J. of Acc. Ed.

20 (2002) 139–161

Main articles

Using journal articles to teach public sector
accounting in higher education
Zahirul Hoque*
School of Accounting and Finance, Griffith University, PMB 50, Gold Coast Mail Centre,
Queensland 9726, Australia
Received 1 March 2000; received in revised form 1 January 2001; accepted 1 October 2001

This article reports the findings of an exploratory study into students’ perceptions of the
extent that journal articles are helpful for learning public sector accounting. Data used in the
study were mainly derived from face-to-face interviews with six students. Abstracting the
meaning of articles was a dominant concept of learning for the majority of students who
participated in this study. The students found journal articles to be a valuable aid to learning.
Whilst they perceived academic articles as helpful in facilitating learning, they ranked the
usefulness of professional articles higher than academic articles. The study also found that the
majority of students who participated used a deep approach in reading a journal article; i.e.
they tried to gain a full understanding of the article. # 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights
Keywords: Accounting education; Journal-based learning; Student learning; Public sector accounting;

1. Introduction
Adaptation and change of the accounting curriculum is necessary to properly
prepare students to communicate effectively, apply appropriate factual analyses, and
make sound judgments about the challenges facing them in this new century. In
addition, scholars suggest that the accounting curriculum must be updated to be
responsive to the needs of prospective employers (Rebele & Tiller, 1986; Rebele,

* Tel.: +61-7-5552-8703; fax: +61-7-5552-8068.
E-mail address: z.hoque@mailbox.gu.edu.au (Z. Hoque).
0748-5751/02/$ - see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0748-5751(02)00006-4


Z. Hoque / J. of Acc. Ed. 20 (2002) 139–161

Stout, & Hassell, 1991; Rebele, Apostolou, Buckless, Hassell, Paquette, & Stout,
1998a, 1998b).
Accounting teaching is predominantly based on textbooks; consequently undergraduate students often receive little exposure to journal articles. However, some
academics claim that the conventional wisdom of accounting textbooks (especially
management accounting) has little relevance to practice (Ryan, Scapens, & Theobold, 1992). Thus textbooks need to be supplemented by articles from academic and
professional (or practitioner) journals. Academic articles can help reduce the perceived gap between theory and practice, and enable students to understand the roles
of accounting in organizations and society. Professional articles can help students
integrate theoretical and practical concepts, and increase the practical relevance of
accounting course material.
Faculty are the primary audience for academic journals. In contrast, professional
articles are published in journals whose readers include practitioners as well as academicians. Articles published in academic journals are generally long and are based
on theoretical frameworks and/or reasonable assumptions and logic. Professional
articles are short, concise, and relate to problems facing practitioners and the business community as a whole.
Despite calls for greater use of articles in accounting teaching, there is little research
on whether student learning styles differ when academic and professional journal articles are used in undergraduate courses (Caldwell, Weishar, & Glezen, 1996; Williams,
Tiller, Herring, & Schiener, 1988). This article seeks to shed light on this topic.
Johnstone and Biggs (1998), Bonner and Lewis (1990) and Libby and Luft (1993)
suggest that integrating technical information with practical experience and promoting
lifelong learning skills are necessary for developing the knowledge and performance of
accountants. Further, the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) proposes that accounting curricula should be configured to convey attitudes of life-long
learning as well as essential information and technical skills (AECC, 1990). The author
believes that the use of academic and professional articles may serve this purpose, as
these articles deal with both theoretical and practical issues. Little is known about the
benefits of journal articles in an accounting course (see Saudagaran, 1996). The motivating factor for this study derives from a desire to examine this apparent gap in
prior research. In so doing, the study sets out three primary objectives:
1. To assess students’ conceptions of learning;
2. To determine the usefulness of journal articles in facilitating student learning;
3. To determine how a student approaches reading a journal article.
The findings reported here should be helpful for accounting educators who would
want to incorporate journal articles in their classes. Furthermore, the findings may
generate issues for future research in accounting education.
The context for this study is the Contemporary Issues in Public Sector Financial
Management course at the third-year undergraduate level within the School of
Accounting and Finance at the Gold Coast Campus of Griffith University in Australia.

