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Theorizing and modelling in management accounting research

Course information

Research Education Subject

  • Business Administration

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus



Course Period

April 2017 - May 2017



Regardless of research field and traditions, high-quality empirical research requires strong linkages between more general theoretical assumptions, study-specific conceptual model(s), and data analy-sis. This course focuses on the first linkage, and involves a number of critical issues. One issue relates to the question of level (or levels) of analysis – do we study individuals, groups, organizations and/or organizational fields? Another issue addresses the conceptualization of management accounting and other phenomena. For example, should they be defined by practice (e.g. balanced scorecards and JIT-systems) or should they be defined by their theoretical properties (e.g. level of information accuracy and timeliness). Still another issue deals with the assumptions made about directions and forms of relationships. For example, are relations unidirectional or do they go in both directions? And if the latter is assumed – are they cyclical or are they reciprocal?

This type of questions needs to be explicitly addressed in empirical research, irrespective of whether you adopt an essentially deductive or inductive approach. However, several recent literature reviews have shown that accounting scholars are often vague or even develop research models which are inconsistent with overall theoretical assumptions. It is also often the case that models developed within particular research fields have very dissimilar theoretical implications. Yet, there are rarely any explicit discussions about how, and in what respects, such models can be related to each other. As a result, researchers sometimes claim that their results are contradictory when this is not necessarily the case, while others incorrectly argue that their results are strongly supported by previous studies. Overall then, this makes it difficult for especially young scholars to grasp the state of the art of their research areas and, not least, to develop strong and solid research contributions.

Aim and content of the course

The overall aim of this course is to develop the participants’ ability to critically reflect upon how man-agement accounting phenomena are conceptualized and modelled in the extant literature, and to make informed modelling decisions in their thesis work.

The course starts out from a general discussion about what theory is (not), followed by an overview of commonly used approaches to theorizing and modelling in management accounting research.

Based on this, it will then be discussed in detail how models are built within three strands of the management accounting literature, namely, research based on contingency theory, new institutional theory, and structuration theory. These strands are specifically chosen as they together cover a wide array of approaches to theoretical modelling, including quantitative and qualitative types of model-ling, various levels of analysis, and different ways of conceptualizing management accounting phe-nomena (and other phenomena) and relations between these.


Registration for the spring semester 2017 is open until March 1st. For questions, please contact the course coordinators (see upper right corner).

The course is limited to 15 participants. Participants are accepted on a first-come basis. However, priority will be given to students admitted to research studies within the schools within Nordic PhD program in Management Accounting.

Invitation and information

Application/Registration Form