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Critical and interpretive research styles are often qualitative and more subjective than statistically-based positive techniques. As such, critical and interpretive methodologies are less highly regarded by the academic establishment and are often relegated to the footnotes of postgraduate courses. After all, is there really a need to train prospective accountants and managements in ‘softer skills’? This critical essay argues that changes in accounting and business mindsets are moving critical and interpretive research styles into an era of greater recognition. Rather than be driven by positive tradition, management-based research needs to be more aware of practical realties and post graduate students need to be trained accordingly.
African Journal of Business Management Vol. 6(1), pp. 1-6,11 January, 2012
Available online at
DOI: 10.5897/AJBM11.1031
ISSN 1993-8233 ©2012 Academic Journals
Interpretive and critical research: Methodological
Warren Maroun
School of Accountancy, University of the Witwatersrand, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South
Africa. E-mail: Tel: +27(0) 11 717 8227. Fax: 086 211 8078.
Accepted 1 September, 2011
Critical and interpretive research styles are often qualitative and more subjective than statistically-
based positive techniques. As such, critical and interpretive methodologies are less highly regarded by
the academic establishment and are often relegated to the footnotes of postgraduate courses. After all,
is there really a need to train prospective accountants and managements in ‘softer skills’? This critical
essay argues that changes in accounting and business mindsets are moving critical and interpretive
research styles into an era of greater recognition. Rather than be driven by positive tradition,
management-based research needs to be more aware of practical realties and post graduate students
need to be trained accordingly.
Key words: Accounting research, interpretive research, mainstream, methodologies, post graduate students,
qualitative research.
This study is introduced as a somewhat critical
assessment of the methodological approaches that have
been applied in certain of the prior accounting literature.
In doing so, the study ignores the warnings of Creswell
(2009) and Ahrens et al. (2008) who caution that such
may immediately conjure images of a project corrupted
by a lack of validity and devoid of a mathematically
elegant solution.
In the spirit of transparency (IRC, 2011; Solomon,
2010; King III, 2009), no effort is made to conceal the
tone of the paper or the stance that it intends to take. The
established approach is departed from. The study does
not commence by presenting a theory supported by a
detailed literature review and copious statistical analyses
with the aim of advancing a ‘well founded’ conclusion.
Rather, the objective is to make the author’s point quite
clear from the outset and leave it to the readers to reach
their own informed opinions.
As for the author’s opinion, it is quite simply that there
is nothing wrong with an interpretive or critical approach
to accounting research and that, in fact, this approach
may be conceptually superior to the long-revered quanti-
tative styles. There is nothing wrong with subjectivity, with
mixed methodologies, with the absence of complicated
statistics in a research paper, and with expressing one’s
own opinion. (And to stress sincerity, the study has
deliberately used a more personal tone and this sentence
has been purposefully started with ‘AND’!)
It is appreciated that this view may smack of ‘heresy’. It
flies in the face of the quantitative-positivist- quasi-
religious-dogma of the academic establishment,
especially in the hallowed halls of the American Ivy
League Universities. This should not, however, be
allowed to prevent the sharing of ideas, even if they are
initially seen as controversial.
Naturally, since the commentary to follow is critical, the
reader is provided with a brief context of this short essay
for the purpose of aiding their decision making (IRC,
2011; Solomon, 2010; King III, 2009). The author does
not profess to be an experienced academic. In fact, in
keeping with the commitment to transparency and, in
accordance with the European Commission’s guidelines,
it should be noted that the author is a young researcher .
But he is a recently qualified professional accountant with
a few years of practical auditing and accounting
experience behind him.
With that said, it is not the intention of this piece to
provide a methodological or philosophical critique of
positive accounting research. That has already been
done (Reiter and Williams, 2002; Williams, 1995, 1987;
Chua, 1986a, b; Ball and Foster, 1982; Hunt and Hogler,
1990). Rather, this short essay tentatively explores the
2 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
shortcomings of post graduate courses that continue to
be dominated by a positive research style, in spite of the
changes in business and governance mindsets over the
last twenty years.
Given that this piece is written for both the academic and
professional accounting community, it is necessary to
provide a brief description of ‘critical’ and ‘interpretive’
research. These are not part of the professional accoun-
tants’ and auditors’ jargon and if one is really interested in
making an impact on the profession, it is appropriate to at
least provide a simple definition of these terms.
Put simply, positive research strives for an objective,
clinical means of studying the subject matter. It tends to
be dominated by quantitative techniques, using statistical
analysis of data to study the underlying ‘at a distance’.
This allows for objectivity while ensuring external validity
as the experiment can theoretically be re-performed with
similar results (Creswell, 2009; Davila and Oyon, 2008;
Ahrens and Chapman, 2006; Inanga and Schneider,
2005; Quattrone and Hopper, 2005).
On the other hand, interpretive and critical research
styles tend to be more qualitative. As such, there is a
higher degree of subjectivity. The methodology recog-
nises the fact that there are important social and cultural
variables that impact on the subject matter and that these
interconnections cannot be ignored. Validity is driven, not
by a clinical approach to the study, but by a methodology
based on documenting the findings in detail to provide a
thorough account. Generalisation of the findings to a
population; extrapolation of results; and reproduction of
controlled experiments are not objectives of the so-called
‘alternative approach’ (Creswell, 2009; Ahrens et al.,
2008; Davila and Oyon, 2008; Parker, 2008; Ahrens and
Chapman, 2006; Inanga and Schneider, 2005; Oakes et
al., 1998; Paker and Roffey, 1997).
