Accounting without accounting
Informational proxies and the construction of
School of Economics, Business and Accounting, University of Sa˜ o Paulo,
Sa˜ o Paulo, Brazil
David B. Carter
Business School, University of Roehampton, London, UK, and
Marcelo F.G. Barroso
School of Economics, Business and Accounting, University of Sa˜ o Paulo,
Sa˜ o Paulo, Brazil
Purpose – An effective management accounting information system (MAIS), as well as the
accounting discourse related to it, can support, facilitate, enable, and constrain diverse business
discourses. This paper aims to examine the discursive and organisational effects of an organisation
accounting upon absent accounting artefacts, i.e. accounting without accounting. Situated within the
discursive literature, this paper examines the construction of competing articulations of the
organisation by focusing on what accounting does or does not do within an organisation. In particular,
the paper acknowledges the fundamental importance of the accounting discourse in supporting,
facilitating, enabling, and constraining competing organisational discourses, as it illustrates how the
absence of accounting centralises power within the organisation.
Design/methodology/approach – From a rhetorical, discursive perspective, the authors develop
an in-depth qualitative case study in a manufacturing organisation where MAIS has been abandoned
for approximately two years. Interpretive research approaches, from a post-structural perspective,
provided the base for the structure of the research. The authors studied how other organisational
discourses (such as entrepreneurship and growth), which are traditionally constructed with reference
to accounting and other artefacts, continued to be produced and sustained. The non-use and
non-availability of management accounting information created a vacuum that needed to be filled. The
lack of discursive counterpoints and counter-evidence provided by MAIS created a vacuum of
information, allowing powerful, proxy discourses to prevail in the organisation, increasing risks to
Findings – The absence of MAIS to support an accounting discourse requires that contingent
discourses “fill in the discursive gap”. Despite appearances, they are no substitute for the accounting
discourse. Thus, over time, the entrepreneurial, growth and partners’ discourses lose credibility,
without the corresponding use of management accounting information and its associated discourse.
Originality/value – There are at least two main contributions from the case study and the findings
presented in this paper: first, they provide a new perspective for studying MAIS, as a specific
organisational discourse among other discourses that shape people relationship within the
organisation as an examination of accounting without accounting. Second, this discussion reinforces
the relevance of accounting discourse for other organisational discourses, supporting, facilitating,
enabling, and constraining them, by demonstrating the effects of its absence.
Keywords Management accounting, Business discourses, Discourse theory, Rhetoric analysis
Paper type Case study
Practitioners are from Mars;
academics are from Venus?
An investigation of the research-practice gap
in management accounting
Basil P. Tucker
School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, and
Alan D. Lowe
Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to identify and gain insights into the significance of barriers
contributing to the purported “gap” between academic management accounting research and practice.
Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on diffusion of innovations theory, this study collects
and analyses data from a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with 19 representatives of the
four principal professional accounting bodies in Australia.
Findings – Professional accounting bodies perceive the gap between academic research and practice
in management accounting to be of limited concern to practitioners. The two most significant barriers
to research utilisation by practitioners are identified as: difficulties in understanding academic
research papers; and limited access to research findings. In acting as a conduit between the worlds of
academia and practice, professional bodies have an important role to play by demonstrating the
mutual value to both academics and practitioners resulting from a closer engagement between MA
research and practice.
Research limitations/implications – As one of the few empirically-based, theoretically informed
investigations exploring the research-practice gap in management accounting, this study provides
insights rather than “answers”. Its findings therefore serve as a foundational basis for further
empirical and theoretical enquiry.
Originality/value – This study contributes to the conversation about the “research-practice gap” in
management accounting by adopting a distinct theoretical vantage point to organize, analyse and
interpret empirical evidence obtained from Australian professional accounting bodies about
management accounting practice.
