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

R. Gray, M.J. Milne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    This short essay takes the opportunity presented by the paper by Patten (in this issue)1 to enter the debate concerning the relative pros and cons of quantitative versus qualitative research methods. Too often, this is a sterile ‘debate’ and in accounting especially, the actual lack of real debate is destructive – manifest as it is in the pernicious attachment of key academic journals to a single (and largely unexamined) notion of what comprises good research and consequently what is permitted as knowledge. This restriction has additional unanticipated consequences in that it (a) refuses to acknowledge research findings that appear in journals other than those anointed by the high priests of self-styled positivism and (b) it severely limits the research questions that can be addressed to only those which can be perceived and addressed through a narrow array of method (Chua, 1986). We argue that such a position is untenable as well as undesirable and, following Feyerabend and Morgan (as well as Caldwell, McCloskey and Tashakkori & Teddlie), argue for pluralism in method choice grounded in a pragmatic philosophy driven firstly by a concern for the research problem, and an absence of a fact-value distinction. We suggest that such pluralism is especially important in an area concerned with social and environmental issues which, ultimately, are matters of life and death and more important than trivial matters of ‘which method is best’ (or perhaps – more accurately – which method is permitted in journal X).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-66
    JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
    Early online date12 May 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


    • Critical
    • Social
    • Environmental
    • Method
    • Methodology


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