Accounting Research: Past, Present and Future

17 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2014 Last revised: 29 Dec 2014

See all articles by Thomas R. Dyckman

Thomas R. Dyckman

Cornell University - Department of Accounting

Stephen A. Zeff

Rice University - Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business

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Date Written: December 24, 2014


This paper begins with a description of the accounting research environment prior to, and shortly following, the appearance of Abacus in 1965. During this period, the approach to accounting was predominantly normative in focus, but also reflected historical approaches, as researchers grappled with the accounting issues faced by practicing accountants and bodies that established accounting principles. The 1960s witnessed the beginning of a major change in the interests and approach of accounting researchers. Attention gradually decreased its reliance on the normative approach towards an empirical analysis but with an apparent inclination towards impressing academic colleagues rather than addressing the problems of practice. The new focus introduced the ideas and concepts of several sister disciplines, including the social sciences, notably cognitive psychology and mathematics, particularly statistics, into accounting research. This era, which is still with us to this day, stressed theory, mathematical modeling, and, importantly, statistical testing. Simultaneously, the new directions gradually abandoned the contributions of normative approaches and diminished the interest in history, both of which had enlightened the problems of practice that previously held center stage. We examine a broad sample of research articles to inform our discussion and analysis, and then we comment on some of the limitations of the new data-driven approaches embedded in current research efforts. We conclude with ten recommendations for accounting researchers to consider as they tackle the complex issue of increasing the relevance of our efforts in the future. We hope that these recommendations, if adopted, will increase the academic relevance of academic research to the problems facing decision makers beyond the academic community.

Keywords: Accounting research, research methodology

JEL Classification: M41

Suggested Citation

Dyckman, Thomas R. and Zeff, Stephen A., Accounting Research: Past, Present and Future (December 24, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas R. Dyckman

Cornell University - Department of Accounting ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-3491 (Phone)
607-254-4590 (Fax)

Stephen A. Zeff (Contact Author)

Rice University - Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business ( email )

6100 South Main Street
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77005
United States
713-348-6066 (Phone)
713-348-6296 (Fax)

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