نگاهی به روش مثلث بندی و "پارادایم ها" در تفسیر تحقیقات حسابداری مدیریت
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10294||2010||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 21, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 130–141
This paper seeks to develop our understanding of method triangulation and research paradigms in interpretive management accounting research. Relying on field illustrations, the paper provides insight into how method triangulation has actually been received within the Finnish management accounting research community. At present, talk can be distinguished from action in method triangulation. Relying further on this insight, the paper discusses the meaning of a “paradigm”. It points out that for the individual scholar the paradigm is not necessarily a coherent, well-reflected philosophical standpoint. Instead, it represents a socio-political assemblage that suggests a “methodological identity” and provides “paradigmatic economies” for the self-interested academic. We also put forward a view on the future of method triangulation and paradigmatic détente more generally.
Interpretive management accounting research seems to be living a period of critical self-reflection. Recently, the philosophical underpinnings of interpretive studies, and especially the paradigmatic subjective/objective dichotomy in its methodological foundations, have been elements in an intensive academic exchange (Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008a, Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008b and Ahrens, 2008). The distinctive role of theory in producing plausible empirical findings has been reassessed (Ahrens and Chapman, 2006). Even the future of interpretive accounting research has been discussed in a polyphonic debate (Ahrens et al., 2008, Armstrong, 2008, Baxter et al., 2008 and Scapens, 2008).1 Against this background, the arguments which have been advanced for combining case and survey study methods in management accounting research have become more significant. What has been said regarding method triangulation now appears as a terrain where the orientation of interpretive accounting research can once again be discussed. It seems that method triangulation is becoming a central dimension where critical choices about the reconciliation or incompatibility of research paradigms are being made in research practice. As Modell (2009, p. 3) crystallizes it: “The tensions associated with straddling between paradigms are readily observable when one considers the issue of triangulation between theories and methods [emph. added] rooted in different paradigms”. Here, at the level of actually doing empirical management accounting research by mobilizing or by not mobilizing multiple research methods, management accounting researchers reveal how much they actually wish, and are able, to straddle between the positivist and the interpretive paradigms ( Modell, 2009, Modell, 2007, Modell, 2005, Arnold, 2006, Hopper and Hoque, 2006, Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008a, Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008b and Davila and Oyon, 2008). Method triangulation can be seen as revealing something fundamental about how paradigmatic détente is perceived amongst management accounting scholars working in the interpretive tradition. We should, however, acknowledge the challenge that method triangulation sets for scholars at the level of actual research practice (Ahrens and Chapman, 2006, pp. 833–836, see also e.g. Patton, 1990). Moreover, questions should be raised about how method triangulation can be effectively operationalized, and about how it could affect the future of interpretive management accounting research (Hopwood, 2008). This paper offers an illustrated theoretical discussion. It is anchored to the contemporary debates concerning the nature of paradigms in management accounting research and the benefits of employing different research methods. In brief, it contributes to these debates by first seeking field insights into the social reality of academics in the interpretive tradition. Then, having explored the actual mobilization of different research methods, by listening to a number of “voices from the field”, it discusses the potential of method triangulation and the nature of research paradigms as critical socio-political assemblages. More specifically, through interviews in a “reachable” national research community, the study seeks insight into how practicing management accounting researchers are, in reality, enacting method triangulation. Within the boundaries of a small European country, where a strong interpretive tradition in management accounting research has taken root, we are able to address a particular research community fairly comprehensively. We selected the Finnish research community as we belong to it, and are familiar with its theoretical tradition and academic organization. This provides us a context and a kind of introspective setting for theoretical reflection and for illustrating our conclusions about the current status, the pros and cons and the actual prospects of method triangulation – as well as for a discussion on the meaning of research paradigms more broadly. We are cautious about transporting