The earlier definitions are relatively simple and are not
expected to give a detailed description of the underlying
nature of each of the research paradigms, a project which
is itself worthy of additional research (Ahrens et al.,
2008). They do, however, provide a context for this
paper. More often than not, interpretive and critical
research is relegated to the category of ‘alternative’ as
the academic establishment sees these methodologies
as conceptually weaker than the traditional quantitative/
positive approach, and therefore worthy of only an ancil-
lary role in post graduate programs (Ahrens et al., 2008;
Cooper, 2008; Dillard, 2008; Merchant, 2008 Parker,
This commentary seeks to highlight a different
perspective: that ‘alternative’ approach, by focusing on
issues aligned with practical realities of the accounting
profession has far greater purpose than just supporting
mainstream accounting research. Accordingly, the focus
of post graduate courses may need to be carefully
reconsidered. This sentiment is summarized by Inanga
and Schneider (2005):
‘Research in accounting should aim at improving
accounting practice in the same way as the goal of
medical research is to improve medical practice. The
many breakthroughs today in medical practice would
have been impossible without medical research. In medi-
cine, there is a symbiotic relationship among medical
research, medical education, and medical practice. The
picture is different in accounting. The relationship is
disjointed, with wide gaps between accounting education,
accounting research, and accounting practice’ (Inanga
and Schneider, 2005: 239).
Research needs to be driven by relevance for
organizations and society (Ahrens et al., 2008; Davilia
and Oyon, 2008; Dillard, 2008; Harmon, 2006) yet the
primary stance taken by the positivist outlook is that
research is a means to promotion and the self-fulfilling
achievement of commanding respect in academic circles.
For this reason, the research process becomes inwardly
focused (Ahrens et al., 2008; Davilia and Oyon, 2008;
Dillard, 2008; Merchant, 2008; Inanga and Schneider,
2005; Harmon, 2006).
To be truly significant, however, research needs to be
of relevance to the profession that it is rooted in; to be
aligned with the principles of sustainability; and, to adopt
a two-way means of communication. This implies the use
of varied approaches to accounting research and
approaches that have a strong practical focus (consider:
King III, 2009; Davilia and Oyon, 2008; Scapens, 2008;
Harmon, 2006; Reiter and Williams, 2002).
Despite this fact, many journals remain dominated by
‘calculative’ methodologies far removed from daily
business practice. While the journals may not explicitly
exclude qualitative research, although some do, their
mission and world-outlook make it almost impossible to
have qualitative research published (Davilia and Oyon,
2008; Reiter and Williams, 2002: 579).
This bias in favour of quantitative, or positive, research
seems misplaced given one of the inherent limitations of
the methodology. Accounting and management systems
are vastly more complex than the quasi scientific models,
based on bounded rationality, gave them credit for
(Carrington, 2010; Ahrens et al., 2008; Marnet, 2007;
McMillan, 2004). Formal, rigid quantitative models of
enquiry are not well suited to explore a complex factual
and social matrix (Ahrens et al., 2008: 842; Parker, 2008;
Ahrens and Chapman, 2006; Oakes et al., 1998). What
interpretive research can contribute is the means of
illuminating ‘the specific ways in which designers and
users of accounting systems work with their constructive
potential in the pursuit of specific agendas, and how their
systems (and agendas) change in the process’ (Parker
and Roffey, 1997: 215).
In other words, interpretive research offers the potential
to interact with the practical implications of accounting
and management systems rather than become
preoccupied with underlying economic theories (Creswell,
2009; Ahrens et al., 2008; Parker and Roffey, 1997: 215).
Ahrens and Chapman (2006), Parker and Roffey (1996)
and Chua (1986a,b) ask if accounting research is not
stifled by the infatuation of some research methodologies
with overly scientific approaches far removed from
practical reality. On the other hand, the ‘alternative’
approach affords the opportunity to engage with practi-
tioners. Complementing this is an ability to address those
aspects of a phenomenon that quantitative research is
unable to explore (Cooper, 2008; Davilia and Oyon,
2008; Parker, 2008).
This has important implications for the focus of post
graduate courses. Students should not be encouraged to
undertake particular avenues of research because they
conform to the preconceived notion of quantitative
analysis, yielding good quality output. By the same token,
students’ research efforts should not be aimed at those
phenomena underpinned by recognized theories and a
plethora of prior literature (Ahrens et al., 2008; Parker
and Roffey, 1997; Chua, 1986a, b). While underlying
theories and prior scholarly work are important for the
context of any study, they should have a complementary
function (Creswell, 2009; Reiter and Williams, 2002).
The focus should be on addressing practical
considerations and the difficulties of the profession that
prospective accountants will face. This aim needs to be
stressed in post graduate courses, even if it means a
departure from the positive status quo.
In seeking to align research aims with the needs of the
profession, there are also important implications
concerning the structure and tone of research papers that
post graduate students are expected to adopt.
Traditionally, students have been told that a formal
context is paramount (Creswell, 2009). The clinical and
unemotive style reinforces the objectivity of the research
effort and hence the validity of the findings. For a
quantitative paper, this style of writing enhances the
perceived robustness of a piece underpinned by often
complex statistical analysis.
Recommendations for formal, refined, statistics-ridden
articles are, however, provided out of professional
context. The International Accounting Standards Board,
for example, has reiterated the need for financial reports
to be understandable for a range of users, not only the
experts in International Financial Reporting Standards.