internal reporting and control. Appendix A provides a list of the readings used. It attempts to synthesize a variety of theoretical perspectives to help future managers grapple with issues of financial management. Provide students with opportunities to develop their awareness of the latest developments so that they can enter a job knowing what public sector accounting is like today. No existing textbook appears to capture the breadth of these issues. Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand. 1993). see AECC. 2. Tate. Ed. accountability. 1998. Provide students with theoretical knowledge to critically evaluate financial management and accountability issues within public sector organizations. Subsequent sections present the results and a discussion of the implications of the findings. 1989). a review of the accounting education 1 For further details on these skills. consequently the course is based completely on articles from both academic and professional (or practitioner) journals. 2. The professional accounting bodies in Australia expect that accounting curricula will be designed to enable students to acquire the above cognitive and behavioral skills. Arthur Andersen & Co. The author attempts to achieve the following primary objectives with students enrolled in the course: 1. and control. Literature review This study draws from literature on students’ conceptions of subject matter and aspects of learning styles.Z. refer to Competency Standards and Assessment Structures for Professional Accountants in Australia and New Zealand (1996) prepared by Professor W. Provide students with theoretical knowledge to analyze standard accountability reports of various public sector entities and express their views in a coherent manner. Hoque / J. 3. 1990. 20 (2002) 139–161 141 This course critically examines fundamental issues underlying recent developments in public sector financial management. Accounting professionals outside Australia also encourage more student involvement in the learning process (for details. Birkett and published by Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants (ASCPAs). et al. 4. .1 Scholars claim that these skills are required to allow knowledge and understanding to be used appropriately and effectively at work. AICPA. and 6. Provide an understanding of the values and assumptions underlying accounting and accountability systems in the public sector and the way we think about the nature and roles of accounting in public sector organizations. Develop the ability to initiate and conduct research. and in collaboration with others (e. The next section of the paper defines concepts relevant to the study. May. 1997.g. of Acc. Marton & Saljo. Develop skills to think creatively and act ethically. 5. Surprisingly.P. The third section describes the research method employed. 1996..

of Acc. Beaty. 2. the literature review presented below is largely drawn from work in other disciplines such as arts. students tend to show indications of understanding the text as a whole. Alternatively. sciences and education. Ed. In the deep or holistic approach. 1997). Marton. 1976). 2. relating the content to a larger context and delimiting the main parts of the text. Marton et al. 1997). 1957). This includes a search for the author’s intention. students tend to focus on specific comparisons in the text. (1997).. Student learning approach Student approaches to learning are well documented in the literature (see Laurillard. methods. Developing as a person. 1997. of facts. (1997) delineate stages of learning as:       A quantitative increase in knowledge. 1970. such as the deep/surface approach.2. p. for subsequent utilization. Not all students will see learning as including all the above steps. Dahlgren and Marton (1978) suggest that conceptions of learning form a very important component of what we call the ‘‘cultural basis of a society. The education literature describes two approaches to learning: deep (or holistic) and surface (or atomistic). but not the main parts.142 Z. Laurillard found that the adopted approach derived from students’ reasons for undertaking the course—why they were 2 For a detailed review of conceptions of learning see Perry (1970) and Marton et al. Consequently. the term ‘conception’ refers to acquiring a general understanding of the discipline or subject area (Entwistle. 1978. 1970. An interpretive process aimed at understanding reality. The abstraction of meaning. 1997. Whitehead.1. and Dall’Alba (1993) and Marton et al. Memorizing.’’ The education literature suggests that students come into higher education with differing conceptions of learning (Marton & Saljo. others may see learning as a matter of acquiring information and reproducing it accurately as required by the teacher (Entwistle. in the surface or atomistic approach. or the sequence of the text. Concept of learning Generally. Laurillard (1978) carried out a study on a group of 31 university students studying various sciences and engineering courses to determine the extent to which existing descriptions of the learning process. Some may see learning as mainly transforming information in the process of reaching personal understanding. The acquisition.2 Marton. 17). etc. memorizing details without orienting towards the message as a whole. Svensson. 20 (2002) 139–161 literature revealed little or no work on these issues. which may vary from individual to individual (see Perry. Hoque / J. . could be applied to students taking these courses.

