Increasingly, researchers in the field of intellectual capital (IC) need to be able to justify the specific research methods they use to collect the empirical data that they examine to support and test opinions regarding the merit of different approaches to managing and reporting IC. Of the various methods available to researchers seeking to understand intellectual capital reporting (ICR), content analysis is the most popular. The aim of this paper is to review the use of content analysis as a research method in understanding ICR and to offer some observations on the practical utility of the method. Further, the paper examines several research method issues relating to the use of content analysis that have been discussed in the social environmental accounting literature, but not as yet in the IC literature, which we believe are relevant to investigations underway in the field of ICR. This paper reports on several developmental issues we have confronted when using content analysis to examine the voluntary disclosure of IC in annual reports by various organisations. The paper also suggests two theoretical foundations for further investigation into the voluntary disclosure of IC by organisations, and suggests why content analysis is well matched to both these theories as a means to collect empirical data to test research propositions.
Journal of Intellectual Capital – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 1, 2004
Keywords: Intellectual capital; Annual reports; Disclosure; Research methods; Stakeholders
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