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Chapter 8

Research
perspectives in
accounting

Classification of accounting
researchers
The typology of Jung seems to be the
most useful in classifying scientists in
general and accounting researchers in
particular
Jung classified individuals by the way
they receive information (either by
sensation or intuition) and the way they
reach decisions (either by thinking or
feeling)

Jung and the classification of


researchers
The components of the Jungian dimensions

are, according to Jung:


Sensation involves receiving information
through the senses, focusing on detail,
emphasizing the here and now and the
practical
Intuition involves input of information
through the imagination, emphasizing the
whole or Gestalt, dwelling in idealism, in
hypothetical possibilities, and taking an
interest in the long term

Jung and the classification of


researchers (contd)
Thinking is concerned with the use of
reasoning which is impersonal and
formal to develop explanations in
scientific, technical and theoretical
terms
Feeling relates to the reaching of
decisions on the basis of highly valued
judgements and focusing on human
values, moral and ethical issues

Jung and the classification of


researchers (contd)
According to Jung, four personality types
result from combinations of Jungs
dimensions:
1. sensing-thinking
2. sensing-feeling
3. feeling-intuition
4. thinking-intuition

Jung and the classification of


researchers (contd)
Jungs typology was used by Mitroff
and Kilman to produce a classification
of different types of researchers:
1. Abstract Scientist
2. Conceptual Theorist
3. Conceptual Humanist
4. Particular Humanist

Mitroff and Kilmans


classification of researchers
The Abstract Scientist, a sensing-thinking
person, is motivated by the conduct of
enquiry along a precise methodology and
logic, with a focus on certainty, accuracy and
reliability, and a reliance on a simple, welldefined and consistent paradigm
The Conceptual Theorist, a thinking-intuition
person, attempts to generate multiple
explanations or hypotheses for phenomena,
with a focus on discovery rather than testing

Mitroff and Kilmans classification of


researchers (contd)
The Particular Humanist, a sensing-feeling
person, is concerned with the uniqueness of
particular human beings
The Conceptual Humanist, an intuitionfeeling person, focuses on human welfare,
directing his or her personal conceptual
enquiry towards the general human good

Accounting methodology
perspectives
The widely accepted view of the role of accounting
research is that it functions to establish general
laws covering the behavior of empirical events or
objects with which the science is concerned, and
thereby enables us to connect our knowledge of
separately known events
The natural-science model, which includes careful
sampling, accurate measurement, and good design
and analysis of theory-supported hypotheses, is
generally adopted as the model supporting good
research
The natural-science model has met with objection,
leading to the ideographic versus nomothetic
methodology debate

Nomothesis versus ideography


The nomothetic approach:
seeks only laws and employs only those
procedures admitted by an exact science
bases research on protocol and technique
The ideographic approach:
endeavours to understand a particular
event in nature or society
is based on the view that the social world
can only be understood by obtaining firsthand knowledge of the subject under
investigation

Nomothesis versus ideography


(contd)
The approaches nomothesis versus
ideography, or enquiry from the outside versus
enquiry from the inside differ in terms of the
mode of enquiry, the type of organisational
action, and the type and number of analytic
dimensions
The nomothetic method is interested in the
development of universal knowledge theory
The ideographic method is interested in the
knowledge of a condition for praxis, which is a
knowledge of how to act appropriately in a
variety of particular situations

Behlings five key objections


Orlando Behling raised five key objections to
the natural science model that is used in social
science research and that is applicable to
accounting research, namely:
1. Uniqueness: Each organisation, group and
person differs to some degree from all others
the development of precise general laws in
organisational behaviour and organisation
theory is therefore impossible
2. Instability: The phenomena of interest to
researchers in organisational behaviour and
organisation theory are transitory

Behlings five key objections (contd)


3. Sensitivity: Unlike chemical compounds and
other things of interest to natural science
researchers, the people who make up
organisations, and thus organisations
themselves, may behave differently if they
become aware of research hypotheses abut
them
4. Lack of realism: Manipulating and
controlling variables in organisational
research changes the phenomena under
study

Behlings five key objections (contd)


5. Epistemological differences: Although
understanding cause and effect through
natural science research is an appropriate
way of knowing about physical
phenomena, a different kind of knowledge
not tapped by this approach is more
important in organisational behaviour and
organisational theory

Convergent methodology
There is an established school of thought
that recommends the use of multiple
methods
It is generally described as one of
convergent methodology, multi-method/
multi-trait, convergent validation, or what
has been called triangulation
According to Allport, the ideographic and
nomothetic methods were overlapping and
contributing to one another

Convergent methodology (contd)


Use of both methods can:
lead to more confidence in results
help uncover the deviant or off-quadrant
dimension of a phenomenon
lead to a synthesis or integration of
theories
serve as a critical test

Three options
What convergent methodology implies for
research practice is an eventual choice
between three options:
1. pursue both nomothetic and ideographic
research and the aggregate
2. alternate between both nomothetic and
ideographic research, running back and
forth between the two methods to
capitalise on the strengths of one method
in certain cases and overcome the
deficiencies of the other method in other
cases

Three options (contd)


