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Accounting Theory Half A Defence Of Positive Accounting Research

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Discuss about the Accounting Theory Half a Defence of Positive Accounting Research.



The main aim of this report is to critically evaluate the article "Half a defence of positive accounting research" by Dunmore (2010) in order to develop understanding in the area of accounting research theory. On the basis of this article, positive accounting research can be defined as a research which is used to successfully complete broader intellectual scientific research projects with the purpose to understand the cause and effect relationships in the world under a study (Dunmore, 2010). Positive accounting is considered in this article as a research program, which is aimed to develop human behaviour's casual explanations in accounting settings.

The report provides a summary of the article in terms of the main arguments including aim, overall findings, and its theoretical contribution and arguments. It also discusses the value of hypothesis and its relationship with the literature review. It also identifies and discusses the theoretical framework of the paper contributing to the research element. Moreover, it also presents the article's significance and limitations by discussing methodology used and research conclusion that is justified by the methodology, impact of the limitations on the article's significance, and findings. In last, it summarizes the main points by depicting the implications of the critique.

Summary of the Article

The main aim of the article is to examine the ontology (system) and epistemology (philosophy) of a positive accounting research program. It is found from the article that the logic of statistical hypothesis testing while superficially correspondent to Popper's falsification criterion is not so strong. The main argument behind this is that falsification is not able to perform its normal function because many assumptions must come in the theoretical  anticipation and falsifying the anticipation does not explain which assumption is wrong (Dunmore, 2010). It means that the theory cannot actually be falsified.

In addition, the author also found that although the potential of the broad positivist research program is strong enough, however it is lowered by insufficiencies in the practice. For instance, some common problems were identified including 'building casually theoretical models to be tested, excessive trust on the logic of hypothesis testing, a lack of interest in the parameters' numerical value, the use of theory as a way to examine qualitative data rather than testing of the explanations, and insufficient replication to justify assurance in accepted findings that affect the use of this program' (Dunmore, 2010). The researcher also argued that the current way of using positive research in accounting is not effective and it is largely incompetent to attain scientific objectives. But at the same time, the researcher also argued that the use of 'Kuhn's description of normal' science can be quite effective in the context of positive accounting research.

Thus, it can be stated that this article significantly contributes in developing knowledge towards the effective utilization of positive research program in accounting studies so that better results can be produced and objectives can be attained. It can also be stated that it is essential to use specific models to test theories, better measurement, use of parameters, and extensive replication for designing effective quantitative positive research.


Research Question/Hypothesis

As a part of intellectual research project, the author developed four hypothesis. The first hypothesis is  related with the presence of a world, which is independent to the people's imagination. It is because people do not develop them and therefore, events in such situations cannot be controlled by individuals. The second hypothesis is that in such a kind of world, events have causes, which are also a part of the world (Dunmore, 2010). It is the reason that events are not completely random as well as the results of intervention from the outside world. The third hypothesis is that there is potential for general people to attain fairly dependable and authentic information about events in the world through a careful observation. It also indicates to the importance of observation, which is mainly used for understanding the world and its causes as event. But at the same time, it is also possible that people can be wrong in their observations as observations are not completely disconnected to the world. Lastly, the main purpose of intellectual research project is to use observation to develop knowledge about the world, mainly in the case of causation (Dunmore, 2010). Additional, individuals attempt mental models because these help in correctly mapping the casual processes that take place in the world.

All these hypothesis are valuable because these provide a background to successfully conduct an intellectual enquiry. In addition, these are also valuable to prove different theories in the context of positive accounting research. In addition, the results of this article developed based on these hypothesis can be valuable to enhance the relevancy of positive accounting research. Moreover, in an intellectual research, it is also assumed that non worldly things such as gods and spirits cause an event in this world (Dunmore, 2010). But, concurrently, there is disagreement in relation to the thing that cause an event. Similarly, in this article, the role of human behaviour in the context of accounting research is discussed. The author is intended to resolve the issue that how the current practice of accounting research fails to meet the requirements to execute the research program in a successful manner.

Through this article, the researcher is not affirming the truth of these hypothesis, but simply asking for a 'willing suspension of disbelief' to allow their discussion. It also indicates that these hypothesis are developed by the researcher on the basis of the literature review to clear the doubt about the truth in the context of positive accounting research. In addition, the author developed these hypothesis for this article in a tentative and conscious way by considering human experiences and value with the review of available literature. The literature review in this article is also supportive to provide sufficient proves in the context of falsification and hypothesis testing as well as the use of models and frameworks to ensure the proper utilization of positive accounting research (Dunmore, 2010). Overall, it can be stated that by developing knowledge regarding existing accounting research theories and models, literature review helps in building hypothesis for this enquiry.


Theoretical Framework

In this article, the author reviews the wider intellectual project in a brief manner with its system and philosophical assumptions to understand the significance as well as deficiencies of positive accounting research. The author used different theories to examine the importance and inadequacies of positive accounting research. For instance, the use of theory by Kuhn (1970) suggested that "positive research may be a paradigm which is optimal for solving accepted puzzles" (Dunmore, 2010). Concurrently, the example of positive accounting research also provides a theoretical framework for this article. For instance, through the views of Watts and Zimmerman (1978, 1986, 1990), Dunmore (2010) clarifies that the concept of "positive accounting theory" is more extensive than their particular theory. It encourages the author to find the ways that can be used to enhance the effectiveness of accounting research.

