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Does managerial accounting research contribute to related disciplines? An examination using citation analysis.

Abstract: This paper examines two issues. The first issue is the degree of relative isolation of managerial accounting research (MAR) from related disciplines. Using citations collected from the Web of Science, the study shows that MAR published during 1986-2000 in the four leading accounting journals is cited in journals in fields as diverse as economics, operations research, psychology, sociology, organizational behavior, and strategic management. Our findings support Kinney's (2001) observation that accounting researchers have a competitive advantage in areas relating to alternative business measurement structures.

The second issue the paper addresses is whether economics-based MAR papers make a greater contribution than papers based on other disciplines, as perceived from their respective citation rates. Our citation analysis finds no evidence that economics-based papers are cited by non-accounting researchers at a higher rate than MAR based on other disciplines. Extending the comparison to accounting journals covered in the Web of Science did not change this conclusion. We interpret this as a refutation of the contention by Zimmerman (2001) that economics-based MAR papers are more likely to make significant contributions to knowledge.

We also report some preliminary evidence that the relevance of MAR to researchers publishing in non-accounting journals is waning. Although this finding is tentative, it may be an early warning signal that should be monitored in future research.

Keywords: management accounting research; research impact; citation analysis; bibliographic studies.

Availability: The sources used in this study are available commercially.


In his presidential speech at the American Accounting Association annual meeting in 2000, Kinney (2001) described the core aspects of accounting scholarship and the unique contributions that accountants can make to knowledge. He identified knowledge of alternative business measurement structures as the unique core of accounting scholarship. In Kinney's (2001) view, accounting concerns "how standardized measurement criteria, precision of application, and trustworthiness of display have value in decision-making and in control of business organizations." This study applies Kinney's (2001) perspective to managerial accounting research (MAR).

This study is also motivated by Zimmerman's (2001) call for a renewed focus on an economics-oriented and empirically tested approach to managerial accounting research. Zimmerman (2001) responded to Ittner and Larcker's (2001) comprehensive survey of empirical research in managerial accounting, which made extensive references to MAR papers based on disciplines other than economics. Zimmerman (2001) argued that the approach advocated by Kaplan (1983, 1984) provided a description of practices but otherwise has failed to provide significant insights into the problems faced by management accountants. Zimmerman's (2001) commentary has re-opened the question of MAR's objectives and its contributions to the body of knowledge. (1) Specifically, we use Kinney's (2001) framework of core accounting scholarship competencies to test whether citation rates indicate that researchers outside accounting find economics-based MAR papers to be the most consistently useful references in their work.

In addressing the first objective, this study evaluates whether citations of MAR by non-accounting researchers focus on those aspects that Kinney (2001) identifies as the unique core of accounting scholarship. More generally, we examine whether MAR influences scholars publishing in non-accounting journals. Stated more bluntly: "Does MAR actually make a difference outside our own field?" Since accounting is an inseparable component of business, one measure of the MAR contribution to other disciplines is the extent to which MAR is cited in non-accounting journals.

To address the second objective, we examine the citations to MAR by researchers in both accounting (ACY) and non-accounting (NON-ACY) disciplines. We focus particularly on whether scholars in non-accounting disciplines, such as economics, operations research, production management, psychology, sociology, organization management, and strategic management, are more likely to cite economics-based MAR than they are to cite MAR based on other disciplines. We also explore whether the citation patterns and relative frequency of these NON-ACY researchers differ significantly from those of ACY researchers with respect to the underlying discipline. (2) Arguably, to the extent that economics-based MAR contributes to more understanding of business phenomena than does non-economics-based MAR, then economics-based MAR should be cited more often than MAR using other disciplines.

We acknowledge that citation rates alone cannot provide conclusive evidence of the relative contribution of a discipline. However, citation analysis does identify the patterns of intellectual contributions made by one community of scholars to other communities (e.g., Pieters and Baumgartner 2002). Despite the limitations of citation analysis (Baird and Oppenheim 1994; MacRoberts and MacRoberts 1989), it remains one of the most powerful means of identifying networks and communications within and across disciplines (Budd 1999).

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. The second section presents a brief review of the relevant literature on citation analyses, and describes our research approach. The third section presents an analysis of the citations of MAR that address the two objectives of this study. This analysis also offers insight into what attributes of MAR appear to appeal to researchers in the different NON-ACY disciplines. The fourth section examines trends across time of the MAR citations rates. In addition, the MAR citation rates are compared to those of other accounting sub-fields (collectively classified as NON-MAR) in ACY and NON-ACY journals. Finally, the concluding section provides a summary of the findings of the study and implications for further research.


Literature Review

We begin with a brief literature review of citation analyses in other disciplines. We focus on bibliographic studies that analyze citation patterns to measure the degree of integration or isolation of a field. Two recent bibliographic studies are Samdahl and Kelly (1999) on the leisure industry literature and Schwartz and Ibaraki (2001) on the hydrogeological literature. These studies examined whether scholars in other intellectually relevant disciplines had cited papers from the leading journals in these two respective fields. The underlying premise in both studies is that a field is intellectually isolated if communities of scholars in intellectually relevant fields do not cite research from that field.

Prior bibliographic studies in accounting that use citation analyses include Brown and Gardner (1985), Brown et al. (1987), Smith and Krogstad (1991), and Fleming et al. (2000). However, with the exception of Smith and Krogstad (1991), these studies focus on the accounting literature, and thus do not consider citations in journals outside accounting. Smith and Krogstad (1991) do examine the extent to which the auditing literature has established links with disciplinary areas outside of accounting. They use the print version of the Social Science Citations Index Journal Citation Reports (SSCI-JCR) to analyze citations in NON-ACY journals. Thus, our study is more closely related to Smith and Krogstad (1991) than to other previous bibliographic studies in accounting. (3)

We also note recent literature reviews in management accounting. Shields (1997) provides a taxonomy for managerial accounting research that we rely on in our study. In addition, Ittner and Larcker (2001) reviewed empirical managerial accounting research and identified some ideas from other disciplines that have found their way into MAR. Lambert (2001) studied the use of analytical modeling in accounting with a focus on its application to managerial accounting. However, both Ittner and Larcker (2001) and Lambert (2001) focused on citations in MAR to papers in other disciplines. Our study complements their work by analyzing citations in other disciplines to MAR papers.