Similarly, recommended best governance practices
across the globe are calling for clear, understandable and
transparent reporting (IRC, 2011; Solomon, 2010; King
III, 2009; Brennan and Solomon, 2008).
The academic establishment, particularly in American
business schools, is, however, encouraging the opposite.
Maroun 3
To reinforce the validity of positive research efforts,
students are taught that there must be complex statistical
models and ‘big’ words; as complex and as ‘big’ as
possible. This has very little to do with communicating
clearly with the profession. Indeed, this does not seem to
be an aim of the positive research machinery. As
discussed earlier, the aim is academic promotion and
positions of reverence within the establishment.
Communicating with the profession has been replaced by
intellectual-self-serving. The result is that there is no
incentive to depart from this inward-orientated modus
operandi by realigning the focus of formal post graduate
courses with practical and technical accounting and
auditing considerations.
What is needed is an awareness of readers and
students, not only the editors of journals. For accounting
research to be sustainable, it needs to tackle the issues
faced by practitioners in a simple, easy to understand
fashion that makes it immediately accessible outside of
academic circles (Ahrens et al.,2008; Baxter et al, 2008;
Davilia and Oyon, 2008; Scapens, 2008; Harmon, 2006).
Yet in spite of this, the focus of many post graduate
courses seems to remain on largely quantitative research
output that does little for the professional development of
the post graduate student (Scapens, 2008; Harmon,
2006; Reiter and Williams, 2002).
Ultimately, research should not be an exercise in
demonstrating how intelligent the author of an article is.
Rather, it should focus on expanding and sharing know-
ledge for the greater benefit of the profession (Inanga
and Schneider, 2005).
The positivists will be quick to point out that not all
interpretive accounting research makes such relevant
contributions (Merchant, 2008). Accordingly, we should
not be too hasty to expose students to the critical and
interpretive research style. What the positivists do not,
however, address is whether a statistics-riddled article
professing in the most complex language that there is
some correlation between stock prices and ocean tides
can be understood by the Accounting profession. By
‘profession’, the author implies more than just the acade-
mics who write these types of articles. Instead, the term
refers to the everyday accountants who lack the time to
spend several hours deciphering overly complicated
At this point, proponents of a calculative methodology
would note that interpretive research is often qualitative
and results in long, complex descriptions of a subject
matter, equally inconsistent with the busy lives of
practising accountants. Many qualitative articles are also
criticised for being difficult to read because of their
structures and terminology (Merchant, 2008). In this
context, relevance by way of simplification is argued as
strength of quantitative research (Creswell, 2009;
Merchant, 2008; Parker and Roffey, 1997). In many
respects, this assessment is correct. Often quantitative
styles are able to reduce the subject matter of a study to
4 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
easily measurable variables, yielding more focused
reports. Laws that state that qualitative research has to
be cumbersome and that interpretive research cannot
employ a mixed methodology approach are, however,
hard to find.
Interpretive research may be able to explore a
phenomenon from a different angle to that used by a
quantitative researcher. Contrary to preconceived notions
of the latter, the qualitative researcher can be trained to
write clearly and simply, and to use appropriate
quantitative techniques to support an argument as
needed. There is no reason for interpretive research to
lack clarity and to fail to make a meaningful contribution.
This means that there is no reason for critical and
interpretive research styles to be relegated to footnotes in
post graduate courses. Contrary to some beliefs, these
methodologies are relevant and thus potentially important
for post graduate students.
Relevance becomes more than testing theories
objectively, extrapolating results and attempting to make
predictions, ensuring that all of this is couched in a
sufficiently pompous register. It is also a function of the
practicality, transparency and clarity of the research. For
this reason, while not all interpretive research makes
valuable contributions; the same can be said for
mainstream output.
Excessive focus on this style of methodology is, there-
fore, not as critical as we initially believed. The emphasis
for post graduate students should, therefore, be on a
practical awareness focused on improving the profession.
Producing research papers that rely exclusively on
positive paradigms may not always be appropriate for
exploring the complexity of practical issues faced by the
profession, and then communicating findings to accoun-
tants on the front line. What many formal postgraduate
courses seem to overlook is that research relevance is
critical for both academics and their students (Ahrens et
al., 2008; Parker and Roffey, 1997). Most importantly,
irrespective of for whom we write, ‘…relevance should
not become prescribed by a set of standardized quality
criteria used in positivist accounting research or by
American business schools’ (Ahrens et al., 2008).
Methodological ‘tones set by journals’ and business
schools’ bias in favour of quantitative research
(Merchant, 2008) has further implications for the manner
in which post graduate accounting students are trained.
