انجام تحقیقات میدانی کیفی در حسابداری مدیریت: داده های موقعیت یابی برای کمک به نظریه
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|24123||2006||23 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||12720 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 31, Issue 8, November 2006, Pages 819–841
In this paper we argue that theory, method, methodology, and knowledge gains in qualitative field studies are intertwined through the ongoing hypothesis development in the field. We develop our argument through a discussion of specific qualitative field studies in management accounting. We emphasise in particular the distinctive role of theory in qualitative research as relating to expression of a subjective reality more than clarification of an objective one. In considering this subjectivity we discuss the ways in which the doing of qualitative research brings to bear discipline on the researcher allowing us to assess the trustworthiness of their accounts. The intention is to develop a more appropriate basis for judging the plausibility of qualitative field studies than notions borrowed from positivistic methodology.
Doing qualitative field studies in management accounting is not a question of method but one of methodology, understood as a general approach to the study of research topics (Silverman, 1993).2 Qualitative and positivistic researchers share many methods. Both may visit organisations in their chosen field, collect and analyse documents, calculate statistics, conduct interviews with practitioners, and perhaps even observe them at work. What distinguishes the qualitative field researcher is a particular way of knowing the field. Qualitative field researchers agree that “[s]ocial reality is emergent, subjectively created, and objectified through human interaction” (Chua, 1986, p. 615). For them the methodological and theoretical task is to express the field as social 3 and not simply describe or clarify it to the reader as if part of a given nature. Doing qualitative field studies is not simply empirical but a profoundly theoretical activity. With qualitative methodology goes an acknowledgment that the field is itself not just part of the empirical world but is shaped by the theoretical interests of the researcher. A study of, say, the role of management accounting in the transformation of a railway company may focus on organisational discussions and processes (Dent, 1991). A different frame for the study may define the field by connecting the organisational arena (Burchell, Clubb, & Hopwood, 1985) to national policies for changing the relationship between the public and private sectors (Ogden, 1995) or to the government of the economy through the refashioning of the citizen as worker (Miller & O’Leary, 1994). This means that the definition of the field is profoundly theoretical. The practice of doing qualitative field studies involves an ongoing reflection on data and its positioning against different theories such that the data can contribute to and develop further the chosen research questions. Data are not untainted slices of objective reality but aspects of recorded activity that a study finds significant for theoretical reasons. The theoretical work through which qualitative field studies engage data with interesting research questions eludes most positivists. For them, qualitative field studies can seem to be mere storytelling, at best useful for exploring issues and creating tentative theories that can later be tested by ‘proper scientific methods’. Perversely, there are qualitative field researchers who share the underlying misconception of theory. They sidestep much of the engaging between data and research questions and turn ‘mere storytelling’4 into a badge of honour: “Let’s tell the world our rich stories of complex social life (and leave it at that).” Those clichés of qualitative field studies have generated an unhelpful dynamic that obstructs a discussion on the possible roles of theory in management accounting research more generally. Drawing on notions of research validity familiar from the evaluation of positivistic studies, qualitative field studies are frequently asked to justify their findings in terms of research protocols designed to eliminate researcher bias. A central part of our argument in this paper is that methodological and analytical checklists for good qualitative field research are at best indirectly helpful and potentially counterproductive. As the logic of a specific research project unfolds it raises specific methodological questions and theoretically valid possibilities, which we discuss with reference to individual field studies. Novices to qualitative field studies may believe that they have great freedom to choose definitions and develop interpretations of their data. In reality, however, the task of connecting data and theory to compelling research questions is a source of great discipline. As a meaningful context that is structured by diverse participants acting within political, economic, social, and material arrangements, the field is not open to the researcher’s favourite explanations (Campbell, 1988). Reflecting on decades of fieldwork, Geertz (1995) went further and suggested that the field functions as a “[…] powerful disciplinary force: assertive, demanding, even coercive” (p. 119). As he put it, the field is “insistent” on the logics of its specific functioning. With those logics the researcher’s theorising must engage. Equally, however, the clichés of qualitative field studies overlook that those studies have the potential to contribute more directly to the testing of ideas. Chapman (1998), for example, engaged qualitative analyses of organisational process and strategic uncertainty with statistical analysis of social network data. Four comparative cases (Eisenhardt & Bourgois, 1989) were presented. Drawing on Galbraith’s (1973) theory of organisational information processing we see through the combination of the statistical analyses and interview excerpts that dialogue played a vital role in management control systems’ ability to support performance under conditions of uncertainty. In this paper we are principally concerned with the ways in which data, theory and research problems are brought together in research practice, a topic that has received relatively little attention in the literature (cf., Ahrens and Dent, 1998, Baxter and Chua, 1998, Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1990 and Marginson, 2004). Seeing that such bringing together is highly specific to individual research projects, it is useful to illustrate our argument with reference to a variety of specific studies. […] [T]he methodological writings which most sociological researchers seem to find most useful tend to be those which are grounded in particular research projects rather than general surveys of methodological techniques (Bloor, 1978, p. 545). In this way we ground in particular management