Targeted Accounting Journals and Data Source

We focus on MAR published in four leading accounting journals, namely, Accounting, Organizations and Society (AOS), the Journal of Accounting and Economics (JAE), the Journal of Accounting Research (JAR), and The Accounting Review (TAR). We have three reasons for restricting our study to these four journals. First, these journals are the most reputable in accounting, judging from their citation impact factors as reported by the Institute of Scientific Information's (ISI) Journal Citation Reports. (4) Second, these nonspecialized journals are those most likely to appeal to the broader audience of researchers in other disciplines because they are well established and widely available as resources for research. Third, and perhaps most important, these four journals are covered in ISI's publications and electronic databases, the Journal Citation Reports, and the Web of Science. (5) Other potential mainstream accounting journals, such as Contemporary Accounting Research, the Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance, and the Review of Accounting Studies, were not included in the ISI source journals as of May 2002 when we collected the data for this study. Similarly, specialty journals in management accounting, such as the Journal of Management Accounting Research and Management Accounting Research, were not covered by ISI at that time.

Since our objective is to measure the contributions of MAR to other disciplines, the availability of a database such as the Web of Science is critical. Arguably, researchers in other disciplines looking for MAR literature will resort to electronic means of searching. Thus, articles published in mainstream journals and included in such a general database are more likely to be cited than those published in either specialty journals or mainstream journals not included in the database. While the inclusion of only four journals may limit the implications of this study, our results capture the most material aspects of the relative intellectual contributions of MAR and its degree of relative isolation.

Finally, we provide our criteria for classifying papers published in the four accounting journals as either MAR or NON-MAR. We classified a paper as MAR if the paper dealt with any topic involving cost accounting, cost management, cost drivers, management control systems, capital budgeting, internal investment decisions (excluding those focused on tax implications), or the historical development of cost accounting and control systems. Papers dealing with the impact of the adoption of internal decision-making models such as Economic-Value Added (EVA[R]), the Balanced Scorecard, and nonfinancial performance measures were also classified as MAR. Some may argue that this inclusion may inflate the number of citations identified for MAR papers. However, as reported in the section labelled "Citation Differences by Topics and Approach of MAR," this argument should not be a major concern since the citation rate of MAR papers using the Empirical and Archival approaches (under Shield's [1997] taxonomy) is not statistically different from that of papers using other approaches.

Shields' (1997) Taxonomy of MAR

We adopted the taxonomy of MAR developed by Shields (1997) to identify (1) factors that could account for changes in citation rates over time and (2) the core contributions of accounting research proposed by Kinney (2001) in the managerial accounting context. Using the Shields taxonomy, we can identify key attributes in MAR that could conceivably be of interest to non-accounting researchers.

Shields (1997) uses five attributes to classify MAR in North America in the 1990s: (1) the Underlying Disciplines (or theories), (2) the Approaches (or Methods) used, (3) the Topics, (4) the Settings, and (5) the Results reported by the researcher. (6) To address the research questions in this study, we adopted the first three attributes. In Exhibit 1, we present a comparison between the original taxonomy developed by Shields (1997) and the modified versions we adopted in this study. (7)

The first three attributes in the Shields taxonomy have direct relevance to the core contributions of accounting research as presented by Kinney (2001). Kinney identifies the core of accounting scholarship as the accountants' specialized knowledge of alternative business measurement structures, specifically, "how standardized measurement criteria, precision of application, and trustworthiness of display have value in decision making and in control of business organizations." Within this framework, Shields' (1997) attribute 1 (Underlying Disciplines) identifies the disciplinary base for each MAR paper. Studies that apply theories from specific disciplines to business phenomena in which accountants have unique insights should conceivably be of interest to researchers in that core discipline. This is most likely when researchers in the underlying discipline believe that accountants' unique perspective enables them to provide valuable insight about potential applications of the theories to the world of business. Furthermore, using Underlying Disciplines as a classification criterion permits us to evaluate Zimmerman's (2001) contention that Economics provides a superior theoretical basis for MAR.

We use a similar argument to justify the inclusion of Shields' (1997) attribute 2 (Approaches). For example, MAR studies using analytic methods typically draw on parallel developments in economic theory. Arguably, economists working in such areas could benefit from the accountant's detailed knowledge of conflicts in incentive systems and of limitations of measurement systems in organizations. Therefore, MAR studies using analytic methods should appeal to researchers in economics if results obtained from MAR demonstrate a recognized expertise of accounting researchers.

Similarly, Shields' (1997) attribute 3 (Topics) is also germane to determining whether accountants have unique insights that are valuable to non-accountants. We reason that studies dealing with cost accounting and cost management issues should be of relevance to related disciplines, such as industrial engineering and operations management, if researchers in these related disciplines perceive that MAR studies have proposed and developed solutions to problems that apply to their disciplines. Therefore, we expect the Topics attribute to identify specific areas of accountants' specialized knowledge reflected in MAR that will be most useful to researchers in certain other disciplines. A study of the relationship between disciplines and topics of MAR can help to establish whether accountants are recognized as possessing unique knowledge pertinent to specific disciplines. For example, the lack of statistically significant relationships between MAR topics and related external disciplines would weaken the argument that researchers in those related disciplines perceive MAR to be uniquely useful.


We use the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel (CMH) ANOVA approach to evaluate the statistical significance of any systematic differences for ACY and NON-ACY journals in the citation rates by (1) Underlying Discipline, (2) Approach used, and (3) Topic. Focusing first on the NON-ACY journals, we apply the ANOVA statistics of Cochran (1954) and Mantel and Haenszel (1959) to evaluate the significance of the rows and column differences (as in Table 2 discussed later). This test evaluates the alternative hypothesis that the mean scores of K rows are unequal for at least one stratum. The test forms K-1 independent contrasts of the K row means and evaluates whether any of the contrasts is statistically significant.

