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First published online December 16, 2020

Shades of theory: A topic modelling of ways of theorizing in accounting history research

Abstract

The article aims to explore ways of theorizing in accounting history research. The article draws on findings originating from a semi-automated text analysis by means of topic modelling of 1,300 accounting history papers published between 1996 and 2015 across six journals most relevant to the discipline. Findings show the presence of a whole range of ways of theorizing at different levels of abstraction (from narrating to conceptualizing to theorizing settings to grand theorizing). Different ways of theorizing tend to be associated not only with specific research objects but also with specific journal types. Overall, both narrating and grand theorizing are relatively decreasing in favour of mid-range theorizing approaches, which seem to be on the rise.

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Appendices

Appendix 1. 30 highest ranked terms for each topic. Topic order has no importance.
Topic0123456789
Professional bodiesCost accounting conceptsShareholdersAuditingTaxationAccounting firmsCritics of capitalismGovernance and accountabilityNarratingAnalysing documents
30 most important words per topicaccountantscostcompanyaudittaxfirmscapitalgovernmentworkcommittee
professionalmanagementcompaniesauditorsincomefirmcapitalistpublicbecauseboard
professioncostsshareholdersauditingtaxationworkproductionaccountingcasemembers
membersaccountingcapitalauditorrevenueaccountinglabourstatepaperreport
accountancycostingsharesprofessiontaxesblackcapitalismfinancialfactmeeting
institutesystemdirectorsfinancialgovernmentpeopleprofitpoliticalmeansact
accountantproductionstockpublicprofitsprofessionaccountingbudgetevidencegovernment
publiccontrolrailwaylaweconomicprofessionalmarxlocalquestioncouncil
charteredindustrysharefraudstatebecausesocialprivatenaturejune
bodieslabourfinancialaccountingnationalstaffbryergovernmentssetmarch
societycompanyprofitslegalwarclientscenturyreformimportantpresident
 associationworkerscentauditsstampbigbecausereformstermsjuly
 membershipworkdividendsactactemploymentaccountsnationalbusinesssupport
 icaewstandardinvestorsindependencepoliticalpartnermentalitycentralprobleminterests
 bodyindustrialdividendprofessionallawaccountantstheorypracticesresultbill
 councillaboraccountscorporatenavajoexperiencesmodernsystemlargeproposed
 statebusinessbalancecompaniesdutyexperiencevalueaccountabilityextentminutes
 professionsfactorylimitedinternaltaxpayerspartnerseconomicpowergenerallyletter
 associationsmanufacturingmarketcompanypolicyinterviewsreturnfundsfollowingapril
 accountingpriceinvestmentliabilitystatescareerrateministrymakingmember
 practicescientificvaluefirmsfederalworkingfarmersaccrualinterestcommittees
 statusinformationprofitsectransferoralmarketresourcespeopleseptember
 practitionerstechniquesbritishreportcommissionersstudyevidencecanadaimportancefebruary
 educationsystemsinformationstatementsincreasedzealandsurplusfinancecertainaugust
 closuremethodsassetscaseratesbusinessbusinesspolicysourcechairman
 occupationalmanagersannualcourtpublicaccountancytradeservicesdifficultcommission
 australiawartablecasesincreasepubliccapitalistsprivatizationattentionnovember
 servicespricescenturypracticestockinterviewmarx’sreportssubjectlaw
 examinationmanagerialpaidstatetaxpayermajorworkersinstitutionalconcernedissue
 societiesbritishshareholderrulesstoneeducationclassfundcommonpolicy
Topic10111213141516171819
 ChinaFinancial accounting conceptsMilitaryEducation and healthcareInsuranceMicrohistories of accountantsGenderTradeCounternarrativesReligion
30 most important words per topicchineseaccountingwarhospitalbanksaccountantswomentradeaccountingaccounting
accountingfinancialarmyhospitalsbankpublicaccountinggoodshistoryreligious
chinaincomemilitarypoorfinancialedinburghfemaleaccountingsocialchurch
bookkeepingassetsaccountinghealthbankingscottishhouseholdhbchistoricalstate
westerncostgovernmentaccountabilityinsurancelondonworkstoreresearchaccountability
writingvaluepublicsocialmarketscotlandfamilybusinesseconomicpower