In addition, the author also used a theoretical framework as 'fundamental model of rational self-interested human behaviour' suggested by Fukuyama (1995, p. 13) (Dunmore, 2010). It shows that human behaviour is not capable to defended in quantitative terms. Concurrently, it is evaluated that this model is correct about 80% of time. It is also the reason that behaviour in accounting context is examined by some accounting research without assuming rational behaviour. For example, judgements by the audit experts, use of discretion by the managers in performance evaluation systems, etc (Dunmore, 2010).

At the same time, Popper's theory of falsification and hypothesis testing is also an important part of the theoretical framework of the chosen article. Scientific researchers involve the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data and Popper's criterion is helpful to understand the philosophy of science at all (Michael, 2015). The use of this theory is beneficial to perform positive accounting research in a scientific context. In this article, the criteria of falsification is applied to evaluate the possibility of developing falsified principles within the positive accounting research. As per the falsification criterion, a theory can only be scientific when the variables can be developed in terms of principles (Baruk, 2008).

Moreover, audit-complexity and audit-fee are other parts of theoretical framework in this article, which are used to discuss the importance of measurement in comparison of the testing. In order to enhance the effectiveness of positive accounting research, it is essential to define and measure the concepts so that the testing can be made more reliable and valid (Mintz, 2013). In this article, through the use of principles and assumptions, normal science theory of Kuhn is discussed. This theory shows that to make sure about the presence of scientific nature in a theory, it is important to discuss common paradigm. Moreover, normal science theory states that success of each theory is not critical due to the importance of problem-solving science nature. This theory also promotes the organization of in-depth study with the adoption of a puzzle solving approach for conducting scientific enquiry (Biondi and Zambon, 2013). At the same time, this theory is considered in this article as an important way to identify the limitations of positive accounting research.


The Significance and Limitations of the Article

On the basis of the review of the chosen article, some implications and limitations are identified. The key strength of the article is related to the method of data collection as it enabled the researcher to define different models and theories in the context of positive accounting research (Hoque, 2006). Moreover, it also supported the researcher to justify the arguments for deficiencies in the practice of current positive accounting research. In addition to this, the inclusion of literature from qualitative and quantitative research perspective, accounting, and auditing also enabled the author to design a suitable theoretical framework for this study (Dunmore, 2010). The use of Popper's criterion was also significant to learn about the process of hypothesis testing. Concurrently, the author also found this theory's limitation as it does not include any aspect to invent a new theory. The author also discussed the importance of creativity and imagination process to enhance the strength of positive accounting research.

The consideration of ontology and epistemology of positive research by discussing interpretive and inductive aspects as well as human behaviour, rational conduct, and normal science theory are also effective to enhance the validity of this article (Wolk, Dodd, and Rozycki, 2016). In addition, it can also be discussed that the author described the theoretical conclusions from the research. For instance, the author discussed that the example of positive research in accounting has no means exhaustive, but he effectively defined that the concept of positive accounting research is large enough than the theory. The author also concluded that 'any research aiming to understand the nature and causes of particular accounting phenomena, even if those causes lie in non-rational aspects of human psychology, qualifies as positive and scientific accounting research' (Dunmore, 2010).

In their views, the accounting phenomena is caused by 'the operation of rational self-interest among parties who interact through express or implied contracts in various types of organization'. The author acknowledged the limitation of this theory as Dunmore (2010) clearly discussed in this article that Watts and Zimmerman's theoretical model does not draw appreciably all the areas of positive accounting research. But, at the same time, this theory is significant to make accounting choices by the managers of the company, reporting and pricing decisions by auditors, standard setting decisions by the politicians and regulators, and expert advice offered by the academics (Mattessich, 2007). Thus, it can be stated that the author provided effective theoretical conclusions from the research that are also justified by the methodology.  For example, the author provided recommendations in the article for quantitative positive research, which enhance the validity and reliability of the research outcomes.



In order to summarize the above discussion, it can be concluded that this article includes adequate discussion of different models and theories, which are effective to develop knowledge regarding the positive accounting research. In addition, it can also be stated that the recommendations provided in this research are also effective to successfully complete a scientific quantitative research study.  In addition, the researchers can avoid insufficiencies such as building of theoretical model, lack of measurement, and hypothesis testing model in order to make sure about the success of accounting research.



Baruk, I. (2008). Causality I. A Theory of Energy, Time and Space, Volume 2.

Biondi, Y. and Zambon, S. (2013). Accounting and Business Economics: Insights from National Traditions. UK: Routledge.

Dunmore, P.V. (2010). Half a Defence of Positive Accounting Research. Retrieved From:

Hoque, Z. (2006). Methodological Issues in Accounting Research: Theories, Methods and Issues. Spiramus Press Ltd.

Mattessich, R. (2007). Two Hundred Years of Accounting Research. UK: Routledge.

Michael, M. (2015). Evolution by Natural Selection: Confidence, Evidence and the Gap. USA: CRC Press.

Mintz, S. (2013). Accounting for the Public Interest: Perspectives on Accountability, Professionalism and Role in Society. Germany: Springer Science & Business Media.

Wolk, H.I., Dodd, J. L., and Rozycki, J.J. (2016). Accounting Theory: Conceptual Issues in a Political and Economic Environment. USA: SAGE Publications.


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