Tomkins & Grove.’’ This suggests that actors develop or create their realities. organizations and society (in this study university. 1980). Chua. Furthermore. or merely to memorize or to reproduce information (surface or atomistic approach). To sum up. this affected whether students had a desire to understand the meaning (deep or holistic approach). faculties. 1980). 1988. classrooms) are assumed to be socially constructed systems of reality (Burrell & Morgan. schools. ‘‘The social world is a continuous process. In this sense. and worry more about their work (for details.Z. not only through their own intellect. within the surface approach students tend to cope with course requirements. 491) state: The case for any research method.1. human nature. 1967. 1983. 20 (2002) 139–161 143 doing it and what they expected to get out of it. try to memorize facts and procedures routinely. Such students tend to become actively interested in the course content. Morgan. Hopper & Powell. Research method 3. 1979. 1997. Morgan & Smircich. Case study strategy Morgan and Smircich (1980. p. According to Laurillard (1978). The study described the social world from the perspective of relevant actors (in this study the students). 1985. because the choice and adequacy of a method embodies a variety of assumptions regarding the nature of the knowledge and the methods through which that knowledge can be obtained. whether qualitative or quantitative (in any case. 1983. 1986. Hoque / J. The style of research required for this purpose was an open-ended. Morgan and Smircich (1980. created afresh in each encounter of everyday life as individuals impose themselves on their world to establish a realm of meaningful definition. within the deep approach students look for patterns and underlying principles with the intention of understanding issues critically and cautiously. p. experience feelings of undue pressure. 1985. 1979). p. Hopper & . Morgan. of Acc. 3. Thus the rationale for a particular research strategy is grounded in the core assumptions regarding ontology. Van Maanen. see Entwistle. Alternatively. 1979. as well as a set of root assumptions about the nature of the phenomena to be investigated. Ed. and epistemology (Burrell & Morgan. she found 19 out of the 31 students used both approaches. 1967. intensive case study in the interpretive tradition (Garfinkel. a somewhat crude and oversimplified dichotomisation) cannot be considered or presented in the abstract. 494) remark. The primary focus is on understanding the students’ experience of learning and perceptions concerning the use of journal articles in curriculum design. Silverman. this study seeks to show how the students involved in learning public sector accounting make sense of situations and their everyday experiences. but also through common experience and interaction with others (Garfinkel. 19). By focusing attention on the students’ interpretations and subjectivity.

Perry (1970) and others consider this technique to be useful in research where the primary concern is to reveal how respondents give meaning to their experiences (Silverman. The interpretations of the social reality raise the problem of researcher bias. This protocol served several purposes: introducing the purpose and methods of the research. Data sources Data were gathered over a 6-month period using a series of semi-structured interviews. . Yin (1993) suggests that a case-study approach should be the preferred strategy when what. however. Hoque / J. This demanded that the researcher let students speak as freely as possible about their own ways of perceiving themselves and their world. 18) states: We feel that our way of addressing the issues at stake in these moments.2. The interviews varied in length between 40 min and 1 h and took place in the researcher’s office. and experiences of learning in students’ own terms. In order to have complete records of student interviews available for subsequent analysis. and asked permission (with assurance of anonymity) to record. which was taped. 278) remarks: Researchers should avoid the temptation of thinking of case studies only in terms of statistical generalisation. A case study is time-consuming and may result in massive. and providing a basic checklist during the interview to make sure that all relevant topics were covered. Van Mannen. As Scapens (1990. the researcher transcribed each tape recording. how. Despite its weaknesses. the case study approach adopted here contributed significantly to the author gaining a deep understanding of the students’ experience of learning in a particular context. or why questions are posed and when the researcher wishes to understand an organizational phenomenon in its real-life context. but understanding. restated his interest in hearing from them about their experience. the researcher first welcomed the interviewees. of Acc. The purpose in this study was to understand beliefs. 1979). An interview protocol (see Appendix B) was devised to conduct the interviews. Perry (1970. p. During each interview. The inability to generalize findings from a case study is also an issue. 1985). were interviewed. . . may have general relevance for the conduct of any inquiry in which the primary purpose is to allow the respondent freedom to speak from his own ways of finding meaning in his life. beyond being crucial to the data of this study. Ed. aged between 21 and 31. emphasizing the importance placed on respondents’ views. 3. p. Thus. However. researchers who see generalisations only in this sense will either reject case study methods or not fully exploit their potential.144 Z. unreadable documents. perceptions. because the researcher in this context cannot be regarded as an independent observer. 1985. the interview protocol helped the researcher conduct the interviews in a systematic and comprehensive fashion. Six accounting students. 20 (2002) 139–161 Powell. has weaknesses. the aim of this study is not prediction. The case study approach.

