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We must overcome the controversial relationship between management accounting research and practice: A commentary on Ken Merchant's “Making management accounting research more useful”

R. Murray Lindsay (University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada)

Pacific Accounting Review

ISSN: 0114-0582

Article publication date: 16 November 2012

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to expand on some of the points made in Ken Merchant's paper (this issue) in connection with the research‐practice gap.

Design/methodology/approach

Aiming to be provocative for the purpose of evoking further discussion, this commentary adopts the perspective that some deeply rooted misconceptions about the nature and production of scientific knowledge underpin the research‐practice gap.

Findings

There are three key findings. First, contrary to popular belief, practical knowledge does not simply derive from basic (“scientific”) knowledge “trickling down” to practice; instead, basic knowledge needs to be transformed into a theory or phronesis of management accounting in a manner that reflects the context and purpose of organizations. Practical knowledge therefore becomes a distinct and rigorous mode of knowing in its own right, no less important than basic knowledge. Second, the adoption of field research or the case study method may be the only way to overcome all of the dimensions associated with the “data problem” existing in management accounting. Finally, a strong argument can be made to suggest that the research‐practice gap and its epistemological underpinnings not only impede the discipline's ability to carve out its own unique intellectual identity (Malmi and Granlund), but they also explain the discipline's inability to produce a cumulative body of knowledge.

Originality/value

The paper suggests that a key step, among others, in addressing the researcher‐practitioner gap is the need to overcome philosophical misconceptions about the nature and production of scientific knowledge. This perspective has not received significant coverage in accounting.

Keywords

Citation

Murray Lindsay, R. (2012), "We must overcome the controversial relationship between management accounting research and practice: A commentary on Ken Merchant's “Making management accounting research more useful”", Pacific Accounting Review, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 357-375. https://doi.org/10.1108/01140581211283913

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited