to provide students with a view of the literature, something more than the condensed textbook approach. Now the web can serve as the ultimate reader for any accounting course. Nearly everything is on the web in an accessible data base and there are some great old and new classic articles that students could easily be exposed to as supplemental readings at no cost to them. I got this idea from the following article: Vangermeersch, R. 1987. Renewing our heritage: Ten reasons why management accountants should study the classic accounting articles. Management Accounting (July): 47-49. (Summary). Vangermeersch wrote about management accounting, and didn't advocate using the web, since e-journals were not available at that time. I doubt that many people implemented his idea, but now a similar paper could be developed for any area of accounting and I think it would be a more acceptable supplemental approach. I am currently working on the bibliography for the Journal of Accountancy, and there are many great old papers in there that are a joy to read. The Accounting Review, NAA Bulletins and Harvard Business Review papers also provide good sources of old classic readings. It would take some work to find the best papers, but several articles could be developed for the different areas and different levels of accounting. Some extra benefits for faculty who work on this project: You would learn a lot, probably enjoy the process, and I believe get many ideas for additional publishable papers.

6. A related article could be developed providing-promoting a broader perspective on the accounting literature. I don't believe most accounting graduates (including Master of Accountancy) leave the university with a grasp of how to use the accounting literature - where to look for information about something they need on the job or just future continuous learning. Everyone can do Google searches, but that is a very clumsy way to find information - the information you really need is buried in hundreds of irrelevant links. A discussion of the journals that publish accounting related articles and the types of articles they publish would be very useful to students, practicing accountants, and academic accountants as well. MAAW's journal pages and Cabell's Directory provide some starting points. (Cabell, D. W. E., D. L. English and T. J. George. 2006. Cabell's Directory of Publishing opportunities in Accounting. See Cabell's Directories Home). Several people could get involved with this paper, similar to the idea above, and perhaps it could include several papers - Part I, II, III etc. This is a readings for graduates paper, but it might be better to call it "Broaden your perspective on accounting literature", or "Learn more to earn more", or "Learn from the past to save the future". In other words, even though it would be good for the reader, it might still need some marketing hype and spin. Also, different versions of this paper might be written for different audiences to get more mileage out of the effort.

7. There has always been a lot of criticism of accounting and accountants, but my perception is that many academic accountants appear to have an allegiance to the accounting profession (rather than to the university and to an open neutral scholarly view of accounting) that prevents them from recognizing it, and or talking about it in class. I believe that many academic accountants are either unaware of, or ignore, the conflict between GAAP accounting and management's needs, e.g., what's needed to promote a lean enterprise. Public accounting firms are generous with donations to Schools of Accounting, lobbyist to insure that the public accounting profession is well represented in the accounting curriculum. So I believe there is a "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" or "Don't bite the hand that feeds you" attitude towards the public accounting profession. This is a controversial issue, but more importantly, it is a researchable issue. One or more surveys could be conducted related to how academic accountants react to criticism of accounting compared to practicing public accountants and accountants in industry and government. Various hypotheses could be developed and tested. For example, Hypothesis 1: Academic accountants have the same attitude as public accountants, along with various hypotheses based on combinations of the three or four groups. A related question is where should a professional person's allegiance be? - with the organization that employs them, or with the profession. Perhaps that's a different paper.

Related articles:

Young, J. J. 2009. The absence of dissent. Accounting and the Public Interest (9): 1-9.

Moore, L. 2009. Economic "reality" and the myth of the bottom line. Accounting Horizons (September): 327-340. ("Why do accounting practitioners, users, and standard setters continue to pursue a mythical, determinate "bottom line" in spite of the known limitations of accounting measures?").

8. Where is AIS in terms of the conflict mentioned above, i.e., the conflict between lean enterprise and GAAP accounting? Do AIS textbook presentations address this issue? Is this issue in the AIS literature at all? Where are we in terms of theory and practice? Where should we be? My perception is that most AIS textbooks are mainly about financial accounting systems. I am out of my element here, but I think there's a paper in there somewhere.

