Book Review: The Real-Life Guide to Accounting Research
Reviewer: Adrian France, Waikato Institute of Technology
The aim of the editors is to present what textbooks and journal articles do not present, to provide practical advice and show what actually happens in the research process of accounting researchers; hence the title of the book. The book is intended to provide personal accounts and experiences from a variety of accounting researchers rather than general or theoretical descriptions of accounting research. The researchers ranged from postgraduate students undertaking their Ph. D. to prominent researchers who have published many articles. There are 30 articles within the book that are arranged in five sections. The five sections are: The meaning of research, managing the research process, collecting and analysing data, publishing, and dissemination, and interdisciplinary perspectives.
The editors’ introduction provided the first example in the book of a candid account of how the book came into existence. Originating from a conference discussion on the lack of realistic descriptions of research, the editors chose to create a book that went behind the published accounts of the research.
The first section gave an assortment of perspectives on research, including Stoner and Holland’s description of case study research, a critique of the RAE system and Owen and Lee’s critique of US research. Another chapter was prepared by writers from Spain, and Loft and Komori provided useful descriptions and comments about the writing of their Ph.D. Loft and Komori, as well as other authors within the book who describe their Ph.D. experience describe the process of their individual research project and the intervening events that led them to choose their particular research topic. Many of the other authors leap into the description of their research project without discussing where the project originated.
The research process section covered such topics as; funding and research teams. Burns and Lapsley provided some of their research confessions as well as useful discussion of research output generation and helpful suggestions for interviewing. The largest section was the third section that included chapters on the practicalities of case studies and interviews. Chapters in this section described the types of case studies that can be conducted, means of identifying and explaining data patterns, interview questioning techniques, data recording, and transcribing issues.
The fourth section provided two chapters on publication in academic journals by Guthrie, Parker, Gray, and Lukka that would be valuable to those researchers new to publishing in journals. These authors acknowledge the research as a process, but also describe publication in academic journals as a process too.
The last section describes broader aspects of research than just accounting. I think that this last section would appeal least to accounting researchers, especially as the book title includes the words ‘accounting research’ and therefore should be focused on accounting research.
The book is a useful reference book that a previous reviewer described as a resource on various issues. But because many different authors contributed to the book, it does not flow and it lacks cohesion. The reader is required to pick chapters that are considered relevant rather than read from the first chapter to the last chapter.
Though the book lacks a succinct set of guidelines, the editors did state the important themes they thought ran through the majority of chapters. These themes of qualitative research were: perceptions that qualitative research is not academic, that the research cannot be generalised or representative, and that the research is challenging to conduct and to get published.
The editors acknowledge that it is difficult to have credible and prominent international researchers revealing or undermining their own credibility, and therefore they may not provide candid accounts of their experiences. Instead of chapters providing frank discussions of an author’s research, a chapter in this type of book provides an opportunity to highlight the author’s research superiority. The editors intended to prevent too much self-praise of the authors, though consequently, some self-justification was inevitable.
Authors typically described the process of their research project with respect to a particular activity such as analysis or data collection. Few authors stated how they generated the particular topic or research question. The author’s description of generating a research question resembled the description found in their published research.
Many of the authors seemed to write about their Ph. D. project. It emerged from these chapters that research topics originate from just about anywhere but the chosen topic and direction is largely determined by the Ph. D. supervisor. Another impression I got was that a Ph.D. provides a voluminous resource for publication material, and work should also be reviewed by a peer before submission for publication.
The book was pertinent to my exploration on the research process and what makes successful research. I have gained valuable insights into others’ work, and I am content to know that even prominent researchers have had problems and can take a while to get articles published. The book will be very useful in my current research, and in the future as a resource on qualitative issues.