The positivistic approach to management accounting: Recent developments and future directions

A.O.R. Kholeif

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


The functionalist or positivistic approach to management accounting research corresponds to the mainstream or dominant paradigm,1 seeking to provide essentially rational explanations to social phenomena (Ryan, Scapens and Theobald 2002; Lukka 2010; Modell 2010). Ontologically, this perspective takes an objective view of social reality, treated the same as the physical or natural world. Researchers, using this approach, believe that the reality exists ‘out there’ and is independent of the observer. As a result, epistemologically, observable and measurable phenomena can be regarded as valid knowledge about this external reality. Trying to maintain an independent and objective stance, researchers methodologically use the methods applied in the natural sciences to explain and predict social phenomena. Hence, they often use standard research instruments, such as questionnaires, to collect data and analyze these data using statistical techniques to test hypotheses derived from prior theories. This refers to a separation of observations from scientific theories, and researchers are expected to add to an existing body of knowledge by acting as remote observers and gathering quantitative data to possibly deduce universal laws to explain and predict social reality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReview of Management Accounting Research
EditorsAbdel-Kader Magdy G.
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Pages523 - 542
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-230-35327-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-32197-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • Management Accounting
  • Moderate Regression Analysis
  • Accounting Research


Dive into the research topics of 'The positivistic approach to management accounting: Recent developments and future directions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this