systemdepreciationofficemedicalcreditsocialmendepartmentpowercentury
methodbalancebritishpubliclifeaccountanthomecanalhistoriansancient
culturalstatementstreasuryreportindustrysaemaleinformationcriticalsystem
 foreignreportingsystemirishsavingsbankruptcyslavescostsdiscourseislamic
 methodsstatementparliamentannualsocietiesstudygenderinventoryworkcommunity
 imagesheetaccountsreliefbuildingaccountancyslaveretailanalysispractices
 moderncapitalfinancialfinancialcentcenturywomannetworkpoliticalking
 businesscurrentcivilreportsinvestmentclassdomesticcompanyhumansociety
 stereotypevaluationstatevoluntaryfinancetablelifelettertraditionalsacred
 socialassetcenturycarebusinesscentplantationcosttheoryexchequer
 evolutionprofitexpenditureirelandloansglasgowwomen’spostsmillercontrol
 traditionalnetcontrollocalmarketsfounderschildrenoperationspaperactivities
 double-entryaccountsefficiencygovernmentcapitalprofessionalsocialshipsocietygod
 economictheoryofficerscharityinstitutionsmembersworkerscanadaformincome
 developmentcostsdepartmenthousefundsenglandcenturysalessenseadministration
 dynastystandardssupplyservicescompaniescharteredfarmuncertaintyworldengland
 economyinformationnavynhsinterestbrownrecordstelegrapheventseconomic
 enterprisesmethodserviceeducationassetswilliamlabournantesnarrativemoney
 systemsprinciplespoliticalfundinggrowthimmigrantsrecordmarketfoucaultland
 charactersliabilitiesspendingserviceaustralianwalkercensustermsunderstandingroyal
 cultureeconomicreformscommissionaustraliaiaagchildtreatycontextmedieval
 cinemagoodwillbritaincommunitygovernmentstatusslaverytradingpracticelord
 negativefuturesecretarycenturymutualnineteenthindividualshipspracticesmain
 moneypricerequiredcharitiesfirmscitybookkeeperspostmeaningwealth
Topic20212223242526272829
Accounting standardsContext-based explanationsProfession and the StateAnalysing accountsItaly, Spain and FranceStatistical modellingFinancial accounting treatisesCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR)British empire and colonialismExplaining the literature
30 most important words per topicaccountingaccountingbritishaccountsfrenchresearchbookkeepingcorporatelandaccounting
internationalmanagementaccountingaccountfrancedatamerchantsenvironmentalmaorihistory
standardscontrolcolonialaccountingaccountingtableaccountsdisclosureindigenousresearch
germanchangegovernmentbooksitalianstudiescenturyannualgovernmentjournals
financialsystemafricarecordsspainresultsbooksreportaccountinguniversity
countriesdevelopmentindiabookspanishanalysisentryrailroadcolonialjournal
companiespracticeslocalcashtobaccovariablesbusinessreportspeoplesarticles
japaneconomicsouthrecordedroyalfirmscommerceinformationnativeauthors
japanesesystemsafricantransactionsproductioninformationbooksocialaboriginalpublished
lawprocessaccaledgeritalyvariableaccountingcompaniesindianhistorical
germanyinformationstatebalancestateperformancedouble-entryreportinggreekliterature
nationalsocialeconomicsystemmethodstudymerchantdisclosuressolstudies
firmschangescoloniesrecordparisbudgetingaccountrailroadspeoplestudy
europeanimportantindianamountcenturysampleschoolpublicstateacademic
economicstudycolonypaidlestheoryledgercompanypopulationhistorians
worldinstitutionalpoliticalreceiptseconomicstatisticaldoublelegitimacypoliticalpapers
regulationstructureimperialpaymentsaccountsempiricalportuguesefinancialeconomicbusiness
businessanalysisindependencegoodscontrolmcscommercialindustryeuropeaninternational
foreignbasedaccountancycenturysystemevidencetradecorporationslandsdevelopment
developmentfinancialempirereceivedqualityeffectspaciolimediazealandreview
consolidatedcontextraceentriesfactoryeliteentriescorporationpowerissue
iascperformanceafricanscreditrealesuncertaintyportugalstockfijischolars
systemorganizationalbritainexpensesmonopolysizejournalissuestechniquescontributions
accountsprocessescountryitemscomptabilitmodelyameystudyrelationscarnegie
principleslevelcountriestabledecreepositivetexticcaccountabilityissues
rulesenvironmenttrainingevidencemainmanagementdutchstockholderssocialpublication
statementsresearchforeignpaymentrtftesttreatiseyorkindianspublications
