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Practitioners are from Mars; academics are from Venus? An investigation of the research-practice gap in management accounting

Basil P. Tucker (School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Alan D. Lowe (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 26 February 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to identify and gain insights into the significance of barriers contributing to the purported “gap” between academic management accounting research and practice.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on diffusion of innovations theory, this study collects and analyses data from a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with 19 representatives of the four principal professional accounting bodies in Australia.

Findings

Professional accounting bodies perceive the gap between academic research and practice in management accounting to be of limited concern to practitioners. The two most significant barriers to research utilisation by practitioners are identified as: difficulties in understanding academic research papers; and limited access to research findings. In acting as a conduit between the worlds of academia and practice, professional bodies have an important role to play by demonstrating the mutual value to both academics and practitioners resulting from a closer engagement between MA research and practice.

Research limitations/implications

As one of the few empirically-based, theoretically informed investigations exploring the research-practice gap in management accounting, this study provides insights rather than “answers”. Its findings therefore serve as a foundational basis for further empirical and theoretical enquiry.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the conversation about the “research-practice gap” in management accounting by adopting a distinct theoretical vantage point to organize, analyse and interpret empirical evidence obtained from Australian professional accounting bodies about management accounting practice.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Professors Bob Kaplan, Theresa Libby, James Guthrie, Lee Parker, Kate Kearins, Richard Laughlin, Malcolm Smith, and Carol Kulik, Simon Linacre Senior Publisher, Emerald Group Publishing, Rick Payne, Technical Manager, ICAEW Finance and Management Faculty, participants at the American Accounting Association, Management Accounting Section Research and Case Conference (2012), and MONFORMA (2012), and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments and suggestions on the earlier versions of this paper. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to the UniSA Business School, University of South Australia, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia for partial funding of this research, and to Professor Gerry Griffin, former Pro Vice Chancellor, UniSA Business School for his support of this research. Finally, a word of thanks is due all of the professional bodies participating in the study, as well as those practitioners who provided feedback on the survey instrument.

Citation

P. Tucker, B. and D. Lowe, A. (2014), "Practitioners are from Mars; academics are from Venus? An investigation of the research-practice gap in management accounting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 394-425. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-01-2012-00932

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited