Before you embark on this journey of writing an accounting research project(because I believe every research is a journey, I will like to warn you of the challenges ahead peculiar to writing an accounting research project because the worth of a project is not in the determination to embark on it but the acquisition of necessary skills to handle possible challenges that will emerge in the course of writing the accounting research project, therefore, In this article, I will be sharing four (4) basic challenges to expect when writing an accounting research project and possible measures to handle them – note that these are not just all of it but the basic ones. Ability to handle these gives any researcher the right perspective to handle any other challenge that may emerge.
Every accounting researcher – whether an undergraduate student, a doctoral graduate or a professional accountant – engaging in any research project is likely to face challenges. Carrying out a research is a vital part of being a scholar and/or a practitioner as every successfully embarked research gives room for change and improvement in accounting as a profession or the business world in extension. Many college or university undergraduates find research writing as a very challenging task. The challenges in writing an accounting research project are mainly seen in this areas; choosing a topic, introducing a given research topic, formulating a befitting statement of problem, developing a conceptual framework, linking theoretical framework in the conduct of the study, developing the right data gathering tool, collating data or presenting findings, conclusions and recommendation.
As we consider some of these challenges and how they can be handled, you will have a better understanding that would prepare you for future challenges that might emerge when carrying out a research in the field of accounting.
The following challenges are basic challenges that any accounting researcher could face while writing an accounting research project:
- Picking an appropriate topic for an accounting research.
- Determining the appropriate research methodology for your chosen topic
- Collation of data for your analysis
- Dealing with your data
Picking an Appropriate Research Topic
Your research topic is the foundation of your research project. Picking an appropriate topic is one major problem students encounter. In most cases, people just go to google a research topic in accounting and choose from the variety of options provided in the search result. However, this approach is likened to wearing a misfit dress – oversize or undersize – whichever makes you uncomfortable which ultimately affects your productivity. It’s crucial that you choose your topic carefully.
In my post titled: “choosing a research topic”, I shared some practical approaches to choosing an appropriate topic for your accounting research. First is to consider its relevance in the world of accounting and business today, second is to ensure that it is researchable i.e. you can have access to materials that will aid your research and third is to measure your interest in the topic. It may not always be in this order but I choose this approach because it is better to be interested in what is relevant and researchable than to discover that what you are interested in is neither relevant nor researchable. I hope you get that!
Other yardsticks you could use in choosing an appropriate topic are:
- Consider what resources you have at your disposal – time, money and people – and choose a topic that will suite your resources.
- Consider what new thing you will be offering – every research’s worth is defined by the extent to which it makes a difference. Many gaps exist in accounting today – adoption of IFRS, cloud accounting, the challenges of blockchain (digital ledger), professional bodies regulations etc.
- Consider these emerging areas and observe a gap that you are going to fill up.
- Consider input from others. Discuss your topic with your colleagues and/or supervisors, you could drop it here on the RunMyResearch support forum too. Getting a third party view widens your perspectives and helps you fine tune your topic.
Determining an Appropriate Research Methodology
This is another major challenge to expect when writing an accounting research. After deciding on your research topic, next is to establish an appropriate methodology for your research. Methodology refers to the procedure for conducting your research. You may wonder why this is next in my list as this usually comes up in your chapter three. Yes, you need to determine what kind of design and methodology will answer your framed questions and to choose an appropriate methodology depends not on your personal preferences but on your framed research questions.
Choosing an appropriate methodology is a function of the type of research – whether quantitative or qualitative. If your questions include words like “to correlate”, “to compare” or “to find the impact”, then it indicates a quantitative research. On the other hand, if the questions are the likes of “to understand” or “to explore” etc. then it indicates a qualitative study.
As a general recommendation:
- Carefully determine the observed problem
- Then establish the purpose of the study
- Formulate your research questions
- With these, then choose carefully which method will fit your research – this involves answering the questions of where to collect the needed data, how to collect the data and how to analyze the collected data.
These are indeed simple and practical steps!
Data collection is another crucial part of any research that can halt the progress of a research. This challenge is more often encountered than others. After choosing a desired method which will define your data collection method, it becomes necessary to plan out how to get those data. In most cases where primary data is required probably through the administration of questionnaires, an impeding challenge could be encountered of getting relevant respondents to sign the questionnaire.
For instance, where you are writing about top management role in financial reporting and need the responses of top management like chief accounting officers, audit senior staff etc. you may not easily have access to the caliber of officials in an organization and this may leave the researcher frustrated in the data gathering process. I suggest the following:
- Use social networks (linkedin, facebook, twitter etc.) to search for desired respondents and first establish a connection.
- Then request for their mail and send an e-questionnaire (either with google forms or survey monk) and politely request their consent to fill.
- If possible, where research requires respondents like top managements, consider an alternative of secondary data.
Falling back to the earlier example cited, if writing about top management role in financial reporting, companies now publish their financial statements on their website, so you can easily download these statements, examine them critically and extract the needed information.
Choose the data collection process that is most suitable for your work, feasible for administration and economical for you. This is profound!
Dealing with Your Data
A research is completed when collected data is appropriately analysed and conclusions arrived and recommendations proffered. Dealing with collected data is another challenge you’ll face in an accounting research. When you have completed your research, the final challenge is knowing how to make sense with the data you have collected.
Imagine having over 500 pages of transcribed comments from interview conducted or having several responses from questionnaire administered. How do you analyze this and make sense out of it? This is what dealing with your data is all about.
There are several models to use in analyzing your data which should have already been determined and specified in your methodology. A research that studies relationships is better analysed using regression model or chi square statistics. An investigative research is best analysed using chi square statistics etc. You could also use tables and charts to present your results; this will aid understanding and interpretation. As a general guide, to effectively deal with the challenge of data analysis;
- Broaden your understanding of the research by connecting your research to existing research/literature.
- Revisit your methodology and understand it well. See how it applies to the data collected.
- Take advantage of suitable technology e.g. SPSS, HyperRESEARCH etc.
- Present you data in a way that most fit the type of data collected. For instance, presenting responses from questionnaires will definitely differ from presentation from interviews etc.
- Add a little bit of detail to your data presentation to give more meaning.
Handling these four likely challenges identified here positions you with a better perspective that makes you receptive and gives you the initiative to handle any other challenge that may emerge in the course of writing an accounting research.
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