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Frequently asked questions of a new editor.


Human nature leads us all to be curious about change. As the incoming editor of Accounting Horizons, this natural curiosity results in constituents asking numerous questions regarding the changes that may be in store for the journal. While past editors often offered plans or visions of the future in their first issue, I decided to use this opportunity to publicly answer several of the most frequently asked questions.


Folks asking this question may be wondering if some bold new vision or a significant departure from the past is likely. Based on the feedback I have heard, my charge is to continue and enhance the great legacy built by past editors, associate editors, authors, and reviewers. The mission of Accounting Horizons has always been to provide a bridge between academia and practice. It is the Association-wide journal that seeks to communicate simultaneously with researchers, educators, practitioners, regulators, and students of accounting. My plan is to follow this mission, not to change it.

Upon hearing this answer, folks generally have some follow-up questions.

What Sorts of Articles Do You Want to Publish?

The main criteria for publication in Accounting Horizons are:

* make an incremental contribution to accounting thought (broadly defined) and

* contain some bridge between academe and practice (broadly defined).

To meet the first hurdle, the paper must provide insights about accounting or for accountants that go beyond the existing academic and practitioner literatures. These insights may be provided via commentary, case analysis of a few companies, discovery research using larger samples or mathematical proofs, or analysis and synthesis of prior discovery research.

To meet the second hurdle, the submission must have a more explicit link to accounting practice than typically found in premier discovery journals such as The Accounting Review. "Practice" in this case includes all of the topics found in the editorial policy, such as financial reporting, assurance services, managerial accounting, and taxation.

In recent years, editors have struggled with how discovery research fits within Accounting Horizons. The discovery portion of an article in Accounting Horizons (if any) should be presented as bringing evidence to bear on the practice issue at hand. In other words, the emphasis is placed on how the evidence addresses the practical issue rather than on the scientific method used in preparing the evidence. However, any methods used must be appropriate, and any statistical analyses as well as interpretations of the results must meet the same level of quality as in the premier discovery journals. The text must be written in a manner that allows readers without formal research training to understand the manuscript's data and results. The implementation of the methods should be transparent enough to allow other researchers to replicate the results. In summary, empirical tools shall be rigorously applied, but the write-up of the results should be aimed at a broader audience than scholars who specialize in the specific area.

Rigor is also required in commentaries. At first, these two words may seem mutually exclusive. However, for a commentary to make a significant contribution to the literature, it needs to:

* clearly articulate the accounting issue at hand,

* develop a logical and sensible framework or approach for considering the issue, and

* apply the framework in conjunction with the author's experiences or observations of fact to develop insights that logically follow from the paper's analysis.

The "rigor" in a commentary comes from careful and thorough attention to these three tasks. An unsolicited submission that simply states an opinion on an issue similar to what would be found in the op-ed section of a periodical will generally fail the rigor test. (1)

What Can I Expect as the Author of a Submitted Manuscript?

You should expect to get thoughtful, valuable, and timely feedback on your research. As editor of an Association-wide journal, I serve the members of the AAA. In addition to selecting interesting articles for publication, my editorial team and our expert reviewers serve the membership by providing comments that assist authors in improving not only the submitted paper, but also their research skills in general. As one of many possible examples, I observed Editor Linda Bamber's application of this approach at The Accounting Review. Judging by the increases in the quality and quantity of submissions to TAR, authors appear to value this type of feedback. While precisely mimicking the process of any prior editor is impossible, my editorial team is committed to a review process that adds value to each submission, even in those cases where the paper is ultimately rejected. The goal is lofty and, at times, difficult to meet, but that is our goal.

Turning to the specifics of how we process papers, I skim all submissions initially. I handle many of them myself and assign the rest to my associate editors. If we see a potentially serious problem in the submission, we will sometimes communicate with the authors to see if the issue can be resolved before beginning the review process. By doing so, we have reduced the number of rounds in the review process for several papers. Once papers enter the review process, we try to get feedback to the authors within two months, although delays in various stages of the process sometimes result in turnarounds of up to three months. Turnaround time longer than 90 days should be extremely unlikely, although I regret that a few articles fell between the cracks during the editorial transition and languished for longer than three months.

The reviewers we select are experts in their field who generously give of their time to serve the mission of the journal. We encourage reviewers to provide clear statements about the paper's strengths and weaknesses. The nature of the reviewer's task leads to a focus on flaws rather than the portions of the submission that are well done. Even so, I am continually impressed by the ability of our reviewers to provide the type of feedback that makes the submission better.


My answer to this question differs significantly from my predecessors. We have moved to an electronic submission process. Unfortunately, recent issues of Horizons have contained conflicting instructions for authors. The front and back matter of this issue should clear up the confusion. Without repeating all of those instructions, papers are to be submitted as attachments to emails sent to The submission fee should be paid with a credit card using the AAA's website. Anyone having difficulty with either of these processes should contact me at the numbers provided in the front of this issue. The electronic processing allows us to cut a week or more off of the turnaround time, while saving the AAA postage costs. So far, the system is working well and has experienced only a few glitches.

