People reason, learn and persuade in two distinct modes – through stories (narration) and by numbers (calculation). In everyday life narration is privileged over calculation. We understand our lives through narratives, narrating experiences first to ourselves – to convince others – and then to others – to persuade them. However, within the research community, calculating dominates narrating for reasoning, learning and persuading. This is the case for research in both the natural sciences and the social sciences. Although, in the social sciences, narratives are accepted as research inputs (in the form of interview transcripts), less thought has been given to narratives as research outputs. This article looks at the construction of narratives in accounting and management research, where there is now a significant, albeit a minority, interest. Three main issues are discussed: first, the potential for narrative research that identifies forms of argument (or strategizing) in the field; second, the usefulness of aggregating these individual strategizing accounts to construct emergent projects at the organizational level; and, third, the evaluation of this strategizing by revealing how it coalesces in and around key management control processes and events. The research question is “How are narratives best understood, constructed and used as forms of explanation and rhetorical argument in accounting and management research?”
Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 1, 1999
Keywords: Management control; Methodology; Narratives
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