codespecificracialincludedcaseeffectsystemimageneuresearchers
ifrspracticekenyamoneyconsideredliteraturesummaamericancommunityeducation
articleorganizationsdevelopmententrytreasurypaperspublishedprovidedwesternarticle
Appendix 2. Three main articles per topic.
TopicMost coded articles per topicTopic composition (%)
Author(s)TitleJournalYear
0Professional bodiesParkerNaming and branding: Accountants and accountancy bodies in the British Empire and Commonwealth, 1853-2003AH200558.2
Birkett, EvansControl of accounting education within Australian universities and technical colleges 1944–1951: A uni-dimensional consideration of professionalismABFH200555.6
Carnegie, ParkerAccountants and Empire: The case of co-membership of Australian and British accountancy bodies, 1885 to 1914ABFH199954.1
1Cost accounting conceptsVent, MilneCost accounting practices at precious metal mines: A comparative study, 1869–1905AH199762.8
Mclean, TysonStandard costs, standard costing and the introduction of scientific management and new technology into the post-Second World War Sunderland shipbuilding industryABFH200658.5
YoshikawaCost accounting standard and cost accounting systems in Japan. Lessons from the past recovering lost traditionsABFH200157.4
2Share and shareholdersPittsDid dividends dictate depreciation in British coal companies 1864 - 1914?AH199868.1
PittsVictorian share-pricing–a problem in thin tradingABFH199863.2
JonesWas the nineteenth-century Denbighshire coalfield a worthwhile investment? An analysis of the investors and their returnsABFH201063.0
3AuditingBaker, PrenticeThe origins of auditor liability to third parties under United States common lawAH200861.4
YoungDefining auditors’ responsibilitiesAHJ199759.6
HolmCivil and common law influences on the Danish auditor’s responsibilities in relation to fraudAHR201457.1
4TaxationTreischTaxable treatment of the subsistence level of income in German Natural LawABFH200559.2
  GirouxFinancing the American Civil War: Developing new tax sourcesAH201256.9
  Barney, FlesherA study of the impact of special interest groups on major tax reform: Agriculture and the 1913 Income Tax LawAHJ200852.9
5Accounting firmsWootton, Wolk, NormandAn historical perspective on mergers and acquisitions by major US accounting firmsAH200359.1
HollingsworthExamining Frank Adair Jr. as an African American CPA pioneer: A historical noteAHJ201255.5
Baskerville, HayThe impact of globalization on professional accounting firms: Evidence from New ZealandAH201053.9
6Critics of capitalismBryerThe roots of modern capitalism: A Marxist accounting history of the origins and consequences of capitalist landlords in England.AHJ200464.9
BryerThe history of accounting and the transition to capitalism in England. Part one: theoryAOS200063.1
BryerAmericanism and financial accounting theory – Part 1: Was America born capitalist?CPA201257.0
7Governance and accountabilityMiley, ReadAfter the quake: The complex dance of local government, national government and accountingAH201355.9
Yamamoto, NoguchiDifferent scenarios for accounting reform in non-Anglophone contexts: The case of Japanese local governments since the 1990sAH201348.6
Senarath YapaIn whose interest? An examination of public sector governance in Brunei DarussalamCPA201448.4
8NarratingFunnellEvidence, Myths and Informed Debate in Accounting History: A Response to Arnold and McCartneyCPA200747.2
RadcliffeIt’s oysters, dear! Professor Carnegie’s prescription and the seeming fate of accounting history in the United StatesAHJ200644.8
Mattessich‘Forensic’ accounting in Spanish belles-lettres of the nineteenth centuryAAAJ200041.1
9Analysing documentsNokeAdvising on the Act: The UK Companies Act Consultative Committee and Accountancy Advisory Committee 1948–72AH200754.5
NoguchiCorporatism and unavoidable imperatives: Recommendations on accounting priciples and the ICAEW memorandum to the Cohen committeeAHJ200452.9
KeenanBetween anarchy and authority: The New Zealand Society of Accountants’ management of crisis, 1989-1993AH200050.5
10ChinaLu, AikenOrigins and evolution of Chinese writing systems and preliminary counting relationshipsAH200468.2