our argument to other settings, but on the basis of our field insights, we seek to add to the current debate by discussing how method triangulation actually becomes mobilized, what its perceived benefits are, how its challenges are actually being felt in everyday research practice, and why it often fails to become widely embraced as a vehicle for validating qualitative empirical enquiry. Furthermore, we seek to develop a more detailed understanding of how the research paradigm both enables and constrains the interpretive management accounting researcher. Our conclusions are advanced in a tentative spirit, with the aim of further stimulating the debate. The paper's purpose is to deepen our understanding of method triangulation and research paradigms – at the operational level of management accounting research. We examine method triangulation and its challenges in the practical field where paradigmatic rigidity seems to surface. Consequently, our curiosity about method triangulation leads us to say something about paradigms as practical socio-political constructs. Our study suggests that the individual scholar in interpretive management accounting does not evaluate research paradigms primarily from a philosophical standpoint. Instead of pondering the philosophical foundations of competing paradigms, the individual scholar usually embraces one of the available paradigms. However, paradigms may contain philosophical contradictions, and exaggerate their ontological and epistemological distinctiveness (Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008a). But regardless of such contradictions and exaggerated elements, the paradigm plays a critical role. As we will argue in this paper, the interpretive methodological paradigm serves important functions: it provides both a “methodological identity” as well as “paradigmatic economics”. The paper is structured as follows. First, it reminds us what a recent pronouncement concerning straddling between research paradigms suggests about the paradigm incommensurability thesis. Second, it provides a summary of key arguments about method triangulation. Third, it explains the field interviews that both inspired and illustrate the paper's message. The fourth section introduces the voices from the field of Finnish management accounting scholars, while the fifth section discusses the insights gained from the field and offers a number of conclusions.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
6.1. What do “paradigms” actually suggest? It should first be pointed out that the interpretive/subjectivist and positivist/objectivist methodological paradigms in management accounting research are not the kind of paradigms that Thomas Kuhn discussed in his seminal work (Kuhn, 1970). In the Kuhnian perspective, paradigms guide normal science until anomalies lead to a “scientific revolution”. It is questionable, however, whether such normal science exists in the management accounting domain, and whether our fragmented field still remains in a pre-paradigmatic phase in a strict Kuhnian sense (see Vollmer, 2009). However, in our reasoning, we would not embrace this view. After all, since Kuhn's first writings in 1962, “paradigms” have been used with a variety of meanings. In general, they mean a dominant mindset that normalizes research activity. Hence, we agree with the foundations of the Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al. (2008a) argument: We have subjectivist and objectivist, or interpretive and positivist, “research approaches” in management accounting. These can be conceived as two different research paradigms5 (see Vollmer, 2009 and Locke and Lowe, 2008). In contrast to the philosophically oriented examination of Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al. (2008a), the insights from our field study prompt us to reflect further about what these two “paradigms” actually mean in management accounting research. In this study, when scholars revealed their experiences about method triangulation and spoke about paradigmatic demarcation lines, it appeared that paradigms are more than philosophically informed, well-reflected and logically consistent intellectual constructions – which are built on a solid philosophical knowledge base and become embraced by a researcher in a situation of genuine choice. To the researchers interviewed in this study paradigms appeared in a different light. What was observed about “methodological identity” suggests that a “paradigm” is a socio-political and rhetorical device. Instead of being chosen after meticulous evaluation, it becomes adopted for pragmatic reasons (see Arrington and Schweiker, 1992). For the individual scholar, choosing a paradigm is not primarily a philosophical exercise. Hence, the “paradigm” may exaggerate some ontological and epistemological features – as proposed by Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008a and Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008b. It may contain self-contradictory elements, thin methodological reasoning and “stylized” propositions. But instead of “deciding” in favor of a robust philosophical assemblage, the scholar adopts, in a rather haphazard way, something that promises professional opportunities. This “decision” should not be confused