Zimmerman's Contentious Conjectures: Describing the Present and Prescribing the Future of Empirical Management Accounting Research

Posted: 17 Apr 2003

See all articles by Joan L. Luft

Joan L. Luft

Michigan State University - Department of Accounting & Information Systems

Michael D. Shields

Michigan State University - Department of Accounting & Information Systems

Abstract

We provide a discussion of three of Zimmerman's (2001) conjectures about, and prescriptions for improving, the current unsatisfactory state of empirical management accounting research: its focus on describing practice instead of testing theories; its focus on decision making instead of control; and reliance on social sciences other than economics. We suggest that these conjectures are based on inaccurate descriptions of current empirical management accounting research and the prescriptions offer potentially misleading guidance for future research. In contrast to Zimmerman (2001), we believe that the current research is guided by theory from a variety of social sciences (primarily economics, psychology, and sociology) and that this diversity is appropriate for the applied field of management accounting. We argue that while economics provides a good basis for much empirical research in management accounting, other social sciences offer more potential to explain important features of management accounting such as understanding people's preferences, how they think, how they interact with other people, and the process of change. Our conclusion is that empirical management accounting research will be better off if it appeals less to disciplinary identity and instead uses a variety of theoretical frameworks from the social sciences to provide more complete explanations of management accounting practice.

JEL Classification: M40, M46

Suggested Citation

Luft, Joan and Shields, Michael D., Zimmerman's Contentious Conjectures: Describing the Present and Prescribing the Future of Empirical Management Accounting Research. European Accounting Review, Vol. 11, No. 4, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=360742

Joan Luft (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Department of Accounting & Information Systems ( email )

270 North Business Complex
East Lansing, MI 48824-1034
United States
517-432-2917 (Phone)
517-432-1101 (Fax)

Michael D. Shields

Michigan State University - Department of Accounting & Information Systems ( email )

270 North Business Complex
East Lansing, MI 48824-1034
United States

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