Ji, LuThe evolution of bookkeeping methods in China: A Darwinist analysis of developments during the twentieth-centuryAH201359.4
LinChinese bookkeeping systems: A study of accounting adaptation and changeABFH200354.3
11Financial accounting conceptsSchultz, JohnsonIncome tax allocation: The continuing controversy in historical perspectiveAHJ199869.7
NurnbergObjectives of financial reporting, aboriginal cost, and pooling of interests accountingAHJ201268.9
NurnbergConceptual nature of the Corporate Income TaxAHJ200966.9
12MilitaryFunnellThe ‘Proper Trust of Liberty’: Economical reform, the English constitution and the protections of accounting during the American War of IndependenceAH200859.9
FunnellOn his majesty’s secret service: Accounting for the secret service in a time of national peril 1782-1806AHJ201058.4
FunnellSocial reform, military accounting and the pursuit of economy during the liberal apotheosis, 1906–1912AHR201157.9
13Education and healthcareFowlerFinancing, accounting and accountability in colonial New Zealand: The case of the Nelson School Society (1842-52)AH201051.8
Robbins, LapsleyIrish voluntary hospitals: An examination of a theory of voluntary failureABFH200851.4
Fowler, CorderyFrom community to public ownership: A tale of changing accountabilitiesAAAJ201547.5
14InsuranceVan Der EngConsumer credit in Australia during the twentieth centuryABFH200871.2
KeneleyThe evolution of the Australian life insurance industryABFH200170.4
Thomson, AbbottThe life and death of the Australian permanent building societiesABFH199867.6
15Microhistories of accountantsLeeBritish public accountants in America: A historical study of social mobility and fluidity associated with élite immigrationAAAJ200970.6
LeePaul and Mackersy, accountants, 1818–34: Public accountancy in the early nineteenth centuryAHR201169.7
LeeA social network analysis of the founders of institutionalized public accountancyAHJ200069.0
16GenderWalkerIdentifying the woman behind the ‘railed-in desk’: The proto feminisation of bookkeeping in BritainAAAJ200350.9
VirtanenRevealing financial accounting in Finland under five historical themesAH200948.5
RobertsWomen in accounting occupations in the 1880 US CensusAHR201347.1
17TradeSpraakmanManagement accounting at the historical Hudson’s Bay Company: A comparison to the 20th century practicesAHJ199958.6
McWatters, LemarchandAccounting for triangular tradeABFH200956.0
Roy, SpraakmanTransaction cost economics and nineteenth century fur trade accounting: relevance of a contemporary theoryAH199654.9
18CounternarrativesKimWhose voice is it anyway? Rethinking the oral history method in accounting research on race, ethnicity and genderCPA200870.0
FunnellThe narrative and its place in the new accounting history: The rise of the counternarrativeAAAJ199866.3
FunnellPreserving history in accounting: seeking common ground between ‘new’ and ‘old’ accounting historyAAAJ199661.0
19ReligionFunnellAncestors of governmentality: Accounting and pastoral power in the 15th centuryCPA201565.6
Bigoni, Deidda, Gagliardo, FunnellRethinking the sacred and secular divide: Accounting and accountability practices in the Diocese of Ferrara (1431–1457)AAAJ201363.7
LiyanarachchiAccounting in ancient Sri Lanka: Some evidence of the accounting and auditing practices of Buddhist monasteries during 815–1017 ADAH200963.0
20Accounting standardsEierleDifferential reporting in Germany – A historical analysisABFH200555.1
ChibaThe designing of corporate accounting law in Japan after the Second World WarABFH200153.1
Elitaş, ÜçThe change on the foundations of the Turkish accounting system and the future perspectiveCPA200945.5
21Context-based explanationsBeaubienTechnology, change, and management control: A temporal perspectiveAAAJ201374.4
van der SteenInertia and management accounting change: The role of ambiguity and contradiction between formal rules and routinesAAAJ200971.6
Chenhall, MoersThe role of innovation in the evolution of management accounting and its integration in management controlAOS201568.9
22Profession and the StateConstableAccounting for the nation-state in mid-nineteenth-century ThailandAAAJ200755.3
