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It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it? Of method and madness

Rob Gray and Markus J. Milne

CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, 2015, vol. 32, issue C, 51-66

Abstract: This short essay takes the opportunity presented by the paper by Patten (2015)11It is appropriate to note at the outset that the paper to which we initially responded was a statistical re-testing of the conclusions of Dhaliwal, Radhakrishnan, Tsang, and Yang (2012). That paper was to act as a straw man to which we might respond. Patten's initial straw man, however, turned into a snowman as it melted away to be replaced by the present (excellent) piece now appearing as Patten (2015): thus requiring that many of our original comments and criticisms were revised, revisited and some removed. The loss of such specificity raised the risk that our comments would become either too general or less insightful and less acerbic. We have attempted to overcome this challenge but without assuming a wide reading of the more mindless, typically North American, main journal “empirical” publications parading as superior knowledge of corporate social responsibility accounting. to enter the debate concerning the relative pros and cons of quantitative versus qualitative research methods. Too often, this is a sterile ‘debate’ and in accounting especially, the actual lack of real debate is destructive – manifest as it is in the pernicious attachment of key academic journals to a single (and largely unexamined) notion of what comprises good research and consequently what is permitted as knowledge. This restriction has additional unanticipated consequences in that it (a) refuses to acknowledge research findings that appear in journals other than those anointed by the high priests of self-styled positivism and (b) it severely limits the research questions that can be addressed to only those which can be perceived and addressed through a narrow array of method (Chua, 1986). We argue that such a position is untenable as well as undesirable and, following Feyerabend and Morgan (as well as Caldwell, McCloskey and Tashakkori & Teddlie), argue for pluralism in method choice grounded in a pragmatic philosophy driven firstly by a concern for the research problem, and an absence of a fact-value distinction. We suggest that such pluralism is especially important in an area concerned with social and environmental issues which, ultimately, are matters of life and death and more important than trivial matters of ‘which method is best’ (or perhaps – more accurately – which method is permitted in journal X).

Keywords: Critique; Social; Environnemental; Méthode; Méthodologie; Crítica; Social; Ambiental; Método; Metodología; Critical; Social; Environmental; Method; Methodology (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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