Accounting research is difficult to define because it has changed over time. Broadly speaking, early accounting research (before the 1960s) was mostly normative. That is, it argued the 'correct' accounting treatment, or what it should be.

With the advent of the Journal of Accounting Research, advances in finance such as the efficient market hypothesis, the creation of large data sets and the statistical capabilities to analyze them (i.e. computers), and the publication of seminal work From Ball and Brown in 1968, the accounting investigation became a positive investigation. That is, it examines what it is instead of what it should be. Aunque este cambio ha tenido sus críticos, ha dado lugar a un aumento significativo de la producción de la investigación (y a muchas nuevas revistas).

Definition of Research

A formal definition of research is: any article that cites many other accounting articles must be an accounting research. This 'quick and dirty' definition restricts accounting research to well-established topics and methodologies in the literature; It is 'safe' but somewhat limiting.

More rigorously, Oler, Oler, and Skousen (2009) attempt to characterize accounting research by examining the topics, research methodologies, and citations made for articles published in a set of six of the leading accounting journals (AOS, CAR, JAE, JAR, RAST and TAR).

Deficiencies Found

However, his works can be criticized because they do not consider all accounting journals, and because his categorizations of topics (6 of them) and research methodologies (7 of them) are broad. Despite the shortcomings, their work seems to be the first that attempts to characterize and define accounting research, which they define as follows: 'Accounting research is the investigation of the effect of economic events in the process of summarizing, analyzing, Verify and present standardized financial information, and the effects of the information communicated on economic events '.

Teachers will normally choose a subject area and methodology on which to focus their efforts. Subject areas include subject areas considered under the general term 'accounting'. These include information systems, auditing and assurance, business, financial, forensic, managerial and fiscal management.

Overview of Accounting Research

Accounting research plays an essential role in creating new knowledge. The hard sciences have produced research models and tests that can be used and applied in many disciplines, including accounting research. So we can get a perspective and a scientific basis for the following:

Decide on and apply new accounting or auditing standards

Presentation of unusual economic transactions in the financial statements

Learn how new tax laws affect clients and employers

Types of Research

Researchers conduct two main types of research, positive and normative.

Positive research is the branch of academic research in accounting that tries to explain and predict actual accounting practices.

Regulatory research, by contrast, attempts to derive and prescribe 'optimal' accounting standards.

Researchers use the scientific method to look for cause and effect relationships. The more specific the researcher is in documenting his methods, the better others will be able to follow and repeat his experiment.

Scientific method


As in most research, accounting research begins with the researcher making an observation, seeing a potential pattern, or wondering how an action or event may affect a future action or event.

Background research

Once the researcher finds an interest and develops a theory, background research on this theory is important. Background research is to help the researcher discover similar past theories, current and alternative theories, what evidence has been presented, and what evidence has already been performed. This investigation will save the investigator a great deal of time and guide their investigation to test a new aspect or help resolve areas of disagreement.

Using theory to develop hypotheses

After this in-depth investigation is conducted and existing theories are discerned, the researcher will use his theory to create a specific hypothesis. This hypothesis should focus on an unproven area or an area of ​​disagreement. In addition, the hypothesis must make a specific prediction about how one action or condition will affect other actions or conditions.

Test if the hypothesis is correct

With a hypothesis developed, the researcher needs to identify the data sources and design tests to examine the hypothesis. Test design should address the following:

The study and the cause and effect relationship;

The variables used in a study and the ideas and events of the hypothesis;

Applying the results of a study to other scenarios

Examine test results

Once the tests have been designed and operated and the data collected, the next step is to use statistical methods to compare the actual results with the hypothetical results and determine if there is significant evidence to confirm the hypothesis.

Confirm the theory or not: After examining the evidence and performing the sensitivity analysis, the researcher can then confirm or not the hypothesis and the theory from which the hypothesis was derived.

Thematic areas of accounting research


The following definitions of research subject area and methodologies are based on definitions found in a research paper by Coyne, Summers, Williams and Wood.

Accounting Information Systems (AIS)

Studies that address issues related to the systems and users of the systems that collect, store and generate accounting information. Users are broadly defined to include those who participate in the gathering, storage, or use of accounting information, or even in the application of the system.

These systems may or may not be electronic. Research streams include, among other things, design science, ontological investigations, expert systems, decision helpers, support systems, processing assurance, security, controls, system usability And system performance.


Studies that address issues related to an audit topic. Estos estudios varían ampliamente e incluyen, entre otros, el estudio del entorno de la auditoría externa e interna, la toma de decisiones del auditor, la independencia del auditor, los efectos de la auditoría en el proceso de información financiera y los honorarios del auditor.


Studies that address the thematic content of financial accounting, capital markets and decision making based on financial accounting information.


Studies that examine issues related to budgeting, compensation, decision making within a company, incentives and resource allocation within a company.