Admittedly, the instructions for authors in the back of this issue are long and detailed. Consistent with my goal of making the submission process less onerous for authors, let me prioritize the requirements. Compliance with the electronic submission instructions (e.g., separate file for the cover page, no author identification in the manuscript, attach a copy of any survey or experimental instrument, etc.) is a high priority. The detailed formatting instructions must be followed in the final accepted draft, but they are not absolutely essential for initial submissions. For example, I slightly prefer footnotes to be at the bottom of the page in early submissions, but they must appear at the end of the text in the final version that I send to the Publications Department. The precise format of section headings and references are unimportant early on, but a submission that lacks section headings or omits some or all references is not ready for the review process. The key is that an initial submission should demonstrate professionalism and competence, because you may not get a second chance.

This advice usually generates an important follow-up question.


Many of my answers to this question are paper-specific. However, three related pieces of advice apply to all papers. First, be sure that the initial submission includes all of the ingredients necessary to allow the editors and reviewers to fully appreciate the work. Two critical ingredients are effective organization and good exposition. As McCloskey (1985, 188) states in a treatise on how to write scholarly articles, "Bad writing does not get read." If the readership of Horizons cannot comprehend the insights in an article, then the article cannot meet the "incremental contribution" criterion. The submission needs to state clearly in the introduction what accounting issue is being explored, why it is an interesting issue, and what the authors contribute to accounting thought on this issue.

Second, I also encourage authors to adopt a "reader focus" in their writing, which again is best described in McCloskey (1985, 191) as a "rule of clearness"--do not write so that your reader can understand; write so that your reader cannot possibly misunderstand. This puts an added burden on authors, but they are the ones who benefit the most from clarity. A badly written article reflects poorly on the author; it will not garner many citations; and it will not be used in instructing future generations of accountants and accounting scholars (except possibly as a case study of what not to do). While some may view their writing style to be an inalienable right or a personal characteristic or simply a matter of taste, authors need to understand that editor and reviewer suggestions regarding exposition are intended to maximize the paper's ultimate contribution to the literature.

The third piece of advice is to expose your manuscript for comments prior to submission. You can present it in a workshop, an informal "brown bag" seminar, or at a professional meeting. (2) Or you can use your networking contacts; you agree to read a colleague's early drafts if he/she will do the same for you. The valuable feedback from prior exposure generally improves the quality of the submission, which enhances its prospects for publication and can reduce the number of review rounds. Some editors go so far as to explicitly ask authors to refrain from submitting papers that have not been exposed. Prior exposure is not a requirement at Horizons, but I highly recommend it.


To the best of my knowledge, the proposal to merge Accounting Horizons and Issues in Accounting Education into a new journal is dead. That does not mean that nothing will change. The AAA Executive Committee and Publications Committee originally proposed the merger because of their desire to serve the interests of the AAA membership. To their credit, these individuals listened when the membership expressed concerns about the proposal, and the Executive Committee responded last summer by removing the proposal from consideration. Instead of that proposal, these committees are collecting feedback from the membership regarding the journals, and this feedback will hopefully lead to improvements in all three Association-wide journals.

While the proposal generated uncertainty and concern, it also provided what I consider to be a "silver lining." Numerous people stepped forward to express support for the mission of Horizons, either privately to me or more publicly to the governing committees. The outpouring of support--not for me, but for the hard work of those who came before me--led to the realization of how fortunate I am to be selected to continue the legacy. To all of those supporters, I offer my heartfelt "Thank you."


When this question arises, I realize that the other party to the conversation has grown tired of me pontificating about the journal. At this point, I generally conclude the dialogue by encouraging the potential author to submit any of his/her papers that meet the guidelines explained above and in the editorial policy. I believe we have a good review process in place that adds value to manuscripts that fit within our mission. With the continued cooperation of authors, reviewers, and associate editors, Accounting Horizons can build on its existing reputation as the preeminent bridge journal linking accounting academe and accounting practice.

If you have additional questions about Accounting Horizons that I failed to cover, you are welcome to send those to

I thank my team of associate editors and Marlys Lipe for their valuable input.

(1) Consistent with the editorial policy and past practice, my editorial team will, from time to time, solicit leaders in academe or practice to write commentaries. However, our solicitation process includes several steps to ensure that the commissioned commentary attains the level of rigor required for unsolicited pieces.

(2) You should not present at a meeting where the full text of the paper will be published in a Proceedings.


McCloskey, D. 1985. Economical writing. Economic Inquiry 23 (2): 187-222.

Robert C. Lipe, Editor

Corresponding author: Robert C. Lipe

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Author:Lipe, Robert C.
Publication:Accounting Horizons
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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