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Researching at the Intersection of Accounting and Information Technology:


A Call for Action

Uday S. Murthy
University of South Florida

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accepted
manuscript

I am deeply indebted to the senior editors Mary Curtis and Roger Debreceny and three anonymous reviewers for
their feedback on earlier versions of this commentary. The published version reflects many of their ideas, which
they will undoubtedly recognize as they read it. My own views have been reshaped thanks to their feedback. To the
extent that this commentary is viewed as controversial, the blame lies entirely with me.

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Researching at the Intersection of Accounting and Information Technology:


A Call for Action
Abstract
In this commentary, I argue for a more focused definition of accounting information systems
(AIS) as a field at the intersection of accounting and information systems. I contend that the lack of a
focused definition is a significant factor leading to some of the more troubling trends affecting academic
research in AIS. These trends include the relative paucity of AIS research appearing in the so-called
premier journals in accounting, the relatively small number of active academic researchers in the field,
the decline in the number of doctoral students focusing specifically on AIS research, and the difficulty in
distinguishing AIS research from the scholarship in the closely related field of pure information
systems. I present evidence from an analysis of key words and journal citations to support my contention
that extant published AIS research lacks focus. I argue that a more focused definition of AIS will help the
field flourish and suggest such a definition that highlights both the accounting and the information
systems aspects of the field.
Key words:

Accounting information systems, key words, citations, management information systems.

Introduction
Accounting information systems emerged as a distinct field of inquiry in the 1980s. In this issue,
as we celebrate 30 years of publication of the Journal of Information Systems (JIS), I discuss some of the

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challenges facing the field and call for a renewed focus for research that explicitly addresses the
intersection of accounting and information systems. Despite extensive research in the field, exactly what

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each successive editor of the Journal of Information
Systems (JIS) has attempted to define or at least
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constitutes accounting information systems remains elusive. Since its first year of publication in 1986,

frame the field of accounting information systems and the nature of intellectual contributions that would
be considered for publication in the journal. These attempts have resulted in divergent opinions, with
some editors considering virtually all topics from the closely related field of (management) information
systems as appropriate for JIS (Stone 2002, Tuttle 2005, Steinbart 2009), while others have expressed
somewhat narrow views giving preference to topics that fall squarely in the intersection of accounting and
information systems (McCarthy 1987, Murthy and Wiggins 1999). Even the narrow view, however, must
wrestle with differing notions of what lies in the fields of accounting and information systems and
hence what falls at the intersection of these fields. In this commentary, I seek to better articulate what is
unique about the field of accounting information systems, that is, exactly what lies at the intersection

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between accounting and information systems (AIS). I also argue that a focused definition of AIS that
more clearly distinguishes the field from closely related ones can help guide the efforts of scholars in the
field. Beyond a more focused definition, however, I discuss a number of endeavors that I suggest are
needed to foster growth in the field. Specifically, (1) AIS researchers need to collaborate with accounting
researchers in other fields, (2) the new AACSB Standard A7 on information technology skills for
accounting graduates should be leveraged to champion both teaching and research in AIS, (3) a task force
of senior AIS researchers must be formed to advance the cause of AIS research in the American
Accounting Association, at business schools internationally, and with amongst leaders of the major
international public accounting firms, and (4) AIS research faculty at non-doctoral granting schools
should be leveraged to serve on AIS dissertation committees at the few schools that produce AIS
doctorates, while simultaneously encouraging more doctoral granting schools to consider allowing a
specialization in AIS.
In the next section, I discuss some of the challenges faced by AIS researchers, from publishing in

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the premier journals to distinguishing their work from that of their colleagues in pure information
systems. In section III, I present data to support my contention that extant AIS research is too diverse and

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offer a definition that is succinct and focused. In the concluding section, I offer suggestions for how a

lacks focus. Thereafter, in section IV, I discuss the diversity in views regarding the definition of AIS and

more focused view of AIS can spur research that advances AIS knowledge while also addressing the
significant challenges accounting practitioners face in a world increasingly dominated by information
technology.