With an obsession for statistical analysis to ensure
objectivity and external validity, students are indoc-
trinated into believing that qualitative approaches are
substandard. This is in spite of the fact that so-called
alternative research has gained considerable recognition
in numerous non-accounting fields (Ahrens et al., 2008;
Baxter, 2008; Parker and Roffey, 1997). Nevertheless,
interpretive and, worse still, critical styles of research are
relegated to the footnotes of course material (Creswell,
2009; Baxter et al., 2008; Davilia and Oyon, 2008). After
all, if post graduate work is about academic writing which
is aimed at publications targeted at the positivist esta-
blishment, why bother with ‘soft’ or ‘alternative’ analytical
Yet this approach is again in direct contrast with the
practical realities. For example, traditional organizational
management taught that the objective of the firm was the
maximization of profits for shareholders. More recently,
however, firms have been called upon to move away
from preoccupation with generating wealth for share-
holder and focus on customer value and relationship
management. Firms are expected to be curious about
their customers’ needs, preconceptions and aspirations
as part of an all-inclusive approach to wealth creation
(Denning, 2011; Botten, 2009; Drury, 2005). This has
gone hand in hand with moving away from excessive
reliance on the restrictive management control systems
of the old factory-based workplace to those that capitalize
on clan and cultural values, foster innovation and
enhance knowledge management (Denning, 2011;
Botten, 2009; Drury, 2005; Roberts, 2001).
Realignment of conceptions of value and management
control come at a time when the governance of firms has
also come under increasing scrutiny. Developments in
corporate governance require an all-inclusive approach
that takes into account the needs of multiple stakeholder
groups. The governance of risk is no longer about
placating financial analysts and focusing only on those
elements of the business that can be easily measured.
Firms are expected to manage their impact on the envi-
ronment and society and actively strive for sustainable
business practice (IRC, 2011; Solomon, 2010; King III,
2009; PwC, 2009a, b).
Put simply, accounting is very much part of the Social
Sciences (Creswell, 2009; Ahrens et al., 2008; Reiter and
Williams, 2002). It is not totally described by Economics
and is certainly not something which can be dissected
and studied in a laboratory (Inanga and Schneider,
2005). Why then are we training postgraduate students in
the skills of the positivist? The methodology assumes that
objectivity can be achieved by statistical analysis of a
phenomenon at a distance, often ignoring the interplay
with social and cultural variables (Aahrens, 2008; Davilia
and Oyon, 2008). Current postgraduate training, there-
fore, has two immediate shortcomings: Firstly, despite the
complexity of the statistical models employed in the latest
positive research publications, the problem of practical
sterility remains (Parker and Roffey, 1997). The metho-
dology does little to speak to the all-inclusive approach to
governance and accounting that is slowly moving away
from reliance on easily quantified measures; it does little
to stimulate a curiosity and creativity.
Juxtapose this with the call for progressive governance
and management that strives for new, innovative ways of
dealing with complex financial and social problems
(Denning, 2011; IRC, 2011; Solomon, 2010; Brennan and
Solomon, 2008; Mouritsen 1999). Rather than emphasize
transformative research that is unafraid of critical
assessment of the status quo (Ahrens et al., 2008; Reiter
and Williams, 2002), positive research encourages the
opposite in the name of validity and objectivity.
Secondly, there is an increased awareness of the impor-
tance of the manner in which companies do business and
not just the outcomes (IRC, 2011; Solomon, 2010; King
III, 2009; PwC, 2009a). In reducing organizations to
statistical measures, positive research has a tendency to
become outcome-focused, often shying away from
exploring complex human interactions and intangible
processes (Aahrens, 2008; Davilia and Oyon, 2008;
Parker and Roffey, 1997). Accordingly, there seems to
be a conflict between the essence of positive research
courses and practical accounting and governance
concerns that are becoming increasingly focused on
more than just measurable outputs.
With alternative research, the intention is to help
understand the complex interconnections between the
theories and the underlying human element that
positivists named homo-economicus so that it can have
supply-and-demand curves attached to it in the name of
statistical model building (Ahrens et al., 2008; Davilia and
Oyon, 2008; Willmott, 2008). More importantly, the
elucidation process at the heart of interpretive research
often requires direct interaction with professional
accountants and following leads found only in the field,
quite foreign to the positive approach of studying
phenomena at a distance under the lense of established
theories (Scapens, 2008; Harmon, 2006; Oakes et al.,
1998; Parker and Roffey, 1997). A failure to expose
postgraduate students to the practical aspects of
interpretive and critical research styles that actively seek
to explore these relationships possibly results in a skills
mismatch: students are well equipped to deal with
statistical modeling but find Accountancy and Corporate
Governance at the practical level to be foreign.
Superficially, interpretive and critical research seems
lacking due to the absence of its own models and elegant
theories. Practically, however, these very theories,
heralded as validity-enhancing by positive researchers,
may prove frustrating as problems become limited to
what can be measured (Ahrens et al., 2008). In contrast,
interpretive and critical research may have a more
dominant role to play in a business setting characterised
by increased awareness of multiple stakeholder need
In a business world characterised by high levels of
change (IRC, 2011; Solomon, 2010), interpretive
research able to deal with the ‘how? and ‘why?’ ques-
tions can be value-adding (Ahrens et al., 2008; Parker
and Roffey, 1997). In such a context, the ability to
describe, understand and fully explore a phenomenon
Maroun 5
using qualitative techniques that take cognisance of
social, cultural and environmental issues not readily
reduced to statistical measurement may prove an
indispensible skill set.
Interpretive and critical research methods are often
described as ‘alternative’ styles. They are generally syno-
nymous with qualitative techniques and, using statistical
analysis in only a secondary role, if at all, are often
criticised for a lack of quality (Ahrens et al., 2008; Baxter
et al., 2008; Davilia and Oyon, 2008; Merchant, 2008;
Parker, 2008).