We use the analyses by Approach used and Topic to examine our first research issue: the degree of relative isolation from (or integration with) related disciplines of MAR (i.e., the Kinney [2001] view of the competence areas of accountants). We then use the analyses by Underlying Discipline to address the second research issue of whether economics-based MAR is seen by non-accountants as more relevant to their disciplines. We then extend this to the citations in the ACY journals to provide additional insight into the second research issue.

Because a number of MAR authors also publish in NON-ACY journals, a count of citations in these journals may overstate the extent of the penetration of MAR in NON-ACY journals. We therefore divided the citations in NON-ACY journals into citations by ACY-affiliated authors versus citations by authors with no affiliation to accounting. We identified the ACY-affiliated authors as those listed in Hasselback's (2001) Directory of Accounting Faculty. This procedure may result in our classifying some accounting professionals who are not faculty members as non-accounting authors. On the other hand, we may classify some non-accounting researchers as ACY-affiliated if they have names identical to those of accounting faculty listed in the directory. Thus, to the extent that these effects operate in opposite directions, the potential misclassification should not have a material effect on our results.

Frequency of MAR Publications

As perspective for the results reported in the next two sections, Table 1 provides an overview of the publication rate of MAR relative to total number of papers published in AOS, JAE, JAR, and TAR for the period 1986-2000. As noted, the availability of publication sources for MAR increased dramatically over this period. Contemporary Accounting Research (first published in 1985) and the Review of Accounting Studies (first published in 1997) gained broader audiences and acceptance and thus expanded the potential outlets for quality MAR papers. Likewise, journals with a more specialized management accounting focus, such as the Journal of Management Accounting Research (first published in 1989) and Management Accounting Research (first published in 1990), also appeared. Because we do not include these journals in our study, any trend observed in Table l may be somewhat misleading if the objective is to infer the actual level of MAR publications. However, to the extent that non-accounting researchers are most likely to consult the four leading accounting journals, the results presented in Table 1 remain informative.

The results in Table 1 suggest that the activity level of MAR relative to other accounting areas has remained relatively stable. We identified 281 MAR papers out of the 1,777 total papers published in the targeted journals, which is approximately 16 percent of the articles published. This rate is consistent with earlier findings by Fleming et al. (2000), who examined the period from 1966 to 1985 for TAR, as well as with studies by Brown and Gardner (1985) and Brown et al. (1987), who report similar results in the period from 1976 to 1984. It should be noted that nonroutine events such as the JAR Conference in 1995 devoted to MAR and the special MAR issue of AOS in 1999 account for the relative increases in the publication rate of MAR to total publications in 1995 and 1999.


Relative Citation Rates of MAR by Underlying Discipline

Table 2 presents an analysis of the citations of MAR (by Underlying Discipline of MAR) in the Web of Science from January 1986 to December 2001. As shown in Table 2, there were 612 citations of MAR in the seven ACY journals covered in the Web of Science from 1986 to 2001. Over the same period, there were 596 citations from 171 NON-ACY journals. Of the 596 citations in NON-ACY journals, 52 percent (308 citations) were in papers authored by authors who were not affiliated with accounting departments. These results suggest that MAR attracts roughly as many citations from NON-ACY journals as from ACY journals, but that approximately one-half the citations in NON-ACY journals are by accountants.

Next, the first row of Table 2 shows that economics-based papers attract 52 percent (308 out of 596) of the total external (NON-ACY journal) citations versus 46.9 percent (287 out of 612) from ACY journals. Adjusted for the citations by accounting researchers publishing in NON-ACY journals, economics-based MAR papers receive exactly 50 percent (154 out of 308) of the external citations by non-accountants.

The next set of columns of Table 2 report average citations per MAR paper in order to adjust for differences in the total number of MAR papers using different Underlying Disciplines. Focusing first on the results for the independent citations in NON-ACY journals, Economics-based papers received an average of 1.15 citations, versus 2.67 for Strategic Management, 1.33 for Mix of Disciplines, and 0.40 for Production/Operations Management. Ignoring the distinction between ACY-affiliated authors and NON-ACY-affiliated authors, the average citation per MAR paper increases to is 2.30 for Economics-based papers versus 3.44 and 2.67 for Strategic Management and Mix of Disciplines, respectively. Psychology-based papers attracted the fewest references, 0.86 total external citations per MAR paper. The results for average citations per MAR paper in ACY journals are very similar.

These results offer no support for Zimmerman's (2001) contention that Economics-based approaches to MAR research are more likely to make significant contributions to knowledge. The t-tests for the difference in means of the average citations of Economics-based MAR papers versus average citations of all the other disciplines combined reveal no statistically significant difference (Panel B of Table 2). Likewise, for the citations by NON-ACY-affiliated authors, the average citation rate of 1.15 per Economics-based MAR paper is not statistically different from the average citation rate of 1.04 per paper for all other disciplines.

The last column of Table 2 presents the average age of MAR paper when cited, classified by the Underlying Discipline of the MAR paper. These summary statistics are fairly consistent across the different disciplines, with the Duncan multiple range test (omitted from the table for the sake of brevity) indicating no significant differences across Underlying Disciplines. These results indicate no important variation in how up-to-date the citations are by Underlying Discipline.

Moreover, Panel B of Table 2 reports the CMH ANOVA statistics on the significance of the rows and column differences for the data in Panel A, using only the Total External Citations and the ACY Journals columns. We transposed the frequency table and reran the test to obtain the column test statistics. The ANOVA test is valid because the frequency scores reported in the tables are interval-scaled. Further, the results are robust to the alternative nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis test based on a rank-order of the rows.

For the sake of brevity, we omit reporting the actual and expected cell frequencies from Panel A of Table 2, and report only the percentage deviation of the actual cell frequencies from their expected frequencies. Among the row variables, Production/Operations Management, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior have the highest percentage positive deviations (23, 20, and 11 percent, respectively). This means that their actual citation rates are higher than expected in the ACY journals, and lower than expected in the NON-ACY journals. On the other hand, the negative percentage deviation for Mix of Disciplines of-12 percent implies that NON-ACY citations are relatively higher than expected, while citations in ACY journals are lower than expected. Economics, Sociology, and Strategic Management have smaller percentage deviations of actual from expected cell frequencies. The CMH ANOVA test statistics in Panel B of Table 2 reveal the overall row differences to be marginally significant at a probability of 0.091. From the relative magnitude of the percentage deviations, the statistical difference appears to be driven by the large deviations for Psychology, Production/Operations Management, and Organization Behavior, on one hand, and Mix of Disciplines on the other hand. The results imply that papers in former areas are of slightly less relevance to researchers publishing in NON-ACY journals than those publishing in ACY journals.