Challenges Faced by AIS Researchers


Researchers in the field of AIS face many challenges, which I believe are largely attributable to
the nebulous definition of AIS. The first challenge involves getting AIS research published in the very top
academic accounting journals. Accounting programs that appear high on rankings such as those produced
by US News & World Report typically require their accounting faculty to publish in the so-called

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premier academic accounting journals. There is general consensus among faculty at most of the top
institutions that the premier journals comprise Journal of Accounting Research, The Accounting
Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Accounting
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Organisations & Society (AOS). The concern from an AIS research perspective is that the top five
academic accounting journals rarely publish AIS research. Stone (2002) documents that between 1989
and 1998 a grand total of five of the 1,068 articles in the top five accounting journals were identifiable as
AIS research articles. Although the rate of AIS articles appearing in the top journals has certainly
increased in recent years, with 10 AIS articles appearing in just The Accounting Review between 2008 and
2015 (DeFond 2015), the percentage of AIS articles is still relatively minuscule compared to financial
accounting articles (there were 509 articles published in The Accounting Review between 2008 and 2015).
The reasons for the low rate of AIS articles appearing in the top journals are many (the low number of
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submissions being a chief reason ), but the fact remains that there is a real or perceived reluctance to
publish AIS research in these journals.3 Administrators and faculty at schools that require multiple

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publications in the top five or six journals as a condition for promotion and tenure rationally elect not to

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faculty have been replaced by non-tenure track non-PhD instructors hired to teach AIS courses (Summers
hire AIS research faculty, given that the topic is deemed to have a very low probability of publication
success in the top five journals. At many highly ranked accounting programs, doctoral AIS research

and Wood 2015). Alas, the lower acceptability of AIS research in the premier accounting journals
appears to have driven at least a few prominent researchers in the field to redirect their efforts to areas

While AOS is sometimes discounted at some institutions, Review of Accounting Studies is often included on the
short list of A level journals. Additionally, Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory (AJPT) is considered at
many schools as an A- journal not far behind the top five (or six) journals. Of these two journals, AJPT is more
prone to publishing AIS research, if the article has implications for auditing research and/or practice.
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I acknowledge that the low number of submissions to the top journals is both a cause and a symptom of the low
rate of AIS publications in these journals. Seeing few AIS articles appear in the top journals, authors of good AIS
manuscripts very likely elect to not submit their work to the top journals on the presumption that their work has a
very low probability of acceptance at those journals. Of course, the editors at these journals cannot publish what is
not submitted, hence the low submission rate is also a cause of the low publication rate.
3

Summers and Wood (2015) present compelling evidence that three of the top 6 accounting journals (JAR, JAE,
and RAST) exhibit little diversity in topical area publication patterns and are largely dominated by financial
accounting research. See Table 3, Panel A in Summers and Wood (2015).

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deemed more mainstream (i.e., financial accounting) simply to increase the likelihood of publishing in
the premier journals (and this strategy appears to have been successful for some).
The low frequency of AIS articles in the top journals is problematic because it inhibits growth in
the field, simply by constraining the number of researchers engaged in the area. Doctoral programs and
hence doctoral students are driven away from AIS and towards fields that are deemed to have a higher
probability of success in the top journals. Of the roughly 100 or so doctoral programs in accounting, most
have a stated goal of placing their graduates at peer or better doctoral granting schools. Given that most
schools with doctoral programs place a heavy premium on publications in the top five journals, it is
hardly surprising that less than five doctoral programs in accounting support a specialization in AIS
research. The extremely low number of AIS doctorates produced in any given year then exacerbates the
problem of very low submissions to the top journals in the field (at least from newly minted or recently
minted doctorates). Low submissions in turn beget low publications, leading to a self-perpetuating
problem of lack of representation of AIS research in the top journals that in turn fuels the (mis)perception

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of AIS as a research field that is not worthy of being published in the top journals.
There is a widely held viewpoint in academia that only research that appears in the very top