Information gathered from interviews was used as a primary data source to explain the research issue explored. Student A (Samantha): Samantha3 is a final year student studying an accounting degree as well as public sector accounting. Samantha also likes to get good marks. This technique helped the researcher capture individual differences or variations in perceptions about real-world practice.1. Research findings 4. important direct quotes were used to substantiate the findings. These are reproduced below in turn. As she reflected: 3 The real name of the student is not used to preserve anonymity. learning is personal understanding. particularly where it might be appropriate to check out something that was said before. second. According to Samantha. in your own words. 4. you don’t understand it and you might be able to rote learn it for a test but as soon as you walk out of the exam you can’t remember it and it doesn’t actually mean anything unless you understand it and apply it to situations that you have seen or things that you have heard of and actually take a personal understanding. Hoque / J.Z. . Thus this study was concerned with how participant actors viewed the social world and why they did so. Thus the researcher in this study observed the processes and engaged personally in the processes under scrutiny as a ‘‘participant observer’’. the notes helped formulate new questions as the interview progressed. Students participating in this study were split into two groups: deep learners (those who saw learning as mainly transforming information in the process of reaching personal understanding) and surface learners (those who saw learning as a matter of acquiring information and reproducing it accurately as required by the teacher). Accounting students’ conceptions of learning The researcher sought to answer the question of what learning means to students. Ed. Careful notes of reactions of the interviewees were made immediately after each interview. Taking notes served two purposes: first. She elaborated it thus: I believe that learning is personal understanding because unless you are able to put it in your own thought. 20 (2002) 139–161 145 In addition to tape recording. She has recently accepted an appointment with Queensland Audit Office. the notes helped form a database about what was being said during the interview. in your own mind. of Acc. Analyses of the transcripts produced a variety of conceptions of learning. Within the interview transcriptions. the researcher also took notes during each interview. In addition to achieving a deeper understanding of the topic.

I am a bit of a perfectionist and I like to strive for the high marks. Student E (Shehab): Shehab is a second year student studying for a double degree in accounting and public sector accounting. learning is multi-dimensional. Student C (Shamma): Shamma is a second year student studying accounting and public sector accounting. Like you study for an exam and if you just reproduce what a lecturer or what the textbook says you get out of the exam and you can’t remember what you have learnt but if you understand the concepts it is probably easier for you to remember more things. If you understand the topic deeply you should be able to speak about it or you should be able to understand it. According to her. 2001. Student B (Rob): Rob graduated in Semester 2 2000 and has taken a position at the Australian Taxation Office.146 Z. If you don’t really learn it well you might get the grade but then when you are working you won’t know it so you are going to have to learn it eventually but it depends what your priority is. Student D (Sharmi): Sharmi is a final year student studying for both accounting and public sector accounting. He described his concept of knowledge. as follows: I do not really think of learning as just being able to regurgitate exactly what the teacher said. I think what you need to do is that you need to collect the information from the teacher and you need to sit down yourself and try and understand it yourself. She described her concept of learning thus: Reproducing is all well and good but if you don’t understand it then you won’t remember it. 20 (2002) 139–161 For me I also like to get high grades. Ed. Hoque / J. She elaborated it thus: I think learning is not just about reproducing information because then you might not understand it but if you have an exam and you know that is going to be on there and you want to get the mark then maybe that is what you will do. So if somebody asks about something you can have a conversation. He saw learning as developing selfconfidence. learning is more of a personal understanding. He elaborated it thus: . She saw learning from a broader context. To Adnan. He is also studying for a double degree in accounting and public sector accounting. of Acc. To Shamma. Student F (Adnan): Adnan will graduate in Semester 1. learning is something that one can use to create knowledge. According to Shehab: Learning is more about achieving a wider understanding of the topic. He is working full time in a commercial bank.