9. In 2001 Zimmerman criticized empirical managerial accounting research in the following paper. Zimmerman, J. L. 2001. Conjectures regarding empirical managerial accounting research. Journal of Accounting and Economics (32): 411-427. (Summary). There were a lot of reactions to this paper and we summarized some of those papers in the management accounting Ph.D. seminar in 2004. Links to those summaries are below the Zimmerman summary. Although I am out of my element again, my idea is for the AIS researchers to see if Zimmerman's criticisms of management accounting research don't also apply to AIS research. A paper like the following might provide a starting point: Amer, T., A. D. Bailey Jr. and P. De. 1987. A review of the computer information systems research related to accounting and auditing. Journal of Information Systems (Fall): 3-28. I don't know where this idea might lead, but it popped into my brain in the middle of the night.

10. In a couple of papers and a book (see below) Kaplan and Cooper talk about four stages of cost systems. Stage four is an integrated system. Where is AIS in this evolution? Are we there yet? Are enterprise systems the answer? How about XBRL? Are the management accounting folks and AIS folks working together on this? Here again I am out of the loop and out of my element, but I think there might be a potential article here.

Kaplan, R. S. 1990. The four stage model of cost systems design. Management Accounting (February): 22-26. (Summary).

Kaplan, R. S. and R. Cooper. 1999. Cost and Effect: Using Integrated Cost Systems to Drive Profitability and Performance. Harvard Business School Press. Dechow, N. and J. Mouritsen. 2005. Enterprise resource planning systems, management control and the quest for integration. Accounting, Organizations, and Society 30(7-8): 691-733.

11. My perception is that every corporate accounting system is different. I know from my experience with General Electric that GE's accounting system is not recognizable to those with only get a generic textbook exposure to accounting systems. In addition, there used to be a lot of articles written about different accounting systems (See the Accounting For... section), but most of them are fairly old. I think there is room for some new ones based on field or case studies and some of them could be written as instructional cases.

12. In 1980 Hayes and Abernathy published an HBR paper about the decline of American corporations (See references below). Part of the problem was created by the increase in the percentage of corporate Presidents with finance and legal backgrounds and the increase in managers hired from outside the company. Hayes and Abernathy refer to them as pseudoprofessionals. These are people who have no special expertise in any particular industry or technology, but run the company using financial controls, portfolio concepts and a market-driven, follow-the-leader strategy. They attempt to simplify and quantify complicated business situations at the profit center level. (Johnson referred to it as remote control management). This over simplification and emphasis on the separate parts of the company creates a serious problem. Someone at a higher top management level needs to integrate all aspects of the business situation to make informed decisions. Someone who understands the company and the industry, someone who has a holistic or systems view. My idea here is simply to do a follow up paper on "Who is running American corporations"? This would involve researching the background of corporate CEO's and comparing those backgrounds to the long term success of these corporations. I don't know of an easy way to do that, but there is another paper opportunity here.

Hayes, R. H. and W. J. Abernathy. 1980. Managing our way to economic decline. Harvard Business Review (July-August): 67-77.

Hayes, R. H. and W. J. Abernathy. 2007. Managing our way to economic decline. Harvard Business Review (July-August): 138-149. (This is a reprint of their 1980 article with a retrospect by Hayes on page 141). (Summary).


Some related articles:

Baiman, S. 2014. Some ideas for further research in managerial accounting. Journal of Management Accounting Research 26(2): 119-121.

Birnberg, J. G. 2004. Expanding our frontiers: Management accounting research in the next decade? Advances in Management Accounting (13): 1-26.

Brandon, D. M., J. H. Long, T. M. Loraas, J. Mueller-Phillips and B. Vansant. 2014. Online instrument delivery and participant recruitment services: Emerging opportunities for behavioral accounting research. Behavioral Research In Accounting 26(1): 1-23.

Granlund, M. 2011. Extending AIS research to management accounting and control issues: A research note. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems 12(1): 3-19.

Thibodeau, N., J. H. Evans III and N. J. Nagarajan. 2014. Do you get what you measure? Research opportunities based on the Veterans Health Administration experience. Accounting Horizons (June): 385-413.

Van der Stede, W. A. 2014. Some ideas for further research in managerial accounting. Journal of Management Accounting Research 26(2): 117-118.