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be of lower quality. Summers and Wood (2015) present convincing evidence that many articles

journals is of exceptional quality and research appearing in specialty journals not in the top 6 list must

appearing in specialty journals are actually of higher quality (as measured by citations) than those topical
area publications appearing in the top 6 journals. Thus, a good argument can be made that much of the
research appearing in JIS is as good as that appearing in the top 6 journals, and at least some articles in
JIS are of better quality than those appearing in the top 6 journals. Related, I concur with Summers and
Woods (2015) and allied arguments by Starbuck (2005) that research articles should be evaluated in terms
of their impact (as measured by citations, downloads, influence on practice, etc.) and quality as assessed
by knowledgeable peers, rather than simply the journals in which they appear. Notwithstanding these
arguments, I do believe we have a production problem in that we are not producing enough high quality
AIS research, due largely to the limited number of researchers who work in the field. I argue that a more

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focused definition of AISone that squarely addresses both the accounting and the information systems
components of topics researchedwill foster research that stands a better chance of publication in the top
journals and concomitantly attract more researchers to the field.
A second challenge AIS researchers face is that their research work is often conflated with
research done by what I term pure information systems researchers. Again, most top business schools
have researchers in the field of (pure) information systems (IS), whether in standalone information
systems departments or as sub-groups within departments or groups with all-encompassing names such
as operations and decision technologies or technology and operations or supply chain and systems
or information systems and decision sciences. Our colleagues in other accounting disciplines, such as
financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, and taxation, are often confused about how AIS
research differs from pure IS research. Adding to the confusion is the title of this very journal (in
hindsight, I wonder if we would have been better off adding the word accounting to the journal title;
alas, it is too late to make it Journal of Accounting Information Systems since the JAIS acronym has

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already been claimed, i.e., Journal of the Association for Information Systems4). An uninformed financial
accounting/capital markets researcher is arguably justified in wondering how research published in JIS is

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Information Systems Research, or Journal of Management Information Systems. In my view, a broad view
any different from research published in any of the leading IS journals, for example MIS Quarterly,

of AIS that considers virtually all IS topics as falling under the AIS umbrella does little to advance our
cause and does much to blur the lines between AIS and pure IS, to our detriment. If we believe in the
goal of advancing AIS knowledge, as stated in the journal tagline, we must be able to clearly articulate
how the field of AIS differs from pure IS. Doing so would necessarily entail specifying criteria for
identifying research that falls within the AIS domain, and by default criteria for identifying research that
does not fall within the AIS domain.

One option I boldly offer is to merge the Journal of Information Systems and the Journal of Emerging
Technologies in Accounting into one journal named Journal of Accounting Systems and Technology (JAST), or
Journal of Accounting Information Systems and Technology (JAIST). Such a journal could even have a separate
section dedicated for strategic and emerging technology issues.

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Analysis of Publications in JIS


In our 30 year history, to what extent have we been focused on research questions that address
both accounting and information systems issues? Stated differently, to what extent has our research been
focused on the intersection between accounting and information systems? In an attempt to answer this
question, I first undertook a citation analysis of articles appearing in JIS and then analyzed the pattern of
key word usage in the journal.
The citation analysis covered a 12 year period from 1999 to 2010. Excluding book reviews, a
total of 138 articles were published in this 12 year period in the spring 1999 issue through the fall 2010
issue, comprising academic, practice, and education articles (including instructional cases). For these
articles, I had student assistants identify the number of citations to each article in Google Scholar and
follow the citation trail for each article to identify the source of each citation. For the citation trail, I had
them code whether each cite was in JIS, another AIS journal (e.g., IJAIS, JETA), another accounting
journal (e.g., AJPT, JMAR, BRIA, TAR, etc.), an IS journal (e.g., MISQ, ISR, JMIS, etc.), another

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business journal (non-accounting, non-IS), a conference proceeding, a working paper, a book, or a foreign

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Next, I requested three doctoral students to classify each of the 138 articles in the 12 year period

journal. The citation counts and citing sources were retrieved over a three week period in September and
October 2015.

as either having high AIS content or low AIS content. Two of them had taken an AIS doctoral
seminar and had passed the qualifying exam, while the third student was currently taking the AIS doctoral
seminar. They were instructed to classify articles that clearly addressed both accounting and information
systems issues as high AIS content, while articles without a clear accounting or information systems
connection were to be classified as having low AIS content.5 The three students were in complete
agreement in the classification of 70 of the 138 articles (i.e., all three agreed the article was either high
or low AIS). For the remaining 68 articles where at least one of the coders disagreed, the category
5

For example, an article dealing with continuous auditing was categorized as high AIS content. An example of an
article deemed to have low AIS content is a research synthesis on the return on investments in information
technology.