you identify with it. Use of journal articles to teach public sector accounting Each class involved a 3-h seminar-type session that was the equivalent of the standard 2-h lecture plus 1 h tutorial or workshop allocation per subject. and implications of such initiatives. viewed as the process of reaching personal understanding. If you don’t want to develop it a little bit further then you are not really interested in learning it in the first place. Students were expected to draw on this material and the appropriate readings to build a sufficiently comprehensive understanding of accountability and control systems in the public sector. It was not the aim of the seminars to go routinely through initiatives in each of the major public sector organizations. for what reasons you are to stop.Z. students were advised to read and gain an understanding of all the set reading materials beforehand. For effective discussion on the topic in the seminars. Equally. Reproducing it is not actually learning what it is all about. 4. It is like you see enough stop signs you know that you have to stop. The seminar involved the presentation of material followed by a workshop component. the students said that without personal understanding they could not get a good grade. Rather. Adnan commented: Learning from my mind is having a good understanding and being interested in it enough that you want to develop that a little bit further. Hoque / J. You just do it. of Acc. This is reflected on his following views: I think personally getting the grade seems to be where a lot of pressure is because that is what is getting your foot in the door and gets you the job but once you are actually in there and doing something if you don’t have the understanding then I think you are going to be found out pretty quick or you are going to fall over or not cope. you can reproduce it in exams but you might not actually learn anything. It is just a task that you are performing. These quotes suggest that each student shares a common concept of learning. there is a widespread feeling that although some employers look for high grades it is a good understanding of a topic that really matters. you can take notes. It is just a means to an end. Each student was also required to lead class discussion by presenting a review and analysis of two journal articles set within the reading materials for two alternative seminar weeks. Students were advised to follow the following steps in the review process: . Further.2. Ed. outcomes. Getting high grades seems to appear as a sort of external pressure to Shehab (Student E). Presentations commenced in the third week. 20 (2002) 139–161 147 You can study out of a book. Moreover. seminars highlighted and critically analyzed the main assumptions. for something that you visualize. You might not know what for.

Ed. Like you read about something and you say ‘‘Oh yes I can understand where that comes from’’ but when you read textbooks it doesn’t always come across like that. Shamma: I think journal articles give you more contact with the world whereas if you are reading from a textbook it is just theoretical and a lot more technical. You cannot get these sorts of understanding from a textbook. Hoque / J. All students were expected to prepare for each session by reading and writing a brief summary of all articles for that session. The following quotes reveal variations in students’ responses: Samantha: I think journal articles give us an idea of the sort of research that is going on out there that we wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with. They may go through their .  To ascertain what remains to be studied (unresolved issues) in the area. Adnan: I think articles-based learning is important because you know you have people study at university for a number of years.2. Usefulness of journal articles in facilitating learning The researcher sought an answer to the question of ‘‘how helpful journal articles were’’ in facilitating student learning. Rob: I think journal articles are vital for the subject. at least if you grasp some of it you have a bit of an idea of that topic then.1. 20 (2002) 139–161  To identify key issues addressed in the article. It doesn’t tell you that it exists in this organization. Like at least you can put that into practice. of Acc. They seem to be more up to date than the textbook. They focus on one specific topic. whereas the journal articles they give you an insight into the topic. Students were also encouraged to create a small case study. Article presenters were encouraged to generate discussion by asking questions and organizing debates or activities. It gives you more of a real life interpretation of what is actually going on.148 Z. 4. To outline the paper’s theoretical or methodological issues. Sharmi: Journal articles are good. or series of questions or debate issues to inspire discussion. There are so many courses that you just get the textbook and that is it. they tend to go into a lot of detail on the one topic so even if you can’t understand everything the writer is saying. Shehab: I think the journal articles are one of the things that when you have an understanding and you have had them for a while and you have worked in that sort of industry or studied that sort of industry for a while then those things will become more relevant and clearer to you.  To summarize the findings discussed in the article. and  To conclude. A substantial component of the overall presentation mark was awarded for creating an active class discussion around the topics.

