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Validation in interpretive management accounting research

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  • Lukka, Kari
  • Modell, Sven
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    Abstract

    This paper extends and contributes to emerging debates on the validation of interpretive research (IR) in management accounting. We argue that IR has the potential to produce not only subjectivist, emic understandings of actors' meanings, but also explanations, characterised by a certain degree of "thickness". Mobilising the key tenets of the modern philosophical theory of explanation and the notion of abduction, grounded in pragmatist epistemology, we explicate how explanations may be developed and validated, yet remaining true to the core premises of IR. We focus on the intricate relationship between two arguably central aspects of validation in IR, namely authenticity and plausibility. Working on the assumption that validation is an important, but potentially problematic concern in all serious scholarly research, we explore whether and how validation efforts are manifest in IR using two case studies as illustrative examples. Validation is seen as an issue of convincing readers of the authenticity of research findings whilst simultaneously ensuring that explanations are deemed plausible. Whilst the former is largely a matter of preserving the emic qualities of research accounts, the latter is intimately linked to the process of abductive reasoning, whereby different theories are applied to advance thick explanations. This underscores the view of validation as a process, not easily separated from the ongoing efforts of researchers to develop explanations as research projects unfold and far from reducible to mere technicalities of following pre-specified criteria presumably minimising various biases. These properties detract from a view of validation as conforming to pre-specified, stable, and uniform criteria and allow IR to move beyond the "crisis of validity" arguably prevailing in the social sciences.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

    Volume (Year): 35 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (May)
    Pages: 462-477

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:35:y:2010:i:4:p:462-477

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

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    Cited by:
    1. Eeva-Mari Ihantola & Lili-Anne Kihn, 2011. "Threats to validity and reliability in mixed methods accounting research," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 8(1), pages 39-58, April.
    2. Covaleski, Mark A. & Dirsmith, Mark W. & Weiss, Jane M., 2013. "The social construction, challenge and transformation of a budgetary regime: The endogenization of welfare regulation by institutional entrepreneurs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 333-364.
    3. Barker, Richard & Hendry, John & Roberts, John & Sanderson, Paul, 2012. "Can company-fund manager meetings convey informational benefits? Exploring the rationalisation of equity investment decision making by UK fund managers," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 207-222.
    4. Kamla, Rania, 2012. "Syrian women accountants’ attitudes and experiences at work in the context of globalization," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 188-205.
    5. Ivo De Loo & Alan Lowe, 2011. "Mixed methods research: don't – “just do it”," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 8(1), pages 22-38, April.
    6. Kornberger, Martin & Carter, Chris & Ross-Smith, Anne, 2010. "Changing gender domination in a Big Four accounting firm: Flexibility, performance and client service in practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 775-791, November.

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