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chosen by two of the three doctoral students was selected as the articles AIS content category. Cohens
kappa was computed for each of the three pairwise coder comparisons to discern the level of agreement
between coders; the Kappa coefficients were 0.309, 0.385, and 0.388. Although there is considerable
debate in the literature on benchmarks for Kappa coefficients, Landis and Koch (1977) deem a coefficient
between 0.20 and 0.40 to be indicative of fair agreement. Of the 138 articles, 61 were in the low
category and 77 in the high category.
The citation counts are shown in Table 1. There were a total of 4,951 citations to the 138 articles
over the 12 year period. The first revealing observation is that 68 of 138 articles with citations did not
have JIS as a citing source. It seems troubling that about half of the articles published in JIS are not cited
in JIS but are cited in other sources. While I am not advocating the unethical practice of editorially
mandating a certain number of citations to the journal to which an article is submitted, one would expect a
greater proportion of citations to JIS if authors are building on prior works published in the journal, which
would be indicative of a field with greater acceptability of its common body of knowledge.

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[---- Insert Table 1 here ----]

It is also interesting to note that other AIS journals tended to cite JIS articles more frequently than

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predecessor AAIS, JETA, International Journal of Intelligent Systems in Accounting, Finance, and

JIS itself; however, this may simply be due to the number of AIS journals other than JIS (i.e., IJAIS, its

Management, Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, Review of Business/Accounting


Information Systems). The greater number of citations in IS journals (410) compared to accounting
journals (332) is evidence that research published in JIS has more of an information systems flavor than
an accounting flavor. Somewhat surprising is that the highest citation count (1,486) comes from
unpublished working papers. This data point can be interpreted both positively (JIS articles spawn a lot of
new research projects) and negatively (those articles do not get published). Also interesting to note is the
high number of citations in business journals other than accounting and information systems (528).
Figure 1 graphically depicts the pattern of average citations by citing source for articles deemed
to have either low or high AIS content. Across all categories, the general trend is that articles with high

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AIS content have higher average citations per article than those with low AIS content. The first four
categories in figure 1 can be considered our natural base or our home field, that is, citations in JIS, other
AIS journals, accounting journals, and IS journals. For both high and low AIS content articles, it is
puzzling to note that the average citations per article is higher for business journals than for the first four
home field journal categories. It is also interesting to note from figure 1 that a large number of citations
to JIS are in foreign journals.
[---- Insert Figure 1 here ----]
Turning to the analysis of key word usage, beginning in the fall of 2011 all AAA journals
required authors to identify key words for their published articles (prior to fall 2011 some AAA journals
did require key words while others did not). In addition to JIS, I decided to analyze the pattern of key
words for three other section journals: Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, Journal of Management
Accounting Research, and Journal of the American Taxation Association. These three section journals
would seem to be a reasonable basis for comparison, since each deals with a specialized sub-field of the

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broader accounting discipline. Table 2 shows the number of articles and key words for the four journals.
While AJPT and JMAR have the same average number of key words per article (4.3), JIS has a much

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from these statistics, it appears that JIS is more diverse than the other sectional journals, while JATA is
higher average number of key words per article (4.9) and JATA has a much lower average (3.0). Just

remarkably less diverse (i.e., more focused).


[---- Insert Table 2 here ----]
Of the 464 key words in the 94 JIS articles for the period, the most frequent key word was
XBRL with a count of nine. The next two key words used most often, with a count of eight each, were
IT governance and social media. The key words continuous auditing and continuous monitoring
each appeared seven times; given their similarity it is reasonable to state that continuous
auditing/monitoring is the most frequent key word with a count of 14. Six key words were used three
times each and 24 key words were used twice. The remaining 339 key words, or 73 percent of the total
number, were each used only once. On the surface, if almost three-quarter of the key words were used