however. The above findings indicate that the majority of students interviewed found journal articles to be a valuable aid to learning. thus: Journal articles are sometimes difficult to understand. The academics they do have more theoretical stuff in them. it can be hard to understand them. Hoque / J. That is not just something that comes from the workforce and what happens out there in the real world. 4. 20 (2002) 139–161 149 university life and never actually see a journal article. Another student stated: If you are not used to studying that sort of thing. and what happened here. expressed reservations about journal articles. Three of the six students who participated in this study. what happened here. If you don’t have that understanding you get lost because they have meanings for particular words and you may not actually know what they are getting at through those terms. I think that that is a major advantage.Z. Perceived benefits of academic-type and professional-type articles The researcher was interested in appraising students’ perceived usefulness of both academic-type and professional-type articles.2. What are they proposing and what are they about? That would be the weakness of journal articles. Rob: Probably the academics have more of a theoretical side obviously because it is academic and then they put it into practice whereas the practical ones are straight what happened here. As one student remarked: The only weakness of journal articles that I would say is that unless you have an understanding of the topic before you start reading you can get lost. Ed. The academics are the ones that bring out the theories and start the ball rolling. of Acc. Because they go so deep and quite often they assume that you already have some understanding.2. Because I think it might just be the wording or larger words or complex sentences. Another student went on further to express her negative sentiment about journal articles. The quotes below illustrate students’ views on this matter: Samantha: The strengths of academic articles are that they go into a lot of depth. That is the way that I understand it anyway. . in particular an academic paper and not actually know what it is that an academic actually does and how they are responsible for further development of the subject and the topics and those sorts of things.

. Such articles use a different approach and tend to have a knowledgeable background on theory as well as practical aspects of it. 4. Professional articles are a lot easier to read. I have found that a lot of academic articles are difficult to read.  Well.2.  I do find academic a lot harder to read through than professional. Perceived problems with academic articles The following quotes illustrate students’ perceived problems with academic articles:  The academic articles are a bit heavier than the practitioner articles just in the way that they are structured. Adnan: Personally I think that the majority of the academic articles that I have had to read they sort of talk around themselves a lot perhaps go over the one issue more than once or twice and in the end virtually complicate that particular issue.150 Z. The above findings indicate that professional articles are quite good because they give a slightly different view to what an academic does. of Acc. And practical are better for how things work. Shehab: The strengths of an academic article are looking deeper and seeing. These findings indicate that undergraduate students may find academic articles difficult to understand for their complex theoretical orientations. Ed. Sharmi: The academic one I think their strengths are the fact that they can ask more questions about an issue where I think if you look the practical ones explain how things work and if they give a good example of how things work well it is sort of a ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ sort of thing. a lot of the articles even just the heading is even sometimes hard to understand because they use big words but they might say one thing and you might think it has something to do with along the lines of this but it might be totally different to what they are trying to get at. I read the academics a couple of times whereas I may read the professional ones once because I understand them more than the academic ones. 20 (2002) 139–161 At least then you can see the theoretical side and then you can see it put into practice.  It is just the message the academic articles are trying to convey to the reader. asking the questions not always giving the answers but that is fair enough for more research. Hoque / J. I find that the academic articles have trouble explaining to non-academics how things work like with a difficult diagram.3. Just to walk in off the street and read it and not know anything about the topic.

4. The practitioner ones are also focused at a pretty high level or high standard of studying or learning. Students who participated in this study found professional articles very helpful in their learning processes. Hoque / J. I find I don’t have to go back and read a professional article a second time and try and work out what they were getting at because quite often it is quite clear. More of a real life focus. So there might have been six ways that it could have been done so I think in a lot of academic articles it is kind of repeating some of the stuff kind of the way that it is said. Ed.3. They tend to be shorter and condensed.4. Perceived problems with professional articles The following extracts describe students’ perceived problems with professional articles: Professional articles seem to be written a bit more from an average person’s perspective but they don’t go as deeply into a topic and quite often they raise an issue but they don’t find an answer to it. I try and read through them and get a basic understanding of what they are trying to . 20 (2002) 139–161 151 4. These findings suggest that professional articles are easy to understand. Shamma: I read an academic article a couple of times and highlight them.Z.2. Rob: When I have the time what I like to do is set the article out in front of me and maybe with a notebook and I usually have a highlighter as well and I just simply read through the article and where I think they are making a point like the aim of the article and may be some important points which I think are relevant I just jot them down on the notebook and highlight them. they just say well we will leave that to the academics. But then quite often the first time that you read it seems like a jumble of information and it is hard to take it all in so perhaps after a little bit of a break going back and trying to work out what were the main points they were getting at. Styles and approaches to reading a journal article The quotes below record variations in students’ approaches to reading a journal article: Samantha: When I try reading an academic article I try and read it right through and I get out my highlighter and I highlight what I think are the main points as I am reading it. What I find with the practitioner ones is that they are a lot shorter whereas the academic articles describes something and it kind of backs it every way possible. but personally I think the practitioner ones are easier to understand. of Acc.

