Does managerial accounting research contribute to related disciplines? An examination using citation analysis

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Date: Annual 2004
Publisher: American Accounting Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,667 words

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Abstract: This paper examines two issues. The first issue is the degree of relative isolation of managerial accounting research (MAR) from related disciplines. Using citations collected from the Web of Science, the study shows that MAR published during 1986-2000 in the four leading accounting journals is cited in journals in fields as diverse as economics, operations research, psychology, sociology, organizational behavior, and strategic management. Our findings support Kinney's (2001) observation that accounting researchers have a competitive advantage in areas relating to alternative business measurement structures.

The second issue the paper addresses is whether economics-based MAR papers make a greater contribution than papers based on other disciplines, as perceived from their respective citation rates. Our citation analysis finds no evidence that economics-based papers are cited by non-accounting researchers at a higher rate than MAR based on other disciplines. Extending the comparison to accounting journals covered in the Web of Science did not change this conclusion. We interpret this as a refutation of the contention by Zimmerman (2001) that economics-based MAR papers are more likely to make significant contributions to knowledge.

We also report some preliminary evidence that the relevance of MAR to researchers publishing in non-accounting journals is waning. Although this finding is tentative, it may be an early warning signal that should be monitored in future research.

Keywords: management accounting research; research impact; citation analysis; bibliographic studies.

Availability: The sources used in this study are available commercially.


In his presidential speech at the American Accounting Association annual meeting in 2000, Kinney (2001) described the core aspects of accounting scholarship and the unique contributions that accountants can make to knowledge. He identified knowledge of alternative business measurement structures as the unique core of accounting scholarship. In Kinney's (2001) view, accounting concerns "how standardized measurement criteria, precision of application, and trustworthiness of display have value in decision-making and in control of business organizations." This study applies Kinney's (2001) perspective to managerial accounting research (MAR).

This study is also motivated by Zimmerman's (2001) call for a renewed focus on an economics-oriented and empirically tested approach to managerial accounting research. Zimmerman (2001) responded to Ittner and Larcker's (2001) comprehensive survey of empirical research in managerial accounting, which made extensive references to MAR papers based on disciplines other than economics. Zimmerman (2001) argued that the approach advocated by Kaplan (1983, 1984) provided a description of practices but otherwise has failed to provide significant insights into the problems faced by management accountants. Zimmerman's (2001) commentary has re-opened the question of MAR's objectives and its contributions to the body of knowledge. (1) Specifically, we use Kinney's (2001) framework of core accounting scholarship competencies to test whether citation rates indicate that researchers outside accounting find economics-based MAR papers to be the most consistently useful references in their work.

In addressing the first objective, this study evaluates whether citations of MAR by non-accounting researchers focus on those aspects that Kinney (2001) identifies as the unique core of accounting scholarship. More generally, we examine whether MAR influences scholars publishing...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A129248073