The Journal of a Ph.D. Student

Experiencing the journey of the Ph.D.

The Journal of a Ph.D. Student
Photo by Dan Dimmock / Unsplash

Welcome to "The Journal of a Ph.D. student". Since this is the first entry under this heading, it warrants some sort of introduction from my end.

I am a first-year accounting Ph.D. student at Monash University, Australia. If that sounds boring, you could be forgiven! Not many people aspire to do a Ph.D., let alone in accounting. But, I promise to make this journal more than a log of the research activities that I do. Also, I have already been a Ph.D. student for about five months now. So, I will be starting the documentation of my experience mid-way into my Ph.D. candidature. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing from your perspective, but I'll let you decide that. Now, with the introduction out of the way, I can turn to something more interesting.

To keep it short and sweet, I will focus on a particular information session that I attended today. The session was targeted at early-career researchers and PhD students. It started at 09:00 am, which meant that I needed a strong cup of coffee to set myself up. But, once the session started, all my drowsiness dissipated instantly because of the engaging qualities of the presenter.

The session was delivered by Professor Shivaram Rajgopal from Columbia Business School. He was invited to give us research newbies insights into becoming competent academic researchers of accounting. Professor Shivaram is definitely a modern master of the accounting research profession. His work has been cited by others 20,000+ times! As an academic, you sometimes find it difficult to even get one person to read your research article. So, he has accomplished something only a select few will ever do.

The session took place over Zoom, which was a bit of a let-down. Nevertheless, his wise words will be etched in my memory for the foreseeable future. He did not worry about being politically correct. His brutal honesty about the current state of accounting research made me question my very existence.

In his view, we are currently paying attention to all the wrong things as academics. For example, we are too focused on telling an interesting story through our research. Not that this is unimportant. But, because we are also prone to distancing ourselves from interacting with accounting practitioners, we are essentially spinning stories blindly with no guarantee of the stories being actually true. The result is research that does not solve real-world problems. So, what is the point of paying accounting professors 6-figure salaries when all that we are doing is coining potentially fictitious stories with no real impact? What is then the value of accounting researchers to the economy and society?

Professor Shivaram conceded to having no "magic solution" to this worrisome problem endemic in the accounting research profession. He encouraged us to develop stories after consulting with practitioners. Solve problems that they are facing. Not some random problems that we think are being faced by practitioners. Qualitative research involving interviews and surveys should support quantitative research more than they are now. Only then can accounting researchers make the world a better place.

But, then again, early-career researchers cannot escape the "academic bench-pressing" at the start of their careers. We research newbies are more price-takers and rule-takers. So, Professor Shivaram's criticisms were really targeted at the top dogs of the accounting research profession, the people responsible for reviewing and publishing submitted articles. The bias that they have against qualitative research is a strong deterrent for academics against such research. Put differently, why put in the hours when the hopes of publishing the research are slim?

As a first article, I hope that the gems I shared above from a master of the trade have gotten you hooked. I cannot wait to add to this area in the future. So, I look forward to seeing you again soon. Until next time!

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