. Ed.152 Z. If it is in a logical sort of move you know the article progression so then you can sit back and if you can make your own conclusion at the end of the article on top of what the conclusion is to the owner if you can sit back and say basically the article talks about this but here was the problem or here was the issue and then move towards it. Interestingly. Hoque / J. expressed his experience in the process of learning from professional articles. They have one message to get across and they will write to that. He described his approach thus: I will do that first to get a feeling of and then I get a sense of where the article is starting at. On the other hand. Similar to Sharmi. Sharmi tends to adopt a different approach to reading an article. I try to read the abstract and the conclusion first and then I try to read the whole thing. due to time and things. some of them not. Shehab’s approach seems to be a deeper approach as reflected in his comments: First. One student. Some of them they just go straight over the top of my head. I probably would be better if I made notes and things like that but I don’t. She elaborated her approach to learning thus: Well. Adnan first reads the article and then looks for conclusion. front to back straight through and then the second time I sort of go a bit slower and try and pick out the relevant things. The above evidence suggests variations in students’ approaches to reading an academic-type article and a professional article. Then I will go back through and go through the whole entire article possibly just making pencil notes or highlighted notes throughout and then I might walk away and leave it for a couple of days and actually come back and take proper notes on the article and then I can relate that back at times of doing reviews or studying for exams or whatever I have got a few sets of notes. in contrast to Rob and Shamma. where it has finished at and what basically should be covered in between. I usually try to highlight but I have a problem that if I am starting to get tired that I just start to highlight everything because I think everything is important. of Acc. accordingly: I find I don’t have to go back and read a professional article a second time and try and work out what they were getting at because quite often it is quite clear. however. 20 (2002) 139–161 say. but I think if I read them a couple of times it is probably the best way of understanding them and the second time pick out the main points of what the authors are trying to say. read it and then sort of sit back a bit and get a handle on that and then that is one peg and then the next sort of peg and then try and piece it together. I read it once through leave it and then read it again a second time it is clearer.

. 1997) in order to understand the meaning of the topic. Discussion and implications of the findings This study is about students experiences of learning in a public sector accounting course at a university. the main point. 5. 5. 1993. That is number one. What they are trying to get across. What they are talking about and what they are trying to tell us. Rob: I think trying to understand the issues they are putting forward. Hoque / J. Shehab: An understanding of an issue. the conclusion to be drawn. These quotes suggest these students have been engaged in ‘‘deep’’ learning as discussed in the literature review section of the paper (Marton et al. Even if you only remember a few points that means you have remembered something.. Interestingly. Ed. of Acc. Sharmi: Well I try to get something from the article so you may sit down for an hour and watch some TV and then say well I remember that article and it was based on this and that. Trying to understand exactly what is being said and trying to remember it too. I try to find something really interesting and understand the meaning. I know some articles I find the topic is more interesting than others and so that one of course I am going to be more ‘‘I know that this is going to be good’’. and growing self-confidence. . Accounting students’ conceptions of learning For most students.Z.1. Some quotes below illustrate their learning experience in this matter: Samantha: The message. Next is to read through the article to try to understand the points for and against. the majority of students who participated . Marton et al. understanding reality. Not just hearing an issue. The following sections discuss the contributions and implications of the findings with reference to the original research objectives. trying to understand what they are talking about because sometimes it is hard to find out what the aim is of the article. The intention was to assess whether the students focused on the text itself or on what the text was about.why the writer has written it and what they want to tell you the reader from the information they provide. 20 (2002) 139–161 153 The researcher was also interested in knowing what the students were really looking out for in the article when they started reading it.. learning was abstraction of meaning. Adnan: It depends on the article. the authors’ intention. Shamma: Well their main points I guess.