‘Alternative’ methodologies may, however, be moving
into an era of greater recognition. Quattrone and Hopper
(2005), Mouritsen (1999) and Oakes et al. (1998) are
among the numerous examples in the existing academic
literature making use of a more interpretive or critical
style of writing. This may be a reflection of the fact that
qualitative techniques, synonymous with these styles,
offer a potential to explore aspects of a phenomenon that
positive methodologies are not suited to. The rich
description-generating ability of ‘alternative’ methodolo-
gies allows for social and cultural issues to be explored in
more detail, effectively shedding light on what would
otherwise be a ‘black box’ of the accounting system
(Ahrens et al., 2008; Baxter et al., 2008; Davilia and
Oyon, 2008; Parker, 2008).
In doing so, this methodological approach has the
ability to address the information needs of the accounting
profession. This is not to say that the pursuit of theore-
tical knowledge is not important. Scapens (2008) and
Inanga and Schneider (2005) point out that balance is
required. Academics are able to generate theoretical
knowledge because of their unique context and should
not be too quick to become consultants. This creates the
risk of a loss of theory development and innovation. By
the same token, however, for academic pursuits,
including post graduate courses, to make a difference,
some level of interaction with the profession is needed.
Interpretive accounting research has the potential to offer
such a balance (Ahrens et al., 2008; Baxter et al., 2008;
Parker; 2008; Scapens, 2008).
Rather than be driven by the academic tradition of
positive accounting research, post graduate students
should be encouraged to interact with the profession and
address its information needs, even if this means using
more progressive research techniques. This requires a
change in the tone and style of writing. Students should
be encouraged to dispense with formal, pompous, styles
that are often far removed from the jargon of daily
professional life and rather write with sincerity, simplicity
and transparency.
Ultimately, relevance should be defined by the research
6 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
output of post graduate courses that can be commu-
nicated efficiently and effectively in both academic circles
and the profession. It should be characterised by a
multiplicity of styles that are reflective of the ever complex
business environment. Relevance should not be dictated
by the dogma of quantitative research set in a previous
century by the academic establishment, particularly in Ivy
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... Moreover, such an investigation is helpful in theory construction in areas of insufficient a priori theory. Interpretive research involves using qualitative methods; a critical aspect in interpretive research is seeking meaning in context, combining social, historical and cultural contexts impacting the subject matter, which cannot be ignored (Klein and Myers, 1999;Maroun, 2012). Hirschman and Holbrook (1986) argue that interpretive research does not reject quantitative approaches; instead, view them as measures based on one aspect at one point in time. ...
... An essential element of interpretive researchers is studying the phenomena from the perspective of those participants involved with the phenomena rather than participants as part of the physical world (Szmigin and Foxall, 2000). Qualitative and interpretive research does not generalize the findings; however, it provides an insight into the studied phenomenon (Maroun, 2012), and therefore our aim is not to generalize results to a population but to understand the expectations of Generation Z as they prepare to enter the workplace. Moreover, interpretive research offers the potential to interact with practical implications. ...
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Purpose Organizations have long recognized that focusing on the onboarding experience is vital to the success of the employee and the organization. Organizations are confronted with inter-generational issues as they prepare to accommodate Generation Z in the workplace. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the expectations of Generation Z from the onboarding program so that the organizations are better equipped to welcome the new cohort. Design/methodology/approach The study adopts the interpretive approach to understand the subjective opinions, thoughts and conversations of the respondents. The study adopted an interpretive research approach for two main reasons. First, in the absence of empirical evidence, such a type of approach is helpful when the study aims to understand the subjective experience of individuals, and often can help in theory construction. Second, the approach helps uncover unknown facts and relevant research questions for further research. Findings The results from the study can help organizations to fine-tune the onboarding program that meets the needs of Generation Z. The study identified six essential variables that could be addressed in the onboarding enabling the new hires to quickly onboard the organization. Research limitations/implications Data were collected from the students who are pursuing final year of masters in business administration. Since the respondents are business students findings cannot be generalized to the rest of the cohort as these respondents had a fair idea of what to expect from the organizations. Practical implications The study presents six important themes for designing and managing an effective onboarding program for Generation Z. It is important to note that the inter-generational differences are natural, and organizations have to live with it. HR professionals have to bear in mind that this is also an opportunity to revisit, redesign and readjust their onboarding programs to suit the new employees. Originality/value The literature on Generation Z is at a nascent stage. Empirical studies on Generation Z were conducted to understand their expectation, beliefs and attitude. However, studies related to their expectations during the new hire orientation programs are absent. The present study could be one of the first studies in helping both managers and the HR function in understanding the expectations of Generation Z.
... From critical research and interpretivist epistemologies, this article reports from an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach research project that analysed how student teachers in an Open Distance e-Learning context engaged with learning FET mathematics. Those paradigms were chosen in this study because they involve a methodology that recognises the importance of cognitive, emotional, social and behavioural variables that impact the engagement with mathematics content and that these interconnections cannot be ignored (Maroun, 2012). I began with collection and analysis of quantitative data, followed up on specific quantitative findings, and explained those responses through qualitative data collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with some respondents (Wisdom & Creswell, 2013). ...
... The current study is grounded in an interpretive approach to collecting and analysing data (Baker & Bettner, 1997;Maroun, 2012). A mixed methods approach is adopted to address RQ1. ...