accounting research projects5 our discussion of the manner in which abstract methodological requirements can be put to concrete use, seeking to initiate a discussion of qualitative management accounting fieldwork practices as a first and foremost theoretical endeavour. In the remainder of the paper we offer, first, a definition of qualitative field studies, emphasising the distinction between methodology and method and delineating our notion of the field as a research domain. We then develop further our discussion of the field as it presents itself to the qualitative researcher in practice around Hastrup’s (1997) notion of the contact zone. We outline how qualitative field studies can make theoretical contributions by giving insight into how images of specific social realities may infuse action and relate this to the ability of qualitative field studies to express the processual character of accounting. Those theoretical discussions serve as a basis from which to develop a re-assessment of validity and reliability for qualitative field research and a discussion of sources of discipline for the researcher.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
By showing the relationship between qualitative field study observations, area of scholarly debate, and theory, the observation and analysis of organisational process can be structured in ways that can produce theoretically significant contributions. Single examples from the field can be of general interest (Silverman, 1993) and still remain grounded in their specific context. The specificity of theorising in qualitative field studies is one of their key characteristics and strengths. Underlying our argument is a notion of theory that is first and foremost a vehicle for understanding and communication. We would regard many epistemological debates, for example, distinctions between theory as covering laws, theory as narrative, or theory as enlightenment (DiMaggio, 1995), as too detached from the activity of theorising. A well-theorised qualitative field study would certainly be built around a plausible narrative, but it can also enlighten and make reference to covering laws that order many individual observations made in the course of the fieldwork. DiMaggio’s distinctions remain secondary to the task of outlining how the key challenge of structuring and understanding of data through theory can be met. More generally, the oftentimes stilted opposition between different theories and different methodologies distracts the researcher from the task of organising field data into a meaningful contribution. Learning about rival ‘armed camps’ in no way allows you to confront field data. In the field, material is much more messy than the different camps would suggest (Silverman, 1993, p. 203). Since there are limits to the number of factors that can be considered in one study, the selection of factors and the method of analysing them as they appear in the final publication are the result of scholarly debates with colleagues and reviewers in which the location of the study in a specific literature is always a key decision. Specifically, in qualitative field studies, what observations are deemed necessary for discussing particular organisational processes and raising specific theoretical concerns depends on the readers’ appreciation of the context of the observations in the field and the intellectual context in which field observations are mobilised. Theory cannot but be productive (and not simply revealing). Even though things can be independent of theory, descriptions of them are always dependent on it (Rorty, 1980). Our discussion of the roles of theory in qualitative field studies recognises the suggestiveness and speculation involved in the process of theorising as much as its dependence on established theory. To generate findings that are of interest to the wider management accounting research community, the qualitative field researcher must be able to continuously make linkages between theory and findings from the field in order to evaluate the potential interest of the research as it unfolds. This ongoing engaging of research questions, theory, and data has important implications for the ways in which qualitative field researchers can define the field and interpret its activities. This apparent flexibility has been a cause for suspicion in the positivistic accounting academic community, however. Drawing on notions of validity and reliability familiar from their own work, positivistic accounting researchers have frequently found qualitative field studies wanting. In this paper we argue that this is due to a failure to appreciate the significant distinction between method and methodology, and so to develop more appropriate bases for evaluating the plausibility of qualitative field research. We see this mutual misunderstanding and suspicion across the methodological divide as unhelpful for the field. Positivistic and qualitative studies “deserve” each other (Van Maanen, 1998, p. xii). Without the specifics of qualitative studies, the general assertions of positivistic research would be hollow. Likewise, the specific investigations of qualitative research question and refine the general statements of positivistic studies. The doing of qualitative field studies is a disciplined process. As well as the ongoing questioning of her own ideas, the field researcher works in a zone of contact with the field (Hastrup, 1997) in which members of the field challenge and confront her with their own theorising of their practices. The researcher is subsequently confronted with reviewers and then a wider readership. The beneficial effects of these sources of discipline are highlighted in a recent study by Brown (2005) in which he found a correlation between acknowledgements and the presentations of earlier drafts and the likelihood of publication and subsequent impact. Like other practices, the doing of qualitative field studies is difficult to articulate. One can point to the golden rules, but, at the heart of it lies a problem of transformation. Out of data, snippets of conversations and formal interviews, hours and days of observation, tabulations of behaviours and other occurrences, must arise the plausible field study. Just as we think that a strength of qualitative field studies lies in its capacity to study the practice of accounting as process—by asking what organisational members have to do to be recognised as practicing particular accountings—we have sought to orient our discussion of the doing of qualitative field studies around the process of research. Instead of drafting a checklist of good practices we have tried to illustrate with examples some of the ways in which the doing of qualitative field research is disciplined. Through our discussion in this paper we have sought to develop an appropriate basis for discussing the contribution of qualitative field studies to management accounting scholarship.