with a philosophically informed choice. For the junior scholar, the paradigm is usually the only available option at hand that holds some appeal. And our field insights also suggest that instead of philosophical consistency, this appeal has more to do with the pragmatic side of research traditions. First, the paradigm provides a framework for professional growth, a “methodological identity” that serves as a mechanism of rationalization in the social processes where scientific knowledge is produced. The paradigm means order and a secure socio-political position. It gives us epistemic authority and regulates our interaction. It serves as a basis of self-identification, and signals with whom we stand as junior academics (see Lamont and Molnár, 2002 and Gendron, 2008). It reduces ambiguity and provides a socially maintained “cognitive comfort zone” – where perplexing questions of ontology and epistemology can be avoided. The paradigm also offers legitimate research methods in the form of a narrow, but practical repertoire. Typically, in the interpretive tradition, we concentrate on fieldwork skills instead of refining our statistical capabilities. With this focus, we move ahead to conduct empirical work. Without confusing philosophical conjectures and perhaps agonizing Weltschmerz, we can proceed to research action, go into the field, enjoy scientific fellowship, and take part in academic discussions. But in addition to this early philosophical “shortcut”, the paradigm also facilitates the theoretical task. It gives a basis for evaluating an often unorganized and fragmented stock of knowledge. The paradigm, it appears to us, provides the perhaps questionable rationalizations and dubious stigmas which we need to be able to ignore the theoretical pronouncements of competing paradigms (see e.g. Caldwell, 1982, pp. 71–74). As emerging professionals, we make more rapid progress with this discriminating focus. Instead of roaming vast theoretical terrains, the management accounting scholar identifies the niche in the theoretical landscape, where a novel argument can be produced. The paradigm limits which questions are meaningful and how they should be addressed (Arrington and Schweiker, 1992). It is a tool for valorizing some voices and for silencing others (Lamont and Molnár, 2002, see also Astley, 1985). By not problematizing the paradigm's philosophical and methodological foundations, the junior scholar is ready for scientific advancement, through certain rites of passage (see Panozzo, 1997). 6.2. Why paradigmatic rigidity persists? Besides the early adoption of a “methodological identity”, our field work illustrates the paradigm's grip on the individual researcher's later orientation. This insight provides a perspective on the limited popularity of method triangulation and may explain paradigmatic rigidity in interpretive management accounting research. Here, the empirical illustrations are about “paradigmatic economics”. Paradigmatic rigidity appears to be foremost an issue of economy – rather than a matter of philosophy. In our view, the interpretive paradigm is tightly coupled with the production of scientific output and the pragmatic concerns of the self-interested scholar. Within a paradigmatic context, the scholar makes a fixed investment into certain research methods. The paradigm provides technological ease and predictability, at a tolerable level of risk. The relationship between research action (input) and its consequences (output) can be mapped and managed. In brief, the researcher in the interpretive genre learns how to transform especially field interviews and other field evidence efficiently into theoretically intriguing arguments which are likely to be published (see Pfeffer, 1993, pp. 602–607). We suggest that this productive specialization almost begs for scale and standardization. With repetitive action the scholar will be able to leverage the substantial initial cost. Moreover, the more mature scholar is unwilling to invest more into the productive apparatus of new research methods, as this may not add enough value to his/her “customers” – to the editors and the referees, who are the paradigmatically constrained gatekeepers of science. These additional costs may in fact increase the “academic entrepreneur's” risk in this industry, as our interviewees pointed out. As the individual scholar may not be able to “sell” method-triangulated output, MT, at the level of an individual researcher can be risky experimentation. However, it has to be underlined that paradigmatic rigidity, and the economies that go with it, are sustained by multiple forces. A shared paradigm – and the research methods that come with it – provide a common rhetoric and fixed discursive practices (Arrington and Schweiker, 1992). In interpretive management accounting research, for example, the paradigm facilitates communication and an extensive academic network. This often means shorter review times, prolific scientific output and a coherent academic reputation; i.e., “good scholarship” which finally materializes into the form of various rewards, especially tenure. 