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only once, it suggests that we have little commonality of focus in our field. Before drawing firm
conclusions, however, it is worth reviewing the key word patterns in the three other sectional journals. In
JATA, 78 percent of the total key words were used only once, while in JMAR 79 percent of the key
words were used only once. In a field that is arguably much better defined, auditing, only 61 percent of
key words were used only once in AJPT. Thus, JIS appears similar to JMAR and JATA in terms of key
word diversity, while AJPT appears to be considerably more focused.
The situation looks slightly different when querying the key words for occurrences of words or
phrases unique to the field. In AJPT, 36 percent of key words contained the word audit or assurance.
In JATA, 38 percent of key words contained the word tax. The management accounting field appears
to be quite diverse, with only eight percent of the key words in JMAR containing the words
management or managerial or accounting. However, only three percent of the key words in JIS
contained either accounting or information systems. It is difficult to see how the AIS field can
flourish if we have such a high level of diversity in the kinds of topics published in our leading academic

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journal, at least as suggested by the key word choices made by authors.

Collectively, the key words and citation pattern analyses suggest that the field of AIS lacks focus.

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with for years. However, evidence that articles with a higher AIS content receive more citations in

The vast diversity in usage of key words is emblematic of the lack of identity problem we have wrestled

accounting and IS journals suggests that we would be well served to direct our research efforts to topics
that fall squarely in the intersection between accounting and information systems. Doing so will take the
collective effort of authors, reviewers, and editors. First, it is incumbent upon authors to clearly articulate
how their manuscripts relate to accounting information systems, preferably by using some combination of
the words accounting, information, and systems. Second, it behooves reviewers (and editors) to
challenge authors to explicate these links, particularly when the subject matter of the study does not fall
squarely in one of the normal fields of inquiry within AIS (that is, transaction processing systems, internal
controls, or the use of accounting information in a managerial decision-making context). Third, the
burden falls on editors to encourage and solicit submissions that have high AIS content and to desk-

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reject articles that have no discernible AIS content. To be clear, I am not calling for a myopic view of
AIS; rather, the exhortation is to make links to AIS explicit when the research question ostensibly relates
primarily to our sister discipline of (management) information systems. Thus, a study that, for example,
explores alternative configurations of knowledge management systems should explicitly indicate how the
findings are informative to academics and practitioners in AIS. A simple test for ascertaining whether a
research question has high AIS content is to ask the following question: would our colleagues in any
other subfield of accounting (financial, audit, managerial, tax) be interested in the answer to the question?
An affirmative (negative) answer to this question suggests that the topic has high (low) AIS content.

Defining Accounting Information Systems


To parse what is meant by accounting information systems, I believe it is helpful to attempt to
distinguish AIS from the closely related field of management information systems (MIS), or what I refer
to here as pure information systems (IS). To this end, it is informative to examine the editorial

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objectives of the leading journals in information systems. The MIS Quarterly editorial objective follows:
The editorial objective of the MIS Quarterly is the enhancement and communication of knowledge

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and economics of IT with managerial, organizational,
and societal implications. The goal of Information
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concerning the development of IT-based services, the management of IT resources, and the use, impact,

Systems Research follows: Information Systems Research (ISR) is a leading peer-reviewed, international
journal focusing on theory, research, and intellectual development for information systems in
organizations, institutions, the economy, and society. It is dedicated to furthering knowledge in the
application of information technologies to human organizations and their management and, more broadly,
to improving economic and social welfare. These editorial objectives are indicative of the much broader
realm of the MIS field. Questions that address any aspect of the connection between information
technology and individuals or organizations would constitute MIS research questions.
To see how accounting-relevant information systems issues are only a small subset of all possible
information issues, it is informative to consider how enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are

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structured. In SAP, the foremost ERP system, only two of the 10 primary modules relate directly to
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accounting (i.e., the FIfinancial accounting and COcontrolling modules). Information technology
and systems permeate contemporary business organizations, but the majority of research questions
regarding the ways in which IT affects business do not automatically qualify as AIS questions. Stated
differently, there are a host of interesting questions relating to how IT is used by individuals and in
organizations, but they do not necessarily have accounting implications, which means that they do not
relate to financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, or taxation. That is not to say that these
are not legitimate research questions worth addressing. My point is simply that these broader IT questions
belong to the domain of management (pure) information systems, for which a wide range of (non-AIS)
publication homes exist. Also obvious but worth pointing out is that an AIS researcher seeking to answer
one of these broader IT questions is likely competing with scores of researchers in MIS who are very
probably better qualified to address those questions. Our competitive advantage as AIS researchers is to
address AIS research questionsthat is, questions that clearly have both an accounting angle and an

