Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Management Accounting Research: A Critical Realist Approach

51 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2007

See all articles by Sven Modell

Sven Modell

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School; University of Technology Sydney (UTS) - School of Accounting

Date Written: June 29, 2007

Abstract

Empirical management accounting research increasingly mix qualitative and quantitative methods and combine theories generally associated with entrenched and arguably incommensurable paradigms. However, the methodological debate in the management accounting literature has been characterized by considerable polarization and a general lack of communication between paradigms, especially the functionalist and interpretive paradigms. Mixed methods research straddling these paradigms may provide a more comprehensive understanding of management accounting practice and constitutes a potentially powerful means of validating research findings. However, this type of research has also received considerable criticism in the wider social sciences for failing to present a coherent philosophical foundation for producing valid knowledge claims. This is especially the case where the notion of triangulation is invoked as a means of validation. This paper addresses such criticisms by developing a framework for validating mixed methods research based on critical realism and advances a modified notion of triangulation. The applicability of this framework is illustrated through a review of two empirical studies straddling the functionalist and interpretive paradigms. In contrast to contemporary pragmatist thought, implicitly or explicitly guiding much mixed methods research in management accounting, critical realism provides a unified and consistent philosophical foundation for combining methods and theories traditionally associated with these paradigms. More explicit reliance on this perspective may strengthen the position of mixed methods research in management accounting and stimulate cross-paradigmatic communication and learning. Directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Critical realism, management accounting, mixed methods research, triangulation, validation

JEL Classification: M40

Suggested Citation

Modell, Sven, Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Management Accounting Research: A Critical Realist Approach (June 29, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=997194 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.997194

Sven Modell (Contact Author)

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) - School of Accounting ( email )

P.O. Box 123
Broadway NSW 2007
Australia
02-9514 3437 (Phone)

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