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Integrated thinking: measuring the unobservable

Irma Malafronte (Roehampton Business School, Roehampton University, London, UK)
John Pereira (Kingston Business School, Kingston University, Kingston-Upon-Thames, UK)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 10 September 2020

Issue publication date: 19 August 2021




The purpose of this paper is to add to the growing literature on integrated thinking and reporting by exploring the challenges of measuring integrated thinking in academic research. It provides a review of previous studies, presents a proxy measure to quantify the level of integrated thinking and investigates companies’ approach towards integrated thinking in practice.


Firstly, this study proposes a measure to quantify the level of integrating thinking. Secondly, this study implements factor analysis to identify a parsimonious representation and explore the relevance of each variable in explaining the proposed measure of integrated thinking. Thirdly, this study implements cluster analysis to determine the natural grouping of firms with a certain level of integrated thinking and to identify the existence of distinctive companies’ approaches.


The findings suggest that the proposed measure of integrated thinking could be reduced into two main principal components that explain the current practices and the future direction. Firms’ integrated thinking practices can be clustered into groups denoting various practices among firms, and exhibit routine over time. Across clusters, firms reveal significantly different characteristics highlighting the existence of systematic demographic differences.

Research limitations/implications

This research does not endeavour to overcome all the measurement issues related to integrated thinking. It attempts to measure the level and companies’ approaches towards integrated thinking that can inspire further empirical studies in this field.


This study answers the call for an empirical investigation of the internal aspects of integration. This paper provides academics, companies, and policymakers with a proxy measure of integrated thinking that can inspire empirical studies and advance the understanding of integrated thinking practices.



We would like to thank the Editor, the special issue co-Editors and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and constructive suggestions.


Malafronte, I. and Pereira, J. (2021), "Integrated thinking: measuring the unobservable", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 805-822.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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