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Bean counters or bright young things? Towards the visual study of identity construction among professional accountants

Samantha Warren (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Lee Parker (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 2 October 2009




The purpose of this paper is to put forward a “next step” research agenda for investigating accountants' professional identity.


The visual nature of identity construction is discussed, issues of media stereotyping are revisited and recruitment/educational implications are reviewed. Attention is also paid to the accounting profession's attempts to change perceptions of the accounting identity.


A hybrid strategy of research participant generated photographs and semi‐structured interviews is exemplified as a fruitful methodology and outlined as a way forward for tapping into the identity construction processes and perceptions of accountants from their particular perspectives.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is intended to stimulate further research into accountants' identities from a visual perspective. However, it does not directly report on empirical findings.

Practical implications

Questions of identity construction offer us a window into the degree to which public stereotypes are matched by professional accountants' own personal definitions and the bearing these may have on current and future career intentions. Such insights can provide foundations for a range of profession policy issues spanning recruitment, retention, training and professional development.


This paper proposes a visual methodology not employed in accounting research before and addresses the neglected area of accountants' identities as individual professionals.



Warren, S. and Parker, L. (2009), "Bean counters or bright young things? Towards the visual study of identity construction among professional accountants", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 205-223.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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