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Reassessing and refining theory in qualitative accounting research: An illustrative account of theorizing

Lynda C. Taylor (Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 18 October 2018

Issue publication date: 24 October 2018




This paper focuses on the role of theory in the process of doing qualitative accounting research. It discusses the role of theory in qualitative accounting studies, and provides and example of how theory can be reflected upon, reassessed and refined during a research process.


This paper provides an illustrative account of theorizing during the process of qualitative accounting research. The paper places specific emphasis on an abductive approach to theorizing. An abductive theoretical framework is used to reflect on the theorizing process.


The “findings” reflect on the use of theory and the process of theorizing during a research process. The paper finds that abduction may be a useful way of theorizing in qualitative accounting research because it encourages the researcher to remain open to alternative explanations of data, which may promote theoretical development. This paper does not report the accounting practices of an organization in the traditional sense, but illustrates how the empirical findings led to an initial theoretical framework being developed.

Practical implications

The paper is intended to be informative in showing how theory can be used and developed during research. It may be of value and interest to new and emerging researchers. It may also interest established researchers seeking to reflect on their use of theory in research.


There are few contributions that focus exclusively and explicitly on how theory is used and developed during the process of qualitative accounting research. Moreover, the abductive approach has received limited attention in accounting. This paper aims to address these gaps.



The author gratefully acknowledges Professors Alan Coad, Robert Scapens and Lisa Jack, for their helpful and constructive comments on earlier drafts of this work. The author would also like to acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for their insightful and helpful comments, which have enhanced this paper. The doctoral study (upon which the case study in this paper is based) was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Studentship. The ESRC has played no role in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, or in the writing of the article and the decision to submit it for publication.


Taylor, L.C. (2018), "Reassessing and refining theory in qualitative accounting research: An illustrative account of theorizing", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 510-534.



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