Conference Paper
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Value-shifting by means of asset-for-share transactions is prevalent in practice. However, the tax implications triggered by these types of transactions may cause an economic hindrance in the commercial effectiveness and viability of such transactions. The primary purpose of this paper is to critically investigate the differences in the current normal tax treatment of deemed expenditure arising due to value-shifting in terms of asset-for-share transactions. The research conducted is positioned within the interpretivism paradigm whereby a critical investigation is performed through legal research and a doctrinal analysis. First, the literal approach of interpretation of legislation is employed to highlight the anomaly regarding the differences in the current normal tax treatment of deemed expenditure arising from value-shifting through asset-for-share transactions. To enhance the understanding of the anomaly, two hypothetical cases are used to perform a basic empirical comparative analysis to compare the normal tax treatments in the case where Section 42 roll-over relief in terms of the Income Tax Act (58 of 1962) does not apply, as opposed to the case where it is applicable. Thereafter, the purposive approach to legislative interpretation is applied to determine if the literal interpretation matches the true intention of the legislator. The investigation shows that an anomaly does exist in terms of the different normal tax treatments that results in a double tax position. The latter double tax position is questioned in terms of its equitability (fairness), certainty (transparency) and constitutionality by evaluating it against the principles of good tax policy and by considering the constitutional rights of the South African taxpayer. The paper concludes by suggesting recommendations that could possibly address and rectify the highlighted anomaly.
... Social practice theory can be used to explore the unknown everyday micro-activities of students that help them to develop into ready and successful university graduates (Khlif, 2016;Maroun, 2012). Research should take a critical view on the discourse on student readiness and ask the question of whether the readiness measures currently employed are still substantial and relevant? ...
Conference Paper
This paper aims to identify the central concepts of retirement tax literacy that could be included in a curriculum for taxpayer education. By applying an interpretive qualitative approach, it was possible to explore taxpayers’ retirement tax reality in more depth and yet also employ the factual and numerical nature of their queries. The study interpreted the literature, documents, and data. The document review offers a synthesis of the actions implemented by the South African government to simplify the income tax provisions applying to retirement funds and provides information regarding these changes. Following the document review, the empirical part focused on real-life queries that were the unit of thematic analysis. Retirement queries were purposively drawn as part of a convenience sample. The data was then analysed in two main ways that supported the development of the themes. This paper adds clarity on the concept of retirement tax literacy. Furthermore, the authors have drawn the two central concepts of governmental interventions and taxpayer retirement tax literacy into a more integrated scope to extend scholars’ and practitioners’ understanding of what it means to work more holistically and more consciously towards a generation that is better prepared and resourced for retirement.
... This approach elicited the stories of THs expressed through interviews. By studying the social and cultural variables that impact on practices in the management of snakebite and the interplay between these factors [32], we sought to understand the practices of THs through different interpretations arising from their social interactions. Attention was given to the assumptions outlined by Grossoehme [33] for phenomenology research. ...
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Background Snakebite envenoming is a medical emergency which is common in many tropical lower- and middle-income countries. Traditional healers are frequently consulted as primary care-givers for snakebite victims in distress. Traditional healers therefore present a valuable source of information about how snakebite is perceived and handled at the community level, an understanding of which is critical to improve and extend snakebite-related healthcare. Method The study was approached from the interpretive paradigm with phenomenology as a methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 traditional healers who treat snakebite patients in two rural settings in Ghana. From the Ashanti and Upper West regions respectively, 11 and 8 healers were purposively sampled. Interview data was coded, collated and analysed thematically using ATLAS.ti 8 software. Demographic statistics were analysed using IBM SPSS Statistics version 26. Findings Snakebite was reportedly a frequent occurrence, perceived as dangerous and often deadly by healers. Healers felt optimistic in establishing a diagnosis of snakebite using a multitude of methods, ranging from herbal applications to spiritual consultations. They were equally confident about their therapies; encompassing the administration of plant and animal-based concoctions and manipulations of bite wounds. Traditional healers were consulted for both physical and spiritual manifestations of snakebite or after insufficient pain control and lack of antivenom at hospitals; referrals by healers to hospitals were primarily done to receive antivenom and care for wound complications. Most healers welcomed opportunities to engage more productively with hospitals and clinical staff. Conclusions The fact that traditional healers did sometimes refer victims to hospitals indicates that improvement of antivenom stocks, pain management and wound care can potentially improve health seeking at hospitals. Our results emphasize the need to explore future avenues for communication and collaboration with traditional healers to improve health seeking behaviour and the delivery of much-needed healthcare to snakebite victims.
... 1 Qualitative research designs are well suited to exploring processes, techniques and practices where relationships cannot be defined and measured in a positivist sense. An interpretive approach to collecting and analysing data allows the researchers to highlight how the technical requirements of ISA510 and ISA620 are understood and operationalised in different practical contexts and reveal any inconsistencies in their application (see Brennan & Solomon 2008;Maroun 2012;O'Dwyer et al. 2011;Thomas 2006). The intention is not to generalise or extrapolate results but to explore auditors' views on two important but seldom studied professional standards and how these standards influence audit practice in a real-world setting (see Brennan & Solomon 2008;O'Dwyer et al 2011;Rowley 2012). ...