Citation Differences by Topic and Approach of MAR

Next, Table 3 presents the distribution of the Topic in MAR papers to evaluate Kinney's (2001) view about the core competencies of accounting researchers as perceived by scholars outside of accounting.

In Table 3, Management Control Systems is the area with the highest rate of total citations, accounting for 345 total external and 399 ACY journal citations. However, after adjusting for the number of articles published, Other Topics receives the highest overall citation rate with an average of 5.47 (3.21 external and 2.26 ACY) citations per MAR paper, followed by Management Control Systems with 4.59 (2.13 external and 2.46 ACY) citations per paper overall. (8) The CMH ANOVA statistics indicate that the difference between the citation rates of the ACY and NON-ACY journals is not statistically significant, although the row differences are marginally significant at a probability of 0.091. The major contrast here is between Other Topics and Cost/Management Accounting, on one hand, and Management Control Systems and Management Accounting, Information, and Systems on the other. The first group appears to have been cited at a higher rate in the NON-ACY journals than in the ACY journals. The second group does not deviate much from their expected cell frequencies.

The above statistical difference analysis is based on overall citations. Citation rates for NON-ACY-affiliated authors publishing in NON-ACY journals are significantly higher for Other Topics than for Management Accounting, Information, and Systems, based on the Waller-Duncan K-Ratio t-test for the difference in group means. This result also holds for the Total External Citations overall, but not for the ACY journals. No other differences in means are statistically significant. These results suggest that NON-ACY journals generally found more relevance in Other Topics than in the other areas of MAR. Surprisingly, the focus of MAR over the 15-year period generally shifted away from Other Topics, with only 19 of the 281 papers published during this period classified as addressing Other Topics.

Table 4 presents the results using Approach as the MAR attribute of interest. The highest number of articles published used the Analytic Approach (72), followed by Survey (57), Laboratory Experiment (40), and a tie between Archival and Case/Field Studies (33). Among ACY journals, the approach with the highest number of citations is Survey (158), followed by Analytic (156) and Laboratory Experiment (87). Among the NON-ACY journals, Analytic leads by far, with 206 total citations, followed by Survey (90), and Archival (68). Based on the average number of citations per paper, Analytic leads with an overall average of 5.03 (2.86 external and 2.17 ACY) citations, followed by Literature Review with 5.0 (2.42 external and 2.58 ACY), and Normative with 4.41 (2.76 external and 1.65 ACY).

The CMH ANOVA statistics presented in Panel B of Table 4 indicate significant differences in both the row and the column strata. The percentage deviation columns for the ACY journals indicate that the widest disparities exist between Normative, Case/Field Studies, and Analytic on one hand, and Survey, Laboratory Experiment, and Multiple Research Methods on the other. The results are reversed for the NON-ACY journals, with Survey, Laboratory Experiment, and Multiple Research Methods experiencing an actual citation rate considerably below the expected frequencies for their respective cells, while Normative, Case/Field Studies, and Analytic actually have higher citation rates than expected. In summary, MAR studies using Normative, Analytic and Case/Field Studies approaches attract relatively more attention from NON-ACY researchers, while ACY researchers pay more attention to MAR papers based on laboratory experiments, surveys, and multiple research methods.

These results become stronger for the average citations by non-accounting authors. The average citations per MAR paper by these authors is 2.12 for Normative, 1.49 for Analytic, 1.37 for Literature Review, and 1.18 for Case/Field Study. This rate of average citation drops to 0.60 for Laboratory Experiment, 0.65 for Survey, and 0.56 for Multiple Research Methods. However, at the overall external citations level, the Waller-Duncan test for the difference in group means indicates that there is no statistically significant difference in group means among the different approaches. This is true for both the per paper total external citations and the per paper citations in ACY journals.

Ultimately, therefore, the interpretation of these results depends on whether one focuses on the citation rate per paper or on the total citations. A focus on total citations is justified if one holds to the view that MAR researchers and accounting journal editors determine the areas of greatest importance to the discipline and, accordingly, concentrate their efforts on publishing papers addressing issues in these areas. However, the average citations per paper are likely to reflect quality, rather than quantity. Thus, regardless of how many papers are published on a given topic or using a particular approach, the attention that the average paper in an area attracts should be of major interest. Since our results show that average citations per paper are not significantly different across topics and approaches used, it would appear that more papers published on specific topics and/or using specific approaches will result in higher citations from related external disciplines to that work. In other words, the judgments exercised by MAR researchers and journal editors of what to publish do have an effect on the rate at which MAR is integrated into the wider network of scholarly non-accounting research.

Differences within NON-ACY Journals

This subsection focuses on differences among the NON-ACY journals with respect to what attributes of MAR are of interest to NON-ACY researchers in various disciplines. The objective is to provide additional insight into the core competencies of MAR as perceived by citations in the NON-ACY journals. For the purposes of discussion, NON-ACY areas were divided into four categories. Category I includes 84 Business journals (excluding accounting) for areas such as Business, Business Ethics, Business History, Decision Science, Finance, Information Systems, International Business, Marketing, Management, Management Science, Operations Management, Operations Research, and Production Management. Category II consists of 33 journals in Economics. Category III contains 34 journals for Other Social Sciences that cover the fields of Communications Research, Education, Legal Studies, Political Science, Public Administration, Psychology, and Sociology. Category IV includes 20 journals that cover Other Disciplines such as Industrial Engineering, Library Science, Medical Science, Science (Physical), Statistics, and Interdisciplinary. We constructed these four groupings based on the commonality of the subject matter.

