Accounting Research: Past, Present, and Future

14 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2016

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 2015


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 practising accountants and bodies that established accounting principles. The 1960s witnessed the beginning of a major change in the interests and approach of accounting researchers. Articles increasingly reflected a decline in reliance on the normative approach, accompanied by an increase in empirical analyses. 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 today, stressed theory, mathematical modelling, 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 centre 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

Suggested Citation

Dyckman, Thomas R. and Zeff, Stephen A., Accounting Research: Past, Present, and Future (December 2015). Abacus, Vol. 51, Issue 4, pp. 511-524, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas R. Dyckman (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Accounting ( email )

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

Stephen A. Zeff

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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