Studies that examine issues related to taxpayer decision making, tax allocation, tax computation, structuring accounting transactions to meet tax objectives, tax incentives or market reactions to tax returns and policies.

Other thematic areas

Studies that address issues related to an audit topic. The subject areas of these studies vary significantly and include things like education, methodologies, law, psychology, history, the accounting profession, the work environment, etc.

Research methodologies in accounting

An investigator will select a methodology to determine how the investigation will be conducted. There are three main methodologies for accounting research: archival, analytical, and experimental.

This is most often done by archival researchers who refer to their research as empirical and exclude experimental research from the 'empirical umbrella.' Empirical research is verifiable research based on observation or experimentation; Therefore, both archival research and experimental research are both empirical in nature.


Researchers using analytical methods base their analysis and conclusions on formal modeling theories or ideas grounded in mathematical terms. These analytical studies use mathematics to predict, explain, or give substance to the theory.


Included are studies in which the researchers collected the data and in which the data have objective quantities such as net income, sales, fees, etc.


Experimental research may include the analysis of both economic and behavioral factors.

Other research methodologies

Estudios que no encajaban en ninguna de las otras categorías metodológicas. Las metodologías de estos estudios varían significativamente e incluyen cosas como encuestas, estudios de casos, estudios de campo, simulaciones, argumentos persuasivos, etc.

Skills needed to be a successful researcher

Although there have been great discoveries made by accident that have changed the great paradigms of knowledge, academic research and the creation of knowledge is not an event left to chance. Academic research comes from the domain of skills that allow the researcher to carry out research processes. These processes will contribute to and advance the currently accepted knowledge base, inform industry practices, and open up new ideas and areas of research to pursue.

Some of the skills required to become a successful researcher include the following:

The ability to know and keep abreast of current work within their field of research.

Keeping abreast of ongoing research and publishing is important as research progresses, new questions and issues are discovered, and research colleagues are contributed. Participating in workshops and peer reviews, as well as working with fellow professors and reading peer journal posts, are some ways to keep up with current work in your field. You can find a list of the top journals at Accounting Journals

The ability to understand and recognize research problems.

Researchers must not only keep abreast of current research being conducted and published, but must also understand and acknowledge the difficulties of conducting their own research and the difficulties of research conducted by others. This understanding is crucial to overcome those difficulties.

The ability to understand the content of the research.

The ability to read and understand the content of research articles is an important skill for both academics and practitioners.

Making contributions

The ability to discover where a contribution can be made and evaluate/re-evaluate your contribution.

The ability to discern a topic that adds knowledge to the field and triggers your interests is a great strength. Also, being able to assess the causality, strength, and validity of your research is important, not only when writing it initially, but also to come back and reevaluate it later and see if it needs to be edited or expanded.

The ability to master appropriate experimental, mathematical and computational research skills.

You need to build a solid foundation of mathematical and statistical tools to be able to leverage and enable you to build experiments that have good construction and internal validity.

The ability to think critically and analytically.

As research is conducted, the ability to examine assumptions, evaluate evidence, discern hidden values, and evaluate the conclusion will be used to a great extent. Furthermore, the ability to break a concept or paradigm into its constituent parts and then study the parts to find and evaluate the relationships between those parts is also a useful skill.

The ability to formulate plans to meet objectives and deadlines.

The academic world has many short-term goals (for example, tasks in a specific document) and long-term goals (for example, publication) with a wide variety of specific deadlines. It is important to have the ability to identify those goals and then build plans around your many responsibilities to achieve those goals.

The ability to follow good research practices.

This ability to develop experiments or studies based on good and sound research practices will strengthen the research you conduct and give credibility to your work that colleagues can trust.

The ability to document and report on their work.

After the data is collected and analyzed and the conclusions are developed and confirmed, the researcher needs the ability to effectively communicate his work in a document such as a thesis paper. It is important to document other people who have worked in similar areas, who have contributed to your work, or who have been used in some other way to further your research.

The ability to communicate and defend a coherent argument to stakeholders.

Effective communication includes not only written assignments It also requires the ability to approach and defend your work in a public setting that includes your fellow researchers and professionals. It is desirable to accept criticism with a view to improving your work and strengthening the field (without taking it personally).

The ability to critically examine the value of their own work and the work of other researchers.

A researcher must be able to examine and critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his own work, as well as that of others. You can determine if there is a causal relationship between the variables. They must also be able to assess the various types of validity, as follows:

Internal - what is the strength of the controlled experiment?

Construction - does what you are measuring really capture the ideas and events of the hypothesis?

From the statistical conclusion - Once everything is in place, is there enough evidence to prove a real difference?

External - once it has been shown to be valid in this situation, how well does it transfer to other situations and other issues?

How accounting research can make a difference in the world

Some of the ways accounting research can make a positive difference in the world include the following:

May affect practice (typically high-level decision makers, via text books)

He is a mentor to the thinking of researchers, who then change the world through consulting, professional service, and teaching.

It affects the decisions of legislators and regulators.

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