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A synthesis of empirical internal audit effectiveness literature pointing to new research opportunities

Rainer Lenz (Louvain School of Management, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)
Ulrich Hahn (Certified Internal Auditor/Certified Information Systems Auditor, Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to provide a synopsis of what academic literature says about internal audit (IA) effectiveness ten years after Bailey et al. (2003) presented research opportunities in IA. A new set of research questions that may help to bring the best out of IA is proposed.


Empirical studies based on internal auditors’ self-assessments (“inside-out”) and empirical studies based on other stakeholders’ perspectives (“outside-in”) are reviewed through an “effectiveness lens”. The “outside-in” perspective is regarded as particularly valuable.


First, common themes in the empirical literature are identified. Second, the main threads into a model comprising macro and micro factors that influence IA effectiveness are synthesized. Third, promising future research paths that may enhance IA's value proposition were derived.

Practical implications

The “outside-in” perspective indicates a disposition to stakeholders’ disappointment in IA: IA is either running a risk of marginalization (IIA, 2013; PWC, 2013) or has to embrace the challenge to emerge as a recognized and stronger profession. The suggested research agenda identifies empirical research threads that can help IA practitioners to make a difference for their organization, be recognized, respected and trusted and help the IA profession in its pursuit of creating a unique identity. This paper wishes to motivate researchers to explore innovative research strategies and probe new theories, as well as benefit from cross-fertilization with other research streams.


This paper summarizes the state of research on IA effectiveness and proposes a guide for future IA research. It provides pointed questions that may further advance the understanding of what constitutes IA and how IA can enhance its value proposition.



The authors would like to thank the participants at the 11th European Academic Conference on Internal Audit and Corporate Governance in Oslo in April 2013 for feedback on an earlier version of this paper. In particular, the authors would like to acknowledge the very helpful comments provided by Arno Nuijten (Erasmus University Rotterdam). Moreover, the authors thank David C. Jackson (HuiZhou University, China) for proof reading our manuscript.


Lenz, R. and Hahn, U. (2015), "A synthesis of empirical internal audit effectiveness literature pointing to new research opportunities", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 5-33.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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