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Insights into neo-institutional theory in accounting and auditing regulation research

Elina Haapamäki (School of Accounting and Finance, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 2 February 2022

Issue publication date: 21 February 2022




Neo-institutional theory (NIT) has strengthened its position as one of the theories and frameworks used to investigate accounting as organizational, legislative, social and policymaking phenomena. This study aims to review how aspects of NIT are used and understood by accounting researchers. As a growing body of accounting and auditing articles in recent years has used NIT as a theoretical framework, this paper reviews and analyzes articles using NIT.


This study develops a comprehensive synthesis of current academic knowledge about NIT in accounting and auditing regulation literature. Further, it reveals areas requiring further examination.


The findings of this study indicate that prior studies have found evidence that accounting and auditing regulation is associated with all forms of isomorphism (coercive, mimetic and normative). For instance, institutional pressures influence the accounting and auditing standards adoption in different environments. Therefore, the synthesis of the literature suggests that coercive, mimetic and normative pressures have played a significant role in the harmonization of accounting and auditing practices worldwide. To conclude, NIT has become one of the relevant alternative approaches used to explore accounting and auditing regulation as a complex phenomenon.

Research limitations/implications

Accounting has often been referred to as a “narrow” and “technical” topic. In a way, NIT broadens the research field by extending, for instance, the approach of which external and internal pressures are associated with accounting standards adoption and why different accounting practices are adopted.


This study informs accounting scholars as to how NIT has been applied, and can be applied, in the accounting and auditing regulation literature. This benefits accounting researchers if they are considering whether to use NIT in their research. This study evaluates the contribution of NIT within this research field. It can be suggested that accounting researchers need to become more aware of the debates within the NIT literature, particularly as the theory is seen as conceptually ambiguous. To conclude, the synthesis highlights that NIT has offered a range of important contributions and has drawn attention to the link between accounting and auditing regulation research and the institutional environment.



The author would like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewer for their suggestions. The author appreciates the helpful suggestions on earlier draft provided by participants of the 15th Workshop on European Financial Reporting (EUFIN 2019) held in Vienna, Austria. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from the Evald and Hilda Nissi Foundation.


Haapamäki, E. (2022), "Insights into neo-institutional theory in accounting and auditing regulation research", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 336-357.



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