For the sake of brevity, the results obtained by applying the CMH ANOVA approach are not reported in full, but rather merely summarized here. As expected, the journals of specific disciplines tend to cite papers for which the underlying discipline is their own at much higher frequencies than the expected cell frequencies. This is particularly true of Economics journals, but the same tendency was observed for researchers publishing in Business journals and in journals of the Other Social Sciences categories. Not surprisingly, the researchers publishing in Other Disciplines journals tended to cite MAR research using a mix of disciplines at a higher rate than expected. The results also supported a conclusion that economics researchers look to MAR for expertise in Management Control Systems, while non-accounting business disciplines look to MAR for expertise in Management Information Systems.


Declining Relevance of MAR to NON-ACY Researchers?

Our results up to this point are based on a pooling of the data across the entire 15-year period in which the MAR papers were published. We now examine possible trends in the relevance of MAR to NON-ACY journals. The results are presented in Exhibit 2 below.


Panel A of Exhibit 2 presents the trend in citations for the broad disciplines of the NON-ACY journals based on the year of publication of the MAR paper. The results show that MAR papers published in 1988, 1990, 1994 and 1995 have been cited the most often in Business journals. In contrast, MAR papers published in 1987 and 1992 have been cited most often in Economics journals. Differences in the rate of citations of MAR papers published from 1986 to 1992 are not quite as striking in the Other Social Science journals and Other Disciplines journals categories. However, potential differences here may be suppressed because the citation rates are so low.

Formal statistical tests using the CMH ANOVA approach supports the conclusion that, for the Business and Economics journals, the citation rate is quite different from year to year, indicating that MAR papers published in certain years had more relevance to scholars publishing in these two broad disciplines than MAR papers published in other years. In contrast, for the Other Social Sciences journals, MAR papers published from 1986-1989 have consistently higher citation rates than expected, followed by consistently lower than expected citation rates in the remaining period from 1990 to 2000. Furthermore, a consistent sequence of lower than expected citation rates can be observed for the Other Disciplines category from 1997 to 2000.

To rule out the possibility that the recency of the 1997-2000 MAR articles could account for the rapid decline in citations, we examine, in Panel B of Exhibit 2, the relationship between age of MAR articles and their citation rates in the NON-ACY journals over the 15-year period. As shown in the exhibit, the highest citation rates for MAR papers in NON-ACY journals tend to occur when the papers are between three to six years old. Overall, however, the cumulative citation rate for MAR papers within the first two years of publication is significantly better than zero for all NON-ACY disciplines. Thus, the pattern of declining citations in Other Social Sciences and Other Disciplines journals of MAR papers written from 1996 to 2000 seems to be attributable more to their declining relevance to NON-ACY researchers than to their recency.

Is the Declining External Citation Rate Limited to MAR?

If MAR is of declining relevance to some non-accounting disciplines, then this trend could also apply to other areas of accounting. To address this question, we collected citation statistics from the online version of the Social Science Citations Index Journal Citation Reports (SSCI-JCR) for articles published in AOS, JAE, JAR, and TAR. The online SSCI-JCR only covered journals published from 1997 to 2001 (as of the date of this study), and the detailed (yearly) citations statistics could be compiled only for articles published in these four accounting journals from 1992 to 2000. From this source, we compiled the number of times all articles published in these four accounting journals have been cited in the journals covered by SSCI-JCR. (9) Since SSCI-JCR also indicates how many main articles from the four journals were published each year, we were able to compute the citation rate per article-year for all articles published in the four accounting journals from 1992 to 2000 as cited by the SSCI-JCR from 1997 to 2001. By similarly restricting the MAR citation statistics obtained earlier to the same periods, we could compare directly the citations per article-year for MAR versus NON-MAR (NMAR) accounting papers published in the four accounting journals. A graph of this age-adjusted average citation rate is presented in Exhibit 3 below.


To aid in the interpretation of the graph in Exhibit 3, the following notation is used. MAR papers cited in ACY journals are denoted MAR->ACY, while those cited in NON-ACY journals are denoted MAR->NON-ACY. Similarly, NMAR papers cited in ACY and NON-ACY journals are denoted NMAR->ACY and NMAR->NON-ACY, respectively. The results in Exhibit 3 show that the average citation rate for NMAR->ACY was 0.70 for 1992 papers, increased to 1.0 by 1994 and 1995, and then dropped gradually to 0.89 for 2000 papers. These average citation rates were far higher than similar rates for NMAR->NON-ACY, which were 0.38 for 1992 papers, peaked at 0.57 for 1995 papers, and then gradually declined to 0.08 for 2000.

In contrast to the above results, the age-adjusted citation rates for MAR->ACY and MAR->NON-ACY are much closer. The rate for MAR->ACY started at 0.41 for 1992 papers, increased to 0.54 for 1995 papers, and then declined gradually to 0.22 for year 2000 papers. For MAR->NON-ACY papers, the citation rate started at 0.44 for 1992 papers, climbed to 0.48 for 1994 papers, declined precipitously to 0.02 for 1998 papers, but then increased to 0.16 for 2000 papers. A direct comparison of the average citation rates of MAR->NON-ACY and NMAR->NON-ACY shows no significant differences, implying that MAR attracts the same degree of attention from non-accounting researchers as the other (non-managerial) areas of accounting do.

The results above demonstrate that prior citation studies that have relied only on citations from accounting journals (see, for example, Brown and Gardner 1985) may systematically undercount the overall citation rates of MAR papers by excluding NON-ACY journals. Since MAR typically accounts for only about 20 percent of the research published in the top four accounting journals, even if MAR held its own in terms of average citation rates, the frequency of citations in the ACY journals would be only about one quarter of the citations. The graph in Exhibit 3 shows that, seen from the perspective of NON-ACY journals, MAR research is as relevant (after adjustment for number of papers published and age) as research from NON-MAR areas of accounting. At the same time, the graph in Exhibit 3 suggests that the decline in the citations of ACY research by NON-ACY journals may be generally applicable to all accounting areas. However, this cannot be regarded as a matter of consolation for MAR researchers, since maintaining the relevance of our subdiscipline to related external disciplines should not depend on the continuing relevance of other accounting subdisciplines to their respective audiences.


Our analysis of the citation statistics of MAR articles leads to three conclusions. First, we find some support for Kinney's (2001) view that accounting researchers have core competencies in specific areas. Researchers publishing in NON-ACY journals recognize different aspects of MAR scholarship. The citation rates to MAR differ systematically across various subsets of the external journals, consistent with different attributes of MAR appealing to researchers in different external disciplines.