too heavy.154 Z.. to better understand the meaning of issues. Marton et al. from a lecturer’s point of view. Approaches to learning The study found variations in students’ approaches to learning from journal articles. of Acc. while others were more concerned with reading the article in a holistic manner to understand in depth the meaning of the article. Concluding remarks Abstraction of meaning was a dominant concept of learning to the majority of students who participated in this study. too theoretical. 20 (2002) 139–161 in this study perceived ‘‘memorizing and reproducing information’’ as a less important activity in their learning process. 1976b) and Marton and Svensson (1979). A further implication of this study is that students’ experience of learning should be examined within its natural setting because the quality of learning depends crucially on both teaching assessment and students’ conceptions of learning. 5. for example. Usefulness of journal articles The findings suggest that the majority of students who participated in this study liked the use of journal articles in their study of public sector accounting. Hoque / J. Journal articles were seen as valuable aid to students’ learning. then the body to grasp the key points. This evidence supports previous claims that the types of learning students expect depends on what learning means to them (Marton et al. etc. These findings are consistent with studies by Marton and Saljo (1976a. 5. i. Ed. Tate. Some students. not just applying techniques as they come out of the textbook but actually adapting them to the relevant political and social environment. The evidence was that some students looked for understanding of the issue as a whole. educating students about public sector accounting practices is challenging because the context of public sector organizations is very different from the private sector context. They believed that journal articles worked well for them.3. 1997. 1993.. however. 6. with professional articles perceived as being more useful than academic articles. The findings have practical implications for accounting instructors. Thus the students’ view of learning was rich and seemed to be more closely related to their goals for higher education. different things have to be taken into consideration.2. followed by the conclusion.e. too wordy. Some students read the introduction first. The majority of students who participated in the study used a . Almost all of the students who participated believed that academic articles were too long. while others looked to summarize the main points for examination purposes. Viewed from such a context. used both of these approaches. 1993). As discussed earlier.

of Acc. Roger Landbeck. Ed. The paper further benefited from the comments by seminar participants at Griffith University School of Accounting and Finance. there was no treatment versus control groups and. 20 (2002) 139–161 155 deep approach to reading a journal article. Australia and James Cook University School of Business. this study is naturalistic in nature in that it uses an in-depth case study method. and since this difference goes between two approaches to learning. change to the more highly valued one? The study has limitations. Small sample sizes are inherently the nature of naturalistic research. The data collected may have been influenced by the learning materials selected and the particular style of the instructor. though this has benefits of getting close to the interviewees. The way students learn has an important implication for their learning outcomes. there was a lack of experimental rigor in the study. This study provides no insights into how valuable journal articles may be in a class where textbooks are required.e. The author wishes to thank Griffith University for the financial support provided for this project in the form of Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Bursary. the researcher being the instructor may bias the results. Notwithstanding. of which one is clearly preferable to the other.Z. Hoque / J. He is indebted to Margaret Buckridge. Gold Coast. professional vs. Acknowledgements This study draws on the author’s dissertation submitted to Griffith University Institute for Higher Education as partial requirement for the degree of Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. This does not mean we cannot learn from this sort of study. Also. Additionally. It is based on a small sample size and one course. Australia. the Editor. Further. consequently. As Marton and Saljo (1997) remarked: The way students learn which we believe to be of fundamental importance. Ross Guest. should we not try to make the students who tend to adopt the less appealing approach. Trevor Hopper. the Associate Editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on earlier versions of the paper. Cairns and Townsville. Chris Guilding. A follow-up study may investigate these issues using a larger sample and a more rigorous experimental design. although the deep approach is not always best and its usefulness may vary from subject to subject. Jodie Moll. . academic) students seem to learn the most from. insight into how students approach reading a journal article is interesting and would be helpful to know for instructional purposes. This paper brings attention to the issue of using journal articles in class and provides insight into what kind of journal articles (i.

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