The existence of a gap between accounting research and accounting practice has been extensively described in literature. In order to be able to publish a research in a high-ranked accounting journal, it seems that methodological issues are more important than those related to the relevance of the topics covered. To improve research and accounting practice and to avoid the risk of accounting research becoming selfreferential, every effort should be made to bridge the current gap between research and accounting practice. To this end, the development of mutual knowledge of the agenda of researchers and practitioners on the one hand, and participation in joint projects on the other, could represent possible future solutions to be pursued.
This paper represents a contribution from the point of view of a practitioner who strongly believes that it is essential to continue to invest in accounting research. The cooperation between chief financial officers, auditors and academic institutions is central not only for improving the process of accounting regulations but also for relaunching, at the same time, the industrial system (and not only it), by creating a strong feeling of trust in general economic and financial communication, thus fostering higher level of accountability.
Keywords: Accounting profession, accounting research, research impact, impact factor, accountability.
Research in accounting is relatively young compared to other disciplines. Originally, normative research based on a priori reasoning and aimed at improving accounting practice was predominant among accounting scholars. After the 60’s, accounting academics started using an empirical positive approach, aimed to better understand accounting phenomena through empirical tests of hypotheses. As from then, research in accounting has gone through several changes in terms of approaches, research methods and topics. This paper aims at highlighting the main stages of the past evolution and recent trends in accounting research. After describing the main drivers of the shift from normative to positive approach, the dominant traits that have characterized accounting research for the last two decades are briefly analyzed. Particular emphasis is put on methods and topics. In the last section, the main limitations of current accounting research are highlighted, and some directions for future research are outlined.
Keywords: Accounting research, past evolution, future directions, research methods, research topics.
Accounting research has a speculative and normative tradition. Starting at the beginning of the 1970s, empirical methodologies gained prominence and the boundaries of accounting disciplines have become uncertain. Quantitative and qualitative methods tend to overwhelm the accounting and business objects; often they are only suitable to deal with past and narrow phenomena. Empirical methodologies need reference theories, coming from other disciplines and particularly economics and sociology. In this context, it is questioned if accounting research does exist anymore and if it is relevant to the business world. Some scholars have begun to wonder whether it would be appropriate to revalue normative approaches in order to conduct a type of research which is useful to the society and allows the preservation of specific accounting knowledge. A necessity emerges to come back to the prominence of business and accounting issues over methodologies and sociological theories. Research should be directed to tackle wide and current phenomena, not just the narrow and past ones. Speculative thinking has to be reassessed and empirical findings should be used to strengthen it as starting premises. Explaining phenomena is not enough; empirical research has to go beyond its findings; the emphasis should be shifted to the drawing of policy recommendations.
Keywords: Accounting research, empirical methods, a priori research, research relevance.
The opening up to international debate of Italian accounting studies has required local researchers to deal with scientific paradigms based on assumptions, theories and methods markedly different from those that have been leading for decades the local knowledge production system. In an international scenario, a leading part has been played by the Anglo-Saxon mainstream paradigm. Not surprisingly, the interest of many Italian scholars has been catalyzed by such studies. However, the paradigm behind these studies is not free of criticism, as emerges from a qualified debate arising at international level around the pros and cons of this scientific approach. This paper – and the others collected in this Special Issue – hopes to contribute to the debate, with the aim, on the one hand, of overcoming some unbending defensive positions and, on the other hand, of favoring a conscious internationalization process.
Keywords: Accounting research, academia, positive accounting theory, scientific paradigm
This paper explores the gap between accounting research and practice with two primary objectives. First, it provides a review of the main results obtained by the impressive literature on the topic to get a comprehensive picture of this phenomenon, considering the different perspectives and research methods used so far. This review aims not only at summarizing results, but also at outlining a logical framework that could be useful for both our analysis and future studies on the topic. Against this background, our second objective is to carry out an empirical analysis on scholars’ motivations and incentives – rather neglected by prior literature – with a particular focus on their relationships with professional associations. Evidence from our survey (with 447 questionnaires completed by EAA members) suggests that there is a hierarchy of objectives informing scholars’ motivations and that the first one is to publish on highly ranked journals. In such a context, the positive attitude of academics towards practice can be sometimes in conflict with scholars’ expectation about effort, individual result and peers’ consideration. In other terms, our study supports the idea that there is a gap between research and practice, together with a risk of an increasingly closed community of scientists. Our results seem in line with studies stating that the reasons for this gap essentially lie in the current evaluation logic driving scholars’ incentives. Additionally, evidence on scholars’ incentives might be helpful in finding new solutions to bridge the gap and supporting future research sharing the same objective.
Keywords: Research-practice gap, research impact, real impact factor, accounting research, accounting practice