In contemporary highly technical and complex business environment, today’s and tomorrow’s accountants and accounting leaders have to be proficient in all communication skills. That’s why teaching the writing skills is integrated into accounting curriculum. Students are assigned to write different formal essays, term papers, research papers, reports. In this way, they learn to analyze and synthesize while thinking about accounting topics in the process of organizing and structuring their thoughts to produce a logical and sequential flow of ideas.
Students who take senior-level accounting courses usually have to write complex research papers in some areas of accounting theory. When writing traditional research papers in accounting, students have to prepare a well-documented manuscript on a specific topic or thesis. These assignments are rather challenging and require doing an independent research that includes a lot of stages such as identifying a problem, gathering data, reflection, implementing changes, monitoring, etc. Such assignments can also include applying the theories to some real-world situations.
In this article, you will find a complete accounting research paper writing guide that will help you to cope with any difficulties that you may encounter at every stage of the writing process.
An accounting research paper is a complicated assignment that cannot be treated as just the sum of your sources or a review of the existing literature on your topic. In your research paper, you have to analyze the perspective or argue your point. No matter what type of research paper you have to write, you need to present your own thinking that should be backed by other’s ideas and relevant information from credible sources.
There are two types of research papers: analytical and argumentative. In an analytical research paper, you have to inform your readers about different opinions on your topic. In an argumentative research paper, you should take your side on an issue and persuade your readers to support your position.
Research papers are very formal in style and require that you should take a more scientific approach to the material. They commonly suggest having a hypothesis on a certain topic and your task is to prove or reject this hypothesis with the help of outside sources.
All research papers have to achieve specific goals:
There is not a single template for writing a research paper so the process is determined by practice, organization, and experience and begins with your properly understanding your assignment or identifying an interesting topic. Accounting research papers may vary in page lengths and guidelines. To become an experienced writer and researcher, you should pay attention to the genre of your research paper, topic, and audience. Besides, you should work on improving your research skills, and become experienced in outlining, drafting, and revising.
The most common stages of writing a research paper in accounting are:
Commonly, the instructor provides a list of research paper topics from which you may choose so there is no stress of having to decide upon a topic of your own. But very often, your instructor may simply hand out an assignment sheet that covers general requirements for the research paper, leaving the choice of topics to the students.
Of course, research paper topics should be relevant to some aspect of the course so making the right choice can be rather challenging for inexperienced researchers. That’s why you should start thinking about the topic for your accounting research paper early and plan your work beforehand. One of the most successful techniques is brainstorming – you should write down all the ideas that might have come to your mind during the day. This technique is especially helpful when you have some ideas but need to narrow your topic. But you should keep in mind that the initial topic that you come up with may be changed in the process of doing the research.
Have a look at some accounting research topics ideas that may be useful for first-time researchers.
Every research paper poses unique challenges. Some research papers may require extensive library research, while other papers can be based on surveys, field research, original experiments, and interviews. Although different topics may require different approaches, there are several general strategies that you can use to work more productively.
The purpose of organizing a research paper is to give your readers an opportunity to read your paper selectively, depending on what type of information they are looking for. Your paper should have a clear structure and include several parts with headings and subheadings. Before you start writing the paper parts, you should make your thesis statement or statement of purpose (or write your hypothesis) that will help you stay focused and organize your material in a logical manner. You should plan your writing and make an outline that will help you organize information and ensure that the structure of your paper is complete and logical.
While research papers in different academic disciplines may vary in style and format, most research papers have a similar structure and are usually divided into parts that follow the same logical flow. Your accounting research paper should include the following parts.
The title should be concise and specific and it should show what problem is discussed in a paper, using specific keywords.
The abstract helps readers to quickly get an idea about the content of a research paper. It should be very brief – about 200 words and it might be rather challenging to write. You’d better write the abstract after you have finished your research paper because it is actually a summary of the entire research paper. Your abstract should provide a quick synopsis of the content and introduce the problem to be investigated, objectives of the study, methods of research, and statements about the results and findings.
The introduction should introduce the broad overall topic and give basic background information. Then, you should narrow down to the specific research question, explain the key terms and outline what your research paper will cover. The introduction provides the focus and the purpose for the rest of the paper.
The literature review describes existing important research on the topic and relates it specifically to the research problem that is addressed in the paper. In this part of the research paper, you should examine the major accounting theories related to your topic. You should review all relevant findings from credible sources, for example, journal articles and academic books.
In the methods section, you should describe the context of the study, provide specific details about the study design, and outline methodology that you used to complete the study, including analysis methods.
In the results/findings section, you should present the results of the analysis in a clear and logical sequence. You should report the key findings related to the research question and provide enough details so that your readers would be able to replicate your study. You can include charts, table, graphs, and pictures. If you have a lot of information that supports your analysis but which is not essential for the explanation of your findings, you should place it in the appendix.
The discussion/analysis section should present interpretation of the main findings of the study and the implications of the results. You should also mention the limitations of your study. In this section, you can discuss how your findings relate to the previous research that you have mentioned in the literature review.
In the conclusion, you have to sum up your findings and offer perspectives for future research.
The references/bibliography section should present an alphabetical list of all sources that you have used for obtaining information. All your sources should be cited according to the requirements of the citation style specified by your instructor. The format of the references is the same as the format and style that you use in your research paper.
The format of an accounting research paper outlined above is standard but it is always better to ask your instructor about his/her expectations.
When writing your first draft, you shouldn’t be too much concerned about the formal issues. There is no need to worry about your grammar or spelling because this draft will be revised later. You should focus on the content and write all your ideas, following your outline. Besides, you have to expand your ideas with the data from your notes. You should write with a purpose and consider your thesis statement or research question to be a compass that helps you stay on the track and follow the direction.
When you have completed drafting your accounting research paper, you should read it and revise it. You’d better take a break for a couple of days. It will give you enough time to think about the topic of your research and you will reread your piece of writing with fresh eyes. You need to pay particular attention to the general organization of your paper and the content and you are sure to find lots of different ways how to improve your work.
Revising and editing your accounting research paper may require a lot of readings and each of them can have its own specific goal. You can also ask someone else, for example, your family member, a friend or a classmate to look through your accounting research paper and help you find any mistakes. You can also hire a copy editor to read your paper.
The final stage of the accounting research paper writing process is proofreading your final draft for technical errors. You should reread your final draft carefully in order to find and fix any spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes or typos that you might have overlooked in the previous revisions.
Revising and editing are different processes and require different approaches and actions.
When revising, you can:
When editing, you should take care of the general appearance of your text. You should:
Make sure you don’t mix the notions and do editing, then revising.