Second, we find no support for Zimmerman's (2001) argument that economics ought to be the dominant underlying discipline for MAR. Our results indicate that other disciplines besides economics have made equally useful contributions to MAR and have helped MAR to maintain links with related disciplines. Narrowing the focus of MAR to only papers using economics as the theoretical framework would likely result in a decreased relevance of MAR to a substantial community of scholars in other disciplines, without an increased likelihood that the slack will be taken up by researchers publishing in economics journals only. Thus, to the extent that the influence of MAR to outside scholars should be promoted, MAR should remain open to exploiting the intellectual frameworks offered by all disciplines.

Third, the time trend of MAR citations in NON-ACY journals shows a decrease in the rate of citations to MAR papers published from 1996 to 2000. Evidently, recent trends in MAR are not attracting the same level of attention from NON-ACY journals that earlier MAR papers did. This trend could reflect MAR researchers' lack of awareness of, or interest in, the areas of maximum interest to researchers from other disciplines. If so, then MAR may not be playing to the areas of greatest competitive advantage. However, the divergence may also be due to the possibility that the many of the most interesting issues in management accounting have been addressed. Thus, researchers may have had to move into other areas. If this were the case, then the evidence to date suggests that accounting expertise in these other areas are not yet fully appreciated by NON-ACY researchers.

Evidently, the initial paradigm shift in MAR toward agency theory/information economics school in the late 1970s and the subsequent paradigm shift introduced by Kaplan's (1983, 1984) call for increased focus on the actual problems faced by managers in the workplace may have both run their course. In the words of Peters (1997), MAR may be increasingly being "commoditized," with true innovation coming from small incremental improvements. As Schwartz and Ibaraki (2001) wryly note, in the context of hydrogeological research: "It is likely that the number of meaningful problems has shrunk." In any case, the findings from this study suggest that the observed trend of declining citation rates from NON-ACY journals may bear watching. Although this may be a temporary phenomenon, this paper may serve as an early warning signal of what could also be a more long-term trend.

Our study has two potential limitations. First, citation analysis may provide a rather incomplete picture of the relative contribution and influence made by MAR on other disciplines. This limitation of citation analysis is well known, so the results must be interpreted with that limitation in mind. Second, the study limited the MAR papers covered to those published in the top four accounting journals. Since new accounting journals have begun publishing in recent years, it is likely that papers of interest to scholars publishing in NON-ACY journals are also now published in these new accounting outlets. If so, then the decline in NON-ACY citations commented on above may be due to this effect. However, a check of the trend in ACY-affiliated authors publishing in NON-ACY journals (not presented in this study) did not indicate such a decline in the publication rate in NON-ACY journals compared to previous years. Hence, we discount this explanation as a likely reason for the observed decline in accounting citations in NON-ACY journals.
Publication Rate of Management Accounting Research (MAR) Relative
to Total Papers Published by the Top Four Accounting Journals

Panel A: All Accounting Research Papers

Journal (a)   1986  1987  1988  1989  1990  1991  1992   1993

AOS            29    34    41    38    34    41    41     38
JAE            11     7    13    16    31    14    19     12
JAR            36    23    23    22    28    30    24     20
TAR            42    42    39    40    48    45    44     53
   Total      118   106   116   116   141   130   128    123

Journal (a)   1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  Total

AOS            37    32    34    40    40    33    37    549
JAE            30    26    36    27    14    40    21    317
JAR            22    26    26    24    27    30    19    380
TAR            36    29    21    27    24    22    19    531
   Total      125   113   117   118   105   125    96  1,777

Panel B: Management Accounting Research Papers

Journal (a)   1986  1987  1988  1989  1990  1991  1992   1993

AOS             5     6    12     7    13    12     6      5
JAE             0     0     1     0     1     0     1      2
JAR             3     4     2     4     2     2     2      2
TAR             6     5     5     2     6     4     9     10
   Total       14    15    20    13    22    18    18     19

Journal (a)   1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  Total

AOS             9     9     8     8     4    21    16    141
JAE             2     4     3     7     4     2     0     27
JAR             0     9     0     3     3     3     2     41
TAR             7     3     4     3     2     2     4     72
   Total       18    25    15    21    13    28    22    281

Panel C: Relative Publication Rate of Management
Accounting Research Papers

             1986  1987  1988  1989  1990  1991  1992   1993

              12%   14%   17%   11%   16%   14%   14%    15%

             1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  Total

              14%   22%   13%   18%   12%   22%   23%    16%

(a) Variable definitions:
AOS = Accounting, Organization and Society;
JAE = Journal of Accounting and Economics;
JAR = Journal of Accounting Research; and
TAR = The Accounting Review.

Citation Rates in ACV and NON-ACY Journals to Management Accounting
Research (MAR) Published from 1986 to 2000 Based on Underlying
Discipline Used by the MAR Paper

                                 Number of Citations (a)

                                                NON-ACY Journals

                         Number                NON-ACY     External
Underlying Discipline    of MAR       ACY    Affiliated    Citations
of MAR Papers Papers               Journals    Authors        (b)

Panel A: Citation Rates
Economics                  134   287  (-5%)      154     308   (5%)
Organization Behavior       40    83% (11%)       27      64 (-12%)
Production/Operations       10    20% (23%)        4      12 (-24%)
Psychology                  21    28% (20%)       11      18 (-21%)
Sociology                   31    80%  (7%)       40      67  (-8%)
Strategic Management         9    37%  (7%)       24      31  (-8%)
Mix of Disciplines          36    77 (-12%)       48      96  (12%)
  Total                    281   612             308     596

                              Average Citations per MAR Paper

                                      NON-ACY Journals

                                                 Total      Mean
                                     NON-ACY   External    Age of
Underlying Discipline       ACY    Affiliated  Citations  MAR When
of MAR Papers Papers     Journals    Authors      (b)       Cited

Panel A: Citation Rates
Economics                  2.14       1.15       2.30        5.5
Organization Behavior      2.08       0.68       1.60        6.6
Production/Operations      2.00       0.40       1.20        6.9
Psychology                 1.33       0.52       0.86        5.6
Sociology                  2.58       1.29       2.16        5.6
Strategic Management       4.11       2.67       3.44        6.7
Mix of Disciplines         2.14       1.33       2.67        7.1

Panel B: Statistical Tests

B1: t-test for difference in average citations
per MAR papers between economics
and all other disciplines.