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information systems angle. Addressing such questions involves leveraging our backgrounds and
institutional knowledge from the field of accounting and also our specialized knowledge of information

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As suggested by its very name, the field of accounting information systems straddles both

systems and information technology that our colleagues in other accounting subfields lack.

accounting and information systems. It is worth recalling that prior to the information technology
revolution of the last 40 odd years, the (manual) accounting function was the de facto information system
within the organization. As accountants were reluctant to embrace information technology, technically
adept academics and practitioners rose to the challenge and thus arose management information systems
as a distinct field of inquiry. This pure information systems field focuses primarily on information
technology issues and the interaction of individuals and organizations with information technology. Given

Of course, the other modules feed data to the FI and CO modules, and issues of internal control and report
generation in the other modules would be of interest from an AIS standpoint. However, accountants interact directly
and primarily only with the FI and CO modules.

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that the role of the accounting function is to provide reliable information for economic decision making,
and that the role of the information systems function is to design and manage information technology to
support decision making, the two fields are closely related. While the accounting field is oriented more
towards information itself, the information systems field is geared more toward the systems that produce
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information (Murthy and Wiggins 1999). The field of AIS then ought to examine issues that touch on
both accounting and information systems. Formally, I offer the following succinct definition of AIS:
The field of accounting information systems deals with all aspects of the impact of
information technology on the accounting function.
This definition is broad, as signaled by the all aspects component of the definition. However, it
is also narrow in that the definition specifies that the field deals with both information technology and
accounting. Following this definition, to qualify as an AIS topic, the research question should address
some aspect of information technology, including but not limited to the design, use, control, and audit of
systems. However, the research question should also address the accounting function, again broadly

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defined to include auditing, managerial accounting, financial accounting, taxation, and not-for-profit
accounting. The definition is agnostic as to research method (design science, natural science,

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the usual suspects in terms of AIS topics would fit within this definition, for example, research in

experimental, archival) and the all aspects wording is about as inclusive as a definition can be. Most of

information systems auditing, decision aids, XBRL, ERP systems, knowledge based systems, IT
governance, and information security.
Research questions in the field of AIS should naturally draw on background literature and
institutional knowledge from both accounting and information systems. In this view of AIS, questions
that fall within only one domain, either accounting or information systems, that do not draw on
knowledge in the other field would not qualify as AIS research questions. As Murthy and Wiggins (1999)

I do not mean to imply here that the MIS field is concerned only with technical aspects of the information system
itself. In recent years the MIS field has explored a range of issues relating to organizational, economic, societal, and
even environmental impacts of information systems.

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suggest, the intersection view of AIS begets two broad categories of AIS research: (1) accounting issues
examined from an information systems perspective and (2) information systems issues examined from an
accounting perspective. The most natural accounting issues affected by information systems or
information technology are those relating to business process transaction processing, internal controls in
systems that process business transactions, and issues relating to providing assurance on the accuracy and
reliability of accounting information emanating from computer-based systems.
Information technology has dramatically revolutionized a whole host of accounting processes
from the manual accounting era. For example, whereas auditing in a manual accounting world was
limited to periodic examination of accounting records, information technology enabled continuous
auditing facilitates near real-time identification and correction of audit exceptions. While the accounting
subfield of auditing is probably the closest cousin to AIS, one can conceive of a range of research
questions in managerial accounting, financial accounting, and even taxation that address issues within
these subfields affected by information systems and information technology. How are budgeting

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processes altered by improved monitoring of subordinate performance enabled by information


technology? How has the SECs XBRL mandate requiring tagging of individual financial statement line

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of tax provision estimates? These are just a few examples of AIS research questions that relate directly to

items affected the timeliness and quality of SEC filings? Can decision aid technology improve the quality

managerial accounting, financial accounting, and taxation respectively. A noteworthy dimension of these
questions is that our colleagues in managerial accounting, financial accounting, and taxation would (or
should) be very interested in their answers. Accordingly, AIS research addressing questions along such
lines should get a fair hearing from our leading journals, or at a minimum are unlikely to be rejected on
the grounds that they have no implications for the field of accounting.