Keywords Research-practice gap, Management accounting research, Diffusion theory, Australia
Paper type Research paper
Audit committees: practices,
practitioners and praxis
Niamh M. Brennan
Department of Accountancy, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, and
Collette E. Kirwan
School of Business, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review and critique prior research on audit committees
using a practice-theory lens. Research on audit committees has followed the same trajectory as early
research on boards of directors, which has been criticised for its singular theoretical perspectives and
methodologies that do not capture the complexity of real-world experiences/behaviours.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors devise an analytical framework based on practice
theory to conduct the review. The authors examine what audit committees should do (i.e. best practice)
vs what audit committees actually do (i.e. actual activities in practice – praxis). Attributes of audit
committee members, and the relationship dynamics relevant to their role execution (i.e. practitioners),
Findings – Research on boards has found that over-emphasis on agency theory’s monitoring role
negatively impacts boards’ effectiveness. The authors invoke other theories in examining what audit
committees do in practice. The authors characterise the role of audit committees as oversight not
monitoring. The authors question whether, similar to auditing, audit committees are blamist tools or
are genuinely orientated towards supporting improvements in organisational management systems.
The authors unpack the ritualistic ceremonial behaviours and symbolic endeavours vs substantive
engagement by audit committees. The analytical framework also considers the “guardianship circle”
around audit committees in the form of the key practitioners and their relationships: audit committee
members, auditors and managers.
Originality/value – Drawing on the analytical framework, the authors provide directions for further
opportunities for research of audit committees.
Keywords Corporate governance, Audit committees, Practice theory, Guardianship circle
Paper type Literature review
Annexing new audit spaces:
challenges and adaptations
Paul Andon and Clinton Free
UNSW Business School, University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia, and
University of Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine attempts at jurisdictional expansion in the audit
field. Specifically, the authors critically analyse the professional implications of “new audit spaces”,
that is, novel auditing and assurance services that have emerged at intersections between audit and
other fields such as the environment, the public sector, sport and education. The purpose is two-fold.
First, to better understand the dynamics of new audit spaces, and second, to highlight the major
challenges and adaptations prompted by these dynamics.
Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of practice, the authors highlight
and problematise four issues central to the construction of new audit spaces: independence; reporting;
professional accreditation; and the nature of the audit role.
Findings – The audit profession has experienced mixed success in seeking to annex new audit
spaces; in some instances, practices initially located at the margins of auditing have moved towards its
centre, while elsewhere projects have been abandoned, colonised by others or remain in flux. In these
ventures, the accounting profession is brought into competition with other bodies of expertise and
modes of practice. In new audit spaces, core elements of auditing, as conventionally conceived,
are transmogrified as they travel.
Originality/value – This analysis calls into question some of the “sacred cows” of auditing and
challenges the transferability of the capitals and habitus of the accounting profession in other domains.
Future research avenues are suggested.
Keywords Independence, Bourdieu, Audit report, Accreditation, Accounting profession,
New audit spaces
Paper type Conceptual paper
On the shoulders of giants:
undertaking a structured
literature review in accounting
Department of Economic Sciences and Statistics, University of Udine,
Udine, Italy, and
John Dumay and James Guthrie
Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a method for a structured literature review (SLR).
An SLR is a method for examining a corpus of scholarly literature, to develop insights, critical
reflections, future research paths and research questions. SLRs are common in scientific disciplines
dominated by quantitative approaches, but they can be adapted in accounting studies since
quantitative and qualitative approaches are commonly accepted.
Design/methodology/approach – A literature review, as a piece of academic writing, must have a
logical, planned structure. The authors also argue it requires tests based on qualitative and
quantitative methods. Therefore, the authors describe ten steps for developing an SLR.
Findings – The SLR method is a way that scholars can stand “on the shoulders of giants” and
provide insightful and impactful research that is different to the traditional authorship approaches to
Research limitations/implications – Traditional literature reviews can have varied results
because of a lack of rigour. SLRs use a process that, through a set of rules, potentially offers less bias
and more transparency of the execution and measures and techniques of validation and reliability.
Practical implications – SLRs provide an approach that can help academics to discover underinvestigated
topics and methods, nurturing, therefore, the development of new knowledge areas and
Originality/value – The paper presents accounting researchers with an opportunity to develop
insightful and publishable studies, and also serves as a basis for developing future research agendas in
the accounting field. The authors advocate the SLR method especially to higher degree research
students and emerging scholars as a way of potentially developing robust and defensible research
agendas and questions.
Keywords Citation analysis, Validity, Reliability, Structured literature review, Critique,
Traditional authorship literature rev