The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance for designing and generating cumulative knowledge based on qualitative research.
The paper draws on the philosophy of science and specific examples of qualitative studies in accounting that have claimed a cumulative contribution to knowledge to develop a taxonomy of theoretically justified approaches to generating cumulative knowledge from qualitative research.
The paper argues for a definition of cumulative knowledge that is inclusive of anti-realist research, i.e. knowledge is cumulative if it increases the extent and density of intertextual linkages in a field. It identifies the possibility of cumulative qualitative research based on extensions to the scope of the knowledge and the depth of the knowledge. Extensions to the scope of the knowledge may include expanding the time periods, context, and/or theoretical perspective used to explore a phenomenon. Extensions to the depth of the knowledge may include new empirical knowledge, methodological pluralism, theory elaboration, or analytic generalization. Individual studies can demonstrate their contribution to cumulative knowledge by locating their research within a typology/taxonomy that makes explicit the relationship of current research to past, and potential, research.
The taxonomy may be useful to qualitative researchers designing and reporting research that will have impact on the literature.
The increased use of research impact as an evaluation metric has the potential to handicap the development qualitative research which is often thought of as generating non-cumulative knowledge. The taxonomy and the strategies for establishing cumulative impact may provide a means for this approach to research to establish its importance as a contribution to knowledge.
The concept of cumulative knowledge has not been systematically applied to research based on qualitative methods.
The author is grateful to his co-authors on various projects for conversations that have helped to crystallize for him the strategies for building cumulative knowledge with qualitative research. Previous work on which this research note builds was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Schulich School of Business, York University, and Odette School of Business, University of Windsor. The author would like to acknowledge the comments of Brian Jones and Mark Tadajewski on earlier versions of the paper.
J. Richardson, A. (2018), "The discovery of cumulative knowledge: Strategies for designing and communicating qualitative research", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 563-585. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-08-2014-1808Download as .RIS
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