Discussion and Conclusion


Despite some of the troubling trends in AIS research as noted in this commentary (decrease in the
number of active researchers in the field, few doctoral programs producing AIS faculty, etc.), there are

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many reasons to believe that the future for AIS research (and education) is bright. The accounting
profession is increasingly demanding that accounting programs produce graduates that are both technical
competent in accounting as well as adept with information technology. Without disparaging the fine
efforts of non-doctoral AIS instructors, doctoral AIS research faculty are uniquely qualified to integrate
the latest AIS research (including their own research) into AIS courses, thereby producing graduates at
the forefront of advances in knowledge at the intersection of accounting and information systems. The
recently adopted AACSB Standard A78 Information technology skills and knowledge for accounting
graduates has heightened the need for accounting programs to focus on skills and knowledge in data
creation, data sharing, data analytics, data mining, data reporting, and storage. We should collectively be
arguing that AIS research is the only field within the accounting discipline that focuses on advancing such
knowledge and the AIS course is ideally suited to impart and hone these skills.
Every one of the major international public accounting firms has been touting Big Data and data
analytics as tremendous opportunities for all of their service lines. Beyond the need to integrate such

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concepts and skills into the accounting curriculum, there are a vast number of unanswered questions about
the most effective and efficient strategies for incorporating Big Data and analytics into various aspects of

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opportunities for AIS research to impact the accounting profession. The current list contains the
the accounting function. Similarly, the AICPAs top ten technologies list represents yet more

following topics: (1) securing the IT environment, (2) managing and retaining data, (3) managing IT risks
and compliance, (4) ensuring privacy, (5) enabling decision support and analytics, (6) managing system
implementations, (7) preventing and responding to computer fraud, (8) governing and managing IT
investment and spending, (9) leveraging emerging technologies, and (10) managing vendors and service
providers. Although not explicit in the AICPAs listing of top technologies, of particular interest is the
connection between the technology and issues that concern accountants. Thus, while some of these topics
appear to be very IT-oriented, their impact on the accounting function is of particular interest to CPAs and

See http://www.aacsb.edu/accreditation/standards/2013accounting/learning%20and%20teaching%20standards/standard7.

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thus studying them would require deep knowledge of both accounting and information systems. There
are, in short, a plethora of opportunities for research that we in the AIS community are best placed to
address. Advancing knowledge in these areas will not only meet a critical need for contemporary
businesses but will also bolster the credibility of accounting information systems as a separate and
distinct field of inquiry. Moreover, research questions addressing these topics would be well within the
domain of the focused definition of AIS research offered in this commentary; these questions fall squarely
at the intersection of accounting and information systems.
It would of course be nave to think that merely a new definition would magically result in a
significant increase in focused AIS research that will bolster the fields legitimacy. I do believe that the
definition I offer will, at a minimum, cause researchers to think more deeply about how their AIS
research idea addresses issues at the intersection of accounting and information systems. Beyond AIS
researchers thinking more deeply about selecting topics that have both an accounting component and an
information systems component, I believe a number of other initiatives can be undertaken in parallel to

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help the field grow. The first initiative is for the existing pool of AIS researchers to collaborate with
accounting researchers in the other sub-fields of accounting, specifically auditing, managerial accounting,

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accounting connection in the research, since the sub-discipline co-author would presumably be more

taxation, and financial accounting. Such co-authorships would have the added benefit of sharpening the

attuned to what would resonate with academics in that field. Additionally, these co-authors can then be
counted on to appreciate AIS research and join us in our efforts to raise awareness of its importance.
Another significant initiative would be to assemble a task force of senior AIS researchers to advance the
cause of AIS research in the American Accounting Association, collegiate schools of business schools,
and the major international public accounting firms. This task force could consider identifying at least
categories of key words to help frame the boundaries of the field. Such a project would be similar to the
Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) classification project,9 which has become accepted as a standard

See https://www.aeaweb.org/econlit/jelCodes.php. Articles submitted to the Journal of Accounting and Economics,


for example, must specify the JEL classification codes for the research.