3. Develop a new science described
eloquently as follows:
The new science that is gradually
emerging is likely to be more actor
based, experimentally rooted, praxisoriented, and self-reflective than the
current image of (positivistic,
objective) science

Stephen Peppers world


hypotheses
Knowledge is the result of a constant
cognitive refinement: the criticism and
improvement of common-sense claims,
referring to common-sense knowledge as
dubitianda claims to be doubted
The cognitive refinement is accomplished by:
multiplicative corroboration a
confirmation of phenomena by various
subjects, and
structural corroboration the use of
theories and hypotheses about the world
and their confirmation by empirical data

Stephen Peppers world hypotheses


(contd)
Pepper distinguishes four world hypotheses as
adequate structural hypothesis. These are:
formism, which includes analytic and
dispersive theories
mechanism, which includes analytic and
integrative theories
contextualism, which includes synthetic
and dispersive theories
organicism, which includes synthetic and
integrative theories

Formism
Relates philosophically to realism and platonic
idealism, with exponents like Plato and Aristotle
Its root metaphor is similarity
It includes both analytic and dispersive theories
The central activity is description on the basis of
similarities, without concern for the sources of
the similarities
The description in formism rests on three
categories: characters, particulars and
participation
What appears in formism is that truth is the
degree of similarity of a description to its object
of reference

Mechanism
Relates philosophically to the naturalism or
materialism of Democrites, Lucretius, Galileo,
Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Berkely, Hu and
Reichenbach
Includes both analytic and integrative theories
Its root metaphor is a machine
Like formism, mechanism is an analytical theory
focusing on discrete elements rather than
complexes or contexts
Unlike formism, mechanism is integrative in the
sense that its world is well-ordered: the facts
occur in a determinate order and, were enough
known, they could be predicted or at least
described as being necessarily just what they are

Mechanism (contd)
Six features characterise the mechanistic type
of knowledge:
1. like a machine, the object of study is
composed of parts having specified
locations
2. the parts can be expressed in a quantitative
form, corresponding to the primary
qualities of the machine
3. a lawful relationship between the parts of a
study object can be described by functional
equations or statistical correlations this is
the statement of the interrelationships
among the parts of the machine

Mechanism (contd)
4. In addition to the primary qualities, there
are other characteristics that can be
expressed quantitatively, although they are
not directly relevant to the object of study
these are secondary qualities
5. The secondary qualities are also related by
some principle to the object of study
because if there were to be a complete
description of the machine we should want
to find out and describe just what the
principle was which kept certain secondary
qualities attached to certain parts of the
machine

Mechanism (contd)
6. Secondary laws characterise the stable
relationship between the secondary
qualities
The truth theory of mechanism is whether
the machine works, which is measured by
workability, which comes down to whether
or not ones knowledge allows predictions of
the outcomes of any casual adjustments
made in the system

Contextualism
Relates to the pragmatism of Pierce,
James, Bergson, Dewey and Mead
It includes both synthetic and dispersive
theories
Its root metaphor is the historic event or
the act in context
Unlike formism, contextualism is synthetic,
in that it forcuses on a pattern (a Gestalt)
as the object of study rather than on
disparate facts

Contextualism (contd)
Like formism, contextualism is dispersive,
in that the focus is on the interpretation of
facts retrieved one by one from a universe
of facts
These facts are characterised by
continuously changing patterns, making
change and novelty the fundamental
contextualistic categories

Formism in accounting
Formism in accounting consists of searching
for similarities and differences between
different objects of study without any concern
for potential relationships among them
It may be argued that all of the technical
knowledge in accounting that is used in the
teaching of accounting and included in
standard textbooks is to a great extent
inescapably formistic
Formism fits well in accounting practice, where
categorisation is tantamount to reaching
solutions

Mechanism in accounting
Mechanism in accounting consists of not
only looking for similarities and
differences between objects of study but
also and mainly for quantitative
relationships that allow both description
and prediction
Mechanism in accounting is also the
search for empirical regularities among
different phenomena through various
forms of statistical correlation

Mechanism in accounting (contd)


Most empirical research in accounting,
or so called mainstream research, is to
a great extent inescapably mechanistic
Mechanism in accounting focuses on
obtaining an ever-more exhaustive
description and finer representation in
order to delineate an abbreviated
representation of the logic linking the
parts of the accounting research object

Contextualism in accounting
Contextualism in accounting focuses on
the interpretation of independent facts
drawn from a universe of facts in a
specific context that would create a
pattern or Gestalt
It may be argued that any new
accounting technical knowledge that is
accumulated for specific contexts
constitutes a good example of
contextualism in accounting

Contextualism in accounting (contd)


Contextualism appears to be more helpful
to the practice of accounting than formism,
by working for specific Gestalt in
accounting where it can pinpoint what is
useful and what is not useful, and identify
the working of specific organisational
cultures in accounting
Contextualism in accounting research relies
on an analysis of only facts of direct
verification facts that are specific to a
given situation, such as a given industry