BakreSecond attempt at localizing imperial accountancy: The case of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (ICAJ) (1970s–1980s)CPA200646.0
Kuasirikun, ConstableThe cosmology of accounting in mid 19th-century ThailandAOS201045.5
23Analysing accountsHollister, SchultzThe Elting and Hasbrouck store accounts: A window into eighteenth-century commerceAH200773.0
NokeRespites in charge and discharge statementsABFH199671.4
Baker, EadsforthAgency reversal and the steward’s lot when discharge exceeds charge: English archival evidence, 1739-1890AH201168.7
24Italy, Spain and FranceZambon, ZanControlling expenditure, or the slow emergence of costing at the Venice Arsenal, 1586–1633ABFH200769.6
OldroydThrough a glass clearly: Management practice on the Bowes family estates c.1700-70 as revealed by the accountsABFH199968.9
BaxterMcKesson & Robbins: a milestone in auditingABFH199968.4
25Statistical modellingShields, ShieldsAntecedents of participative budgetingAOS199881.8
Hartmann, MoersTesting contingency hypotheses in budgetary research: An evaluation of the use of moderated regression analysisAOS199981.5
Smith Bamber, Christensen, GaverDo we really ‘know’ what we think we know? A case study of seminal research and its subsequent overgeneralizationAOS200068.2
26Financial accounting treatisesSangster, Stoner, McCarthyThe market for Luca Pacioli’s Summa ArithmeticaAHJ200864.7
YameyThe market for Luca Pacioli’s Summa De Arithmetica: Some commentsAHJ201063.4
Sangster, Stoner, McCarthyIn defence of PacioliAHJ201158.5
27Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)Deegan, Rankin, TobinAn examination of the corporate social and environmental disclosures of BHP from 1983-1997: A test of legitimacy theoryAAAJ200256.1
Campbell, Moore, ShrivesCross-sectional effects in community disclosureAAAJ200652.4
Neu, Warsame, PedwellManaging public impressions: Environmental disclosures in annual reportsAOS199851.4
28British empire and colonialismNeu‘Presents’ for the ‘Indians’: Land, colonialism and accounting in CanadaAOS200054.0
Neu, HeinckeThe subaltern speaks: Financial relations and the limits of governmentalityCPA200450.9
NeuDiscovering indigenous peoples: Accounting and the machinery of empireAHJ199947.8
29Explaining the literatureBaños-Sánchez Matamoros, Gutiérrez-HidalgoPatterns of accounting history literature: Movements at the beginning of the 21st centuryAHJ201083.1
Baños-Sánchez Matamoros, Gutiérrez HidalgoPublishing patterns of accounting history research in generalist journals: Lessons from the pastAH201182.9
Williams, WinesThe first 10 years of Accounting History as an international refereed journal: 1996–2005AH200682.1
In this appendix, for each topic, we list the three articles which are most constituted by that topic. We list author(s), journal, year, article and the percentage of topic composition. Although in the inductive labelling of topic we analysed five to ten papers per topic, we list here only three for the sake of space.
ABFH: Accounting, Business & Financial History (AHR after 2010); AH: Accounting History; AHJ: Journal of Accounting Historians Journal; AHR: Accounting History Review; CPA: Critical Perspectives on Accounting; AOS: Accounting, Organizations and Society; AAAJ: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal; BHP: Broken Hill Proprietary Company, ICAEW: Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

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Published In

Article first published online: December 16, 2020
Issue published: August 2021

Keywords

  1. accounting history
  2. literature review
  3. theorizing
  4. topic modelling

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© The Author(s) 2020.
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History

Published online: December 16, 2020
Issue published: August 2021

Authors

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Maria Lusiani
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy
Luca Pareschi
University of Bologna, Italy

Notes

Paolo Ferri, University of Bologna, Via Capo di Lucca 34, Bologna 40126, Italy. Email: [email protected]

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