                                           NON-ACY Journals

                                        NON-ACY     Total External

                       ACY Journals      Authors     Citations (b)

Mean                   2.14 vs. 2.22  1.15 vs. 1.04  2.30 vs. 2.11
t-value                    -0.22          0.32           0.96
Probability                0.80           0.34           0.82

B2: Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel ANOVA statistics (based on ACV
versus NON-ACY journals).

     Phi Coefficient = 0.095

                       Row (DF = 6)     Column (DF = 1)

Test statistics            10.92            5.10
Probability                0.091            0.024

(a) Figures in parenthesis are the percentage deviations of
the actual cell frequencies from their expected frequencies,
i.e., (Actual Cell Frequency--Expected Cell
Frequency)/Expected Cell Frequency.

(b) Total external citation is the sum of citations made
by the NON-ACY affiliated authors and ACY affiliated
authors in NON-ACY journals.

Citation Rates in ACY and NON-ACY Journals to MAR
(Management Accounting Research) Published from
1986 to 2000 Based on the Topic in the MAR Paper

                                      Number of Citations (b)

                                                    NON-ACY Journals

                             Number                NON-ACY    External
Topic of                     of MAR      ACY      Affiliated  Citation
MAR Papers                   Papers    Journals    Authors    (b)

Panel A: Citation Rates
Cost Accounting/               56      91 (-15%)      66      121 (16%)
 Management Accounting
Management Control Systems    162     399   (6%)     168      345 (-6%)
Management Accounting,         44      79   (5%)      34       69 (-6%)
 Information, and Systems
Other Topics                   19      43 (-18%)      40       61 (19%)
  Total                       281     612            308      596

                            Average Citations per MAR Paper

                                        NON-ACY Journals

                                                    Total     Mean Age
                                       NON-ACY     External    of MAR
Topic of                      ACY     Affiliated  Citations     When
MAR Papers                  Journals   Authors       (b)       Cited

Panel A: Citation Rates
Cost Accounting/              1.63       1.18        2.16       5.7
 Management Accounting
Management Control Systems    2.46       1.04        2.13       6.0
Management Accounting,        1.80       0.77 *      1.57 *     6.3
 Information, and Systems
Other Topics                  2.26       2.11 *      3.21 *     6.1

Panel B: Statistics for Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel ANOVA test
(based on ACY versus NON-ACY journals) Phi Coefficient = 0.099

                         Row (DF=3)   Column (DF = 1)

Test statistics              11.74       1.94
Probability                   0.091      0.16

* Statistical test reported is the Waller-Duncan K-Ratio
test for the difference in multiple group means. The
groups comparison is row-wise (i.e., within each column).

(a) Figures in parenthesis are the percentage deviations
of the actual cell frequencies from their expected frequencies,
i.e., (Actual Cell Frequency--Expected Cell Frequency)/Expected
Cell Frequency.

(b) Total external citation is the sum of citations made by the
NON-ACY affiliated authors and ACY affiliated authors on NON-ACY

Citation Rates in ACY and NON-ACY Journals to MAR
(Management Accounting Research) Published from 1986
to 2000 Based on the Approach Used in the MAR Paper

                                         Number of Citations (b)

                                                  NON-ACY Journals

                           Number                 NON-ACY   External
Topic of                   of MAR      ACY      Affiliated  Citation
MAR Papers                 Papers    Journals    Authors        (b)

Panel A: Citation Rates
Analytic                     72     156 (-15%)     107      206  (15%)
Archival                     33      59  (-8%)      32       68   (9%)
Case/Field Study             33      53 (-12%)      39       66  (12%)
Empirical Work Using          1       1 (-34%)       2        2  (35%)
  Public Database
Laboratory Experiment        40      87  (17%)      24       60 (-17%)
Literature Review            19      49   (2%)      26       46  (-2%)
Normative                    17      28 (-26%)      36       47  (27%)
Survey                       57     158  (26%)      37       90 (-26%)
Multiple Research Methods     9      21  (30%)       5       11 (-30%)
  Total                     281     612            308      596

                            Average Citations per MAR Paper

                                        NON-ACY Journals

                                       NON-ACY    External   Mean Age
Topic of                      ACY     Affiliated  Citation    of MAR
MAR Papers                  Journals   Authors      (b)     When Cited

Panel A: Citation Rates
Analytic                      2.17       1.49       2.86       6.0
Archival                      1.79       0.97       2.06       4.9
Case/Field Study              1.61       1.18       2.00       5.7
Empirical Work Using          1.00       2.00       2.00       3.5
  Public Database
Laboratory Experiment         2.18       0.60       1.50       5.8
Literature Review             2.58       1.37       2.42       5.5
Normative                     1.65       2.12       2.76       6.8
Survey                        2.77       0.65       1.58       7.0
Multiple Research Methods     2.33       0.56       1.22       6.9

Panel B: Statistics for Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel ANOVA test
(based on ACY versus NON-ACY journals) Phi Coefficient = 0.183

                          Row (DF = 8)            Column (DF = 1)

Test statistics              40.69                   21.13
Probability                   0.001                   0.001

* Statistical test reported is the Waller-Duncan K-Ratio
test for the difference in multiple group means. The
groups comparison is row-wise (i.e., within each column).

(a) Figures in parenthesis are the percentage deviations
of the actual cell frequencies from their expected frequencies,
i.e., (Actual Cell Frequency--Expected Cell Frequency)/Expected
Cell Frequency.

(b) Total external citation is the sum of citations made by
the NON-ACY affiliated authors and ACY affiliated authors on
NON-ACY journals.