6.3. Method triangulation as talk – rather than action But if both “methodological identity” and “paradigmatic economics” seem to work against method triangulation, why are both method triangulation and the easing of paradigmatic tension being discussed together so frequently? Here, we would underline the distinction between ideas and actions: what can be said cannot always be done. Also in scientific work it is not easy to transform ideas into actions (Brunsson, 1993). As interpretive accounting scholars, we are receptive to détente between the interpretive and the positivist paradigms. And we see method triangulation as a key way for realizing this. Furthermore, these ideas, if broadly accepted, have the potential to produce a more unified body of knowledge. In short, management accounting phenomena would be better understood if competing paradigms overcame their divides, and if multiple research methods could be applied. As accounting academics, we wish to improve our domain. Détente between the interpretive and the positivist paradigms in general, and the mobilization of method triangulation in particular, are ways to express more elevated aspirations. We need to talk about these ideas, because they portray us as researchers who are concerned by progress and the common good. But when we try turn these ideas into actions we soon discover some of the constraints which surfaced in our study. We can be critical of paradigms, while silently cherishing the clarity and security they guarantee for our “methodological identity”. We can even dismiss paradigms, but tacitly follow “paradigmatic economics” in our scientific work. And we can recognize method triangulation as a way of enhancing validity ( Modell, 2009 and Modell, 2005), but as practicing researchers we usually avoid it – at least at the level of a single study or publication. 6.4. Method triangulation – as less talk and more action The concluding step in our reasoning is to ask what might be done to transform talk on method triangulation and paradigmatic détente into real action. To begin with, we wish to acknowledge that we are not yet convinced that paradigmatic convergence is self-evidently synonymous with scientific progress. Easing tension between competing paradigms may result in better communication and co-operation, but it may also produce unintended consequences. Uniformity and standardization could lead us into a monocentric research environment where the positivist/objectivist tradition reigns supreme (see Hopwood, 2008). In our view, it is important to recognize fully the “political” character of détente, and ask whether method triangulation really makes interpretive management accounting research stronger, preserving its originality, especially vis-à-vis the North American mainstream. Besides these reservations, we want to emphasize three specific points. First, we cannot see method triangulation taking place at the level of a junior researcher's single publication. However, in her/his doctoral work she/he could present a collection of co-authored papers around a topic with qualitative papers standing alongside, for instance, survey-based or experimental research. Hence, method triangulation could be part of the young scholar's early education and the construction of her/his “methodological identity” – perhaps within a doctoral research program which exposes the junior scholar to a variety of research traditions. Second, we see more senior researchers producing complementary publications. For example, experts in “depth” could collaborate with experts in “breadth”. Here, the real synergies between qualitative case methods and survey-based statistical methods can be realized. But personal meritocratic gain needs to be present in these cross-paradigmatic efforts, to create a genuine “win-win”-situation. This leads us to our third point. We see method triangulation as a policy issue which needs to be addressed by key institutional actors – notably deans, heads of academic departments and journal editors. We have discussed “paradigmatic economics”. Deans play a key role in establishing evaluation processes and incentives which could reward method-triangulated work. And journal editors on both sides of the Atlantic could model themselves as tolerant Renaissance potentates, inviting papers around a common theme, bringing together a diverse set of perspectives, mobilizing different methods from both the positivist and the interpretive paradigms. We wish to conclude by suggesting that paradigmatic détente and method triangulation could be transformed into real academic action if these notions are accepted on both sides of the paradigmatic divide – with a necessary symmetry. Here we point especially to North American publishing practices. They remain unreceptive towards the interpretive genre. Hence, we would welcome better opportunities for publication of interpretive and particularly mixed methods research, notably in the U.S. It would be regrettable if paradigmatic convergence and method triangulation led us finally to a state where interpretive research is considered scientifically legitimate, at the level of a single study, but only in combination with other research methods. This would marginalize interpretive work, and produce a body of knowledge which is increasingly self-referential and isolated – i.e., detached from the management accounting which is practiced in contemporary organizations.