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Background: The article focuses on inconsistencies in audit approaches when auditors place reliance on the work performed by others. It examines differences in the approach followed by auditors when relying on the work of a predecessor versus the work of an auditor’s expert. Setting: The study contributes to the limited body of auditing research focusing on the technical application of International Auditing Standards and the functioning of actual audit practice in a South African context. It outlines how auditors apply their professional judgement when using technical auditing standards when comparing the work of a similarly trained expert in the field of accounting and auditing (per ISA510) versus the work of an expert in a field other than accounting and auditing (per ISA620). Aim: The purpose of this article is to examine and identify inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of ISA510 and ISA620 by a purposefully selected number of registered auditors in South Africa. It considers how inconsistencies in the approach followed when an auditor places reliance on the work of another auditor or an auditor’s expert points to underlying efforts to seek legitimacy and manage legal liability. Method: Detailed interviews are used to explore auditors’ experiences and challenges with the application of these two ISAs. Results: Audit quality is not necessarily a function of compliance with professional standards. While ISA510 and ISA620 deal with a situation where an auditor places reliance on the work of a third party, they are interpreted and applied very differently. Conclusion: The application of ISA510 is part of a rules-based approach to auditing aimed at reducing an auditor’s legal liability rather than enhancing audit quality. The same logic applies to ISA620 except that auditors perceive that their risk exposure is lower because the standard is limited to a single transaction or balance rather than to the entire audit engagement. The application of ISA620 is also useful for convincing internal reviewers, external regulators or audit committees that sufficient appropriate evidence for a complex line item has been obtained. The need to ensure a more robust process for testing complex balances and transactions is not, however, the primary consideration. Regulators and standard setters should not assume that compliance with auditing standards results in better quality audits. At the operational level, the need to manage legal liability and to signal the credibility of test procedures may be more relevant for the execution of audits than ensuring that audit opinions are supported by sufficient appropriate audit evidence. As only two standards, applied in a single jurisdiction, are used to illustrate this point, additional research will be required to determine the extent of inconsistency in the application of auditing standards and how this can result in lower levels of audit quality.
... This research also follows an interpretive approach. According to Maroun (2012), "an interpretive approach may be conceptually superior to quantitative styles, as research based on positive paradigms may not always be suitable for investigating practical problems". Qualitative techniques can generate descriptions, allowing the exploration of social and cultural issues to a greater extent than may be the case for quantitative research. ...
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The globalization of the world economy has had the effect and at the same time triggered the emergence and functioning of new economic and political bodies, as well as the development of new concepts such as the emerging economy / market. Emerging markets are currently a global economic and political power, with year-on-year indicators of economic performance and adjustment of accounting standards to the international financial reporting framework. It is important to follow the development of emerging economies, as well as to analyze the main directions of development. Currently, according to the MSCI index, there are about 25 emerging economies, the most representative being the BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The purpose of the research is to analyze the concept of emerging economy / market as well as the economic and political evolution of the BRICS group.
... From a critical research and interpretivist epistemologies, the paper reports from a mixed methods approach research project that analyzed how the ODL teaching and learning environment on embracing the African student can be enhanced. Those paradigms were chosen in this study because it involves methodology that recognizes the importance of social and cultural variables that impact on the mathematics content and that these interconnections cannot be ignored (Maroun, 2012). In addition, numerical data was collected to determine the expectancy and achievement values. ...
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This paper's finding's will be useful for both practitioners and academics grappling with the difficulty of defining ‘equity’ and ‘liabilities’. In addition, the research makes a valuable contribution by addressing the need for interpretive‐inspired financial reporting research. This paper explores the distinction between ‘equity’ and ‘liabilities’ in financial reporting to assess the merits of the current system of accounting for share‐based payment transactions. It applies an interpretive methodology. Data were collected from a series of interviews with purposefully selected experts. Criticisms of, and support for, the current accounting regime are interpretively analysed and used to identify key themes or principles for evaluating the merits of three models proposed in the academic literature: the strict liability, narrow equity, and ownership‐settlement models. The study finds that the strict liability approach remains supported on the grounds that it provides decision‐useful information with which users are familiar. The other models are rejected as they are perceived as diminishing the usefulness of financial reporting. The study also identifies support for an obligation‐centric approach, not fully developed in the literature, which may require detailed consideration by standard‐setters.
Conference Paper
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is revolutionizing stock management in the retail industry. Yet, in South Africa, there is a slow uptake in implementing the technology with organizations being unsure about the challenges and how to overcome them. In response, this study describes the challenges of implementing RFID in the South African retail industry. This qualitative, descriptive case study analysed semi-structured interview data and organisational documentation using thematic analysis. The challenges found were dominated by a lack of RFID expertise and struggling to justify the implementation. The findings of the study add to the theoretical knowledge and limited case studies of RFID implementations in Africa and are of benefit to retailers considering implementing the technology in South Africa.
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Language and power are central to an understanding of control. This paper uses the work of Pierre Bourdieu to argue that an enriched view of power, in the form of symbolic violence, is central. We examine the pedagogical function business plans played in the provincial museums and cultural heritage sites of Alberta, Canada. The struggle to name and legitimate practices occurs in the business planning process, excluding some knowledges and practices and teaching and utilizing other knowledges and ways of viewing the organization. We show that control involves both redirecting work and changing the identity of producers, in particular, how they understand their work through the construction of markets, consumers, and products. This process works by changing the capital, in its multiple forms-symbolic, cultural, political and economic-in an organizational and institutional field.
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This comment explores the identity and politics of interpretive accounting research (IAR) by reflecting upon its positioning between, and overlap with, ‘mainstream’ and ‘critical’ accounting scholarship. It draws attention to the political struggle to define and occupy a distinctive academic space by considering what self-styled IAR researchers report as their accomplishments and how the distinctive contribution of IAR might be more closely specified and developed.