Taxonomy of Management Accounting Research (MAR)
by Shields (1997) and Its Adaptation for This Study

                                     Panel B: Taxonomy as Modified
Panel A: Shields (1997) Taxonomy     for This Study

Attribute 1: Discipline Underlying MAR Papers

   Economics                         Economics
   Organizational Behavior           Organizational Behavior
   Production/Operations Management  Production/Operations Management
   Psychology                        Psychology
   Sociology                         Sociology
   Strategic Management              Strategic Management
   Mix of Disciplines (a)            Mix of Disciplines

Attribute 2: Approach Used in MAR Papers

   Analytic                          Analytic
   Archival                          Archival
   Case/Field Study                  Case/Field Study
        --                           Empirical Work Using Public
                                       Database (b)
   Laboratory Experimentation        Laboratory Experiment
   Behavioral Simulation             Laboratory Experiment
   Literature Review                 Literature Review
        --                           Normative (b)
   Survey                            Survey
   Multiple Research Methods         Multiple Research Methods

Attribute 3: Topic of MAR Papers

A. Management Control Systems        Management Control Systems
   Incentives                        Management Control Systems
   Budgets or budgeting              Management Control Systems
   Performance measurement           Management Control Systems
   Transfer Pricing                  Management Control Systems
   Responsibility accounting         Management Control Systems
   International control             Management Control Systems
B. Cost Accounting                   Cost Accounting/Management
   Cost accounting overall           Cost Accounting/Management
   Cost allocation                   Cost Accounting/Management
   Activity-Based Costing (ABC)      Cost Accounting/Management
   Product costing                   Cost Accounting/Management
   Cost variances                    Cost Accounting/Management
C. Cost Management                   Cost Accounting/Management
   Quality                           Cost Accounting/Management
   Just in Time (JIT)                Cost Accounting/Management
   Use of costs for decision         Cost Accounting/Management
     making                            Accounting
   Benchmarking                      Cost Accounting/Management
   History                           Cost Accounting/Management
D. Cost Drivers                      Cost Accounting/Management
E. Management Accounting,            Management Accounting,
   Information, and Systems            Information, and Systems
F. Research Methods and Theories     Other Topics
G. Capital Budgeting and             Other Topics
   Investment Decisions

(a) Shields (1997) identifies a variety of combinations
of disciplines, such as Economics and Organizational
Behavior, Economics and Psychology. These are not
tabulated here.

(b) Shields (1997) does not use this category.

(c) Shields (1997) also identifies a variety of
combinations of methods, such as Analytic and Archival,
Survey and Case/Field Study. We exclude such combinations
from Exhibit 1.

Trend Analysis of the Relevance of MAR (Management Accounting Research)
to Other Disciplines

Specific disciplines under each broad category:

NON-ACY Business      Economics
    Journals          Journals

Business (General)    Economics
Business Ethics
Business History
Decision Science
Information Systems
International Business
Management Science
Operations Management
Operations Research
Production Management

Other Social Sciences
      Journals             Other Disciplines Journals

Communications Research    Industrial Engineering
Political Science          Interdisciplinary journals
Psychology                 Library
Public Administration      Medical
Sociology                  Science (Physical)
Education                  Statistics
Legal Studies

(1) Zimmerman's (2001) apparent view that MAR must necessarily follow a single-discipline view (economics or psychology/sociology) is inconsistent with Merchant et al. (2003), who argue that MAR can benefit substantially from a multidisciplinary approach in examining such issues as organizational incentive systems.

(2) To avoid confusion, the acronym ACY is used to refer to all accounting journals covered by the Web of Science (and related Social Science Citations Index and Social Science Citations Index Journal Citation Reports). As of December 2001 when we collected the data for this study, these accounting journals were Accounting, Organizations and Society; Journal of Accounting and Economics; Journal of Accounting Research; The Accounting Review; Abacus; Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory; and Journal of Accounting and Public Policy. Tax journals were classified under Other Social Sciences as explained later in the paper. The NON-ACY journals are too numerous to list here, but their fields of study are discussed later in the paper.

(3) Co-citation analysis (Bricker 1989; Locke and Perera 2001) is also related to the approach in this paper. However, co-citation analysis also maps the networks among different parts of a discipline along with the evolution of ideas in that discipline.

(4) According to the 1997-2001 Journal Citation Reports, the impact factors (averaged over the five years) for Accounting, Organizations and Society; Journal of Accounting and Economics; Journal of Accounting Research; and The Accounting Review are 1.0, 1.03, 1.04, and 1.01 respectively. The average impact factor for another accounting journal covered in the Journal Citation Reports (Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory) was much lower at 0.354. No other accounting journals were covered in the ISI publication as of the date of this research.

(5) The version of the Web of Science that we used combines citations from all three ISI indexes, namely, the Science Citations Index, the Social Science Citations Index, and the Humanities Citations Index.

(6) "Disciplines" refers to the underlying discipline upon which the MAR study was based. "Topics" refers to the a broad classification of subject matter such as Cost and Management Accounting, Management Information Systems, and so forth. "Settings" refers to the background of the study, specifically whether a single industry such as Manufacturing was the backdrop of the study. "Methods" refers to the research method used, including whether the study used analytical, normative, laboratory experimental, or similar designs. "Results" refers to the primary findings from the MAR study.

(7) The modifications were necessary to obtain sufficient sample sizes for the statistical analyses presented later. The categories of "Empirical Work Using Public Database" and "Normative" under the Approach attribute were not part of Shields' (1997) classification. We added the former to differentiate between "Archival" and the sorts of research frequently undertaken in financial accounting using readily available public databases. We use the latter to identify papers that develop solutions to management accounting practice.

(8) See Exhibit 1 for the definitions of terms such as "Other Topics" as operationalized in this paper. The departures from Shields' (1997) taxonomy were necessary to obtain a sufficient number of observations in the cells for the ANOVA tests.

(9) The same set of social science journals is covered by the online SSCI-JCR as by the online Web of Science. The Web of Science also includes journals covered in the Science Citations Index and the Humanities Citations Index. No citations to the four accounting journals were found in the latter two indexes for 1997 to 2001, so their omission from this comparative analysis has no material effect on the results.


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Yaw M. Mensah

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Nen-Chen Richard Hwang

California State University, San Marcos

Donghui Wu

Lingnan University, Hong Kong
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Author:Mensah, Yaw M.; Hwang, Nen-Chen Richard; Wu, Donghui
Publication:Journal of Management Accounting Research
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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