Organicism in accounting
Those who adopt organicism in
accounting are focusing on specific
Gestalt as objects of study, which are
composed of well-ordered and
integrated facts that can be described as
well as predicted
Like mechanism in accounting,
organicism seeks the determination of
empirical regularities between different
phenomena through various forms of
statistical analysis

Organicism in accounting (contd)


Organicism avoids most of the
limitations of mechanism in accounting
by integrating the research and findings
around a specific context
Organicism in accounting is viewed as
an important factor of future accounting
research

Perspectives on accounting
research
Accounting research is elective and diverse
Like every other social science, accounting bases
its research upon assumptions about the nature of
social science and the nature of society
An approach applied by Burrel and Morgan to
organisational analysis can be used to differentiate
between four visions of research in accounting:
functionalist
interpretive
radical humanist
radical structuralist

The nature of social science


Four assumptions about the nature of social
science relate to ontology, epistemology, human
nature and methodology
1. Ontology
The ontological assumption, concerning the very
essence of the accounting phenomenon, involves
nominalismrealism differences
The debate concerns whether the social world
external to individual cognition is a compound of
pure names, concepts and labels that give a
structure to reality (as in nominalism) or whether
it is a compound of real, factual and tangible
structures (as in realism)

The nature of social science (contd)


2. Epistemology
The epistemological debate, concerning the grounds
of knowledge and the nature of knowledge, involves
the antipositivismpositivism debate
This debate focuses on the utility of a search for
laws or underlying regularities in the field of social
affairs
3. Human nature
The human-nature debate, concerning the
relationship between human beings and their
environment, involves the voluntarismdeterminism
debate
This debate focuses on whether humans and their
activities are determined by their situation or
environment (as as in determinism) or are the
result of free will (as in voluntarism)

The nature of social science (contd)


4. Methdology
The methodology debate, concerning the methods
used to investigate and learn about the social
world, involves the ideographicnomothetic
debate
This debate focuses on whether the methodology
involves the analysis of the subjective accounts
obtained by participating or getting inside the
situation (as in the ideographic method) or
whether it involves a rigorous and scientific
testing of hypotheses (as in the nomothetic
method)

The framework for analysis of


research
Any social science discipline, including
accounting, can be analysed through
metatheoretical assumptions about the nature of
science (the subjectiveobjective dimension), and
about the nature of society (the dimension of
regulationradical change)
Using these two dimensions, Burrel and Morgan
were able to develop a coherent scheme for the
analysis of social theory in general and
organisational analysis in particular

The framework for analysis of


research (contd)
The scheme consists of four distinct
paradigms, being:
radical humanist, characterised by the
radical change and subjective dimensions
radical struturalist, characterised by the
radical change and objective dimensions
interpretive, characterised by the
subjective and regulation dimensions
functionalist, characterised by the
objective and regulation dimensions

The functionalist view in


accounting
The functionalist view in accounting focuses on
explaining the social order, in which accounting
plays a role, from a realist, positivist,
determinist and nomothetic standpoint
It is effective regulation on the basis of objective
evidence
The functionalist paradigm in accounting views
accounting phenomena as concrete real-world
relations possessing regularities and causal
relationships that are amenable to scientific
explanation

The functionalist view in accounting


(contd)
As in structural functionalism, the
functionalist paradigm in accounting focuses
on establishing the functions of accounting
needed for the efficient operation of
organisations
As in system theory, the functionalist
paradigm in accounting focuses on both the
search for analogical representation of the
accounting system and a system analysis

The interpretive view in


accounting
The interpretive view in accounting would focus
on explaining the social order from a normalist,
antipositivist, voluntarist and ideological
standpoint
In accounting it would aim to understand the
subjective experience of individuals involved in
the preparation, communication, verification or
use of accounting information
To the interpretists, accounting is no more than
names, concepts and labels used to construct
social reality

The interpretive view in


accounting (contd)
Although the interpretive paradigm is not
predominant in accounting, it suffers from
three major limitations:
it assumes that a quasidivine observer
can understand social action through sheer
subjectivity and without interference
it creates the illusion of pure theory by
using a monological line of reasoning
it fails to be an enquiry of change

The radical humanist view in


accounting
The radical humanist view in accounting would
focus on explaining the social order from a
nominalist, voluntarist and ideographic
perspective, and place emphasis on forms of
radical methodology
It would respect any research that reduced
philosophical critique to some normative
methodology
Critical theory in accounting assumes that
theories, bodies of knowledg and facts are mere
reflections of a realistic worldview

The radical humanist view in


accounting (contd)
It would view accountants, accountors and
accountees as prisoners of a mode of
consciousness that is shaped and controlled
through ideological processes
In short, accounting would be viewed as
creating a psychic prison where
organisational realities become confirming
and dominating

The radical structuralist view in


accounting
The radical structuralist view in accounting would
challenge the social order from a realist, positivist,
deterministic and nomothetic standpoint
It would seek radical change, emancipation,
contradiction and deprivation
This paradigm would generate accounting theories
based upon metaphors such as the instrument of
domination, schismatic system and catastrophe
From the point of view of radical structuralists,
organisations are instruments of social forces
concerned with maintaining the division of labour
and the distribution of wealth and power in society