Competition for status among U.S. business schools has obliterated any evident connection between research productivity and the furtherance of any praiseworthy social, practical, or intellectual values. Status competition virtually guarantees: (1) the absence of a demonstrable connection between the amount of research produced and the amount that is actually needed or usable; (2) the excessive uniformity and practical irrelevance of business research, owing to the subordination of substantive problems to methodological commitments; and (3) the subordination of teaching to research. The overproduction of research, while irrational on a collective level, is in fact the aggregated product of "rational" behaviors by individual schools and faculty members facing pressures to compete with one another. Three kinds of reforms are proposed: (1) to challenge, and even subject to ridicule, academic norms and language produced and sustained by status competition; (2) to consider an alternative, practice-oriented conception of scholarship to the dominant "research-centered" conception of mainstream business scholarship; and (3) to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, faculty rewards for maximizing research "productivity."
Widely renown for his work and publications on qualitative and mixed methods research, John W. Creswell recently published the third edition of Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. The book is structured around 2 parts and 10 chapters that mirror the main stages of development of a research project. Although a plethora of books covering research design exist, this book is especially interesting because it very simply and clearly discusses the subject, mainly bringing useful comparisons between qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches that aid the researcher in planning a research endeavour. While Creswell's book covers the essential questions and concerns enabling the operation-alization of a research project, it furthermore addresses issues that, to our knowledge, having read many books on the subject, are scarcely found elsewhere. These issues are presented in the first part of the book under the heading Preliminary Considerations and include an overview of the main uses and modes of presentation of the review of the literature in a research protocol or report, as well as the use of theory. As an example, in Chapter 3 entitled Use of Theory, Creswell explicitly discusses the roles of theory that differ according to the types of research design (e.g. theory generation, theory verification), acknowledging that there are many possible variations within each research approach. Hence, this expanded and restructured edition of John Creswell's Research Design is a user-friendly and rich scientific resource, and appears as a must for any researcher wanting to tackle the indispensable subject of research design by contrasting qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.
I became aware of the discussions that were taking place among younger European accounting researchers when I was refused entry to one of their meetings (in Goteborg) because I was deemed to be too old and part of the establishment. Leaving aside my intellectual concerns about exclusion on the basis of age and my surprise at being seen as the part of the establishment by scholars, many of whom were employed by establishment European universities, it seemed intriguing that young scholars would seek to reinvigorate interpretive accounting research. What was it that caused the worries of the 15 authors (Ahrens et al., this issue) and whose polyphonic debate prompted this special issue of Critical Perspectives on Accounting?
This contribution to the polyphonic debate agrees with the authors about the importance of making interpretative accounting research more relevant. It argues that the ways of seeking relevance could, however, be very diverse; with some researchers seeking to intervene in individual organisations through interventionist research, while others might be more concerned to draw out the social and political consequences of accounting in modern organisations. For the researchers who seek to intervene in practice, it will be important to combine the theoretical knowledge of accounting researchers with the craft knowledge of accounting practitioners. Nevertheless, for such research to be publishable in international research journals it must continue to be firmly grounded in theoretical understandings and also seek to extend existing theoretical knowledge, as well as raising practical implications.
The energy and passion of the interpretative accounting researchers represent a ray of light in what is otherwise the rather gray and uninspiring sky of academic accounting research, at least in the US. In commenting on the polyphonic debate engaged in by the “young” interpretativist researchers, I consider two points. First, I take issue with the supposition that the “mainstream” is not as homogenous as it appears. Second, to propose that interpretative accounting research can gain acceptance purely on its merits is, at best, politically naïve. I conclude by calling for international solidarity among the different research genres. Only through mutual appreciation and support can the reputational hierarchies be changed such that diversity, innovation, and relevance are again recognized as primary criteria for evaluating academic accounting research.
An important purpose of an applied research field, such as management accounting is to be of relevance to organizations and society not only to academic journals. This objective is achieved through the creation and advancement of knowledge regardless of the assumptions about the ontology of the social world, epistemology, methodologies, and human nature. Leveraging diversity can only bring richer knowledge. However, as management accounting researchers, we can be criticized as working too much within our silos attempting to leverage the benefit of specialization in search of an incremental contribution to our particular research school. But conversation across different research schools exists and is growing, which envisages a promising future for our field coming into the 21st century. Inspired in the comments that lead to this paper, we argue that serving society starts with grabbing the attention of the people we are supposed to serve. This may happen through research journal articles, but it is more likely to happen through teaching and knowledge diffusion that will force journals to open their pages to diverse research traditions.
This paper contains a brief response to the debate about the future of interpretive accounting research (IAR) contained in Ahrens et al. [Ahrens T, Becker A, Burns J, Chapman C, Granlund M, Habersam M, et al. The future of interpretive research—a polyphonic debate. Critical Perspectives on Accounting; in press]. Our response is structured in the polyphonic style of the Ahrens et al. debate but is positioned as a response which has its authorial roots emanating from beyond the ‘metropolis’ (the origins of the text being discussed). Drawing on our personal reactions to this text, we organise our response around two themes: first, difference and its connection to self/social worth; and, second, the relationship between IAR's forms of engagement and the construction of possible future(s). It is our conclusion that IAR is capable of sustaining a range of loosely aligned possible futures, cohered both by the enduring differences associated with IAR, as well as a stronger sense of identity formed through decentred and dispersed networks of connective knowledges about accounting practice.