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method of classifying research in the field of economics. A final idea is to engage AIS research faculty at
non-doctoral granting schools to serve on AIS dissertation committees at the few schools that produce
AIS doctorates. While I firmly believe that we need more accounting doctoral programs to produce PhDs
specializing in AIS, I recognize that it is an uphill battle to win this argument in doctoral committees
dominated by researchers in financial accounting using the archival methodology. Over time, however,
with the increasing acceptability of AIS research in the top journals and the growing number of non-AIS
accounting faculty engaged in AIS research as co-authors, it would seem reasonable to expect more
openness for AIS as a specialization in doctoral accounting programs.
To conclude, I suggest refocusing AIS research on the intersection between accounting and
information systems. There are a whole host of research questions regarding the effects of information
technology on the production, reliability, and use of accounting information. As I suggested earlier in this
commentary, what falls squarely in the intersection between accounting and information systems are
issues relating to IT-driven transaction processing, internal controls in systems, assurance and reliability

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of accounting information from systems, and IT support for decision-making in any accounting domain.
Information technology permeates contemporary businesses, and if accounting is the language of business

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of great interest to most accounting academics and practitioners. The field of AIS can flourish if we make
it follows that questions addressing the implications of information technology on accounting should be

a more concerted effort to explicate how our research that has a distinct information systems flavor also
has significant implications for accounting. A clearer articulation of the accounting implications of our
research should foster a more welcome reception at the leading journals in our field, which should
hopefully beget more publication success in these journals. Greater publication success in our premier
journals will in turn foster greater acceptability of AIS as a legitimate field in the eyes of our colleagues
in other subfields, thereby drawing more researchers and eventually doctoral students to the field. In
short, I argue that refocusing AIS research on the intersection between accounting and information
systems is critical not just for the growth of our field but indeed its survival. I urge readers of this
commentary to join me in this call to action.

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References
DeFond, M.L. 2015. Annual report and editorial commentary for The Accounting Review. The
Accounting Review, 90(6): 2603-2638.
Landis, J. R., and G. G. Koch. 1977. The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data.
Biometrics 33 (1): 159-174.
McCarthy W.E. 1987. Accounting information systems: Research directions and perspective. Journal of
Information Systems, 2(1): 29-32.
Murthy, U.S. and C.E. Wiggins. 1999. A perspective on Accounting Information Systems Research.
Journal of Information Systems, 13(1): 3-6.
Starbuck, W.H. 2005. How much better are the most-prestigious journals? The statistics of academic
publication. Organization Science, 16(2): 180-200.
Stone, D. 2002. Researching the revolution: Prospects and possibilities for the Journal of Information
Systems. Journal of Information Systems, 16(1): 1-6.
Summers, S.L. and D.A. Wood. 2015. An evaluation of the general vs. specialist nature of top accounting
journals. Working Paper. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2677443.
Tuttle, B. 2005. Editors comments. Journal of Information Systems, 19(2): 1-5.

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Steinbart, P. 2009. Thoughts about the future of the Journal of Information Systems. Journal of
Information Systems, 23(1): 1-4.

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14.00

12.00

10.00

JIS
Other AIS journals
Acct journals

8.00

IS journals
Business journals
Non-business journals

6.00

Conferences
Working papes
Foreign journals

4.00

Books

2.00

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0.00

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Figure 1: Count of citations to JIS articles published from 1999 to 2010,
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by citing source and perceived level of AIS content
Low AIS content

High AIS content

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Table 1
Counts of citations to articles in JIS from 1999 to 2010,
by citing source and perceived degree of AIS content

Low AIS
content
High AIS
content
Grand Total

JIS

Other
AIS
journals

Accounting
journals

IS
journals

Other
business
journals

Nonbusiness
journals

Conferences

Working
papers

Foreign
journals

Books

1792

55

87

116

123

210

119

111

520

196

64

3159
4951

115
170

149
236

216
332

287
410

318
528

206
325

166
277

966
1486

294
490

112
176

Total
cites

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Other
Low AIS
content
High AIS
content
Grand Total

Low AIS content


High AIS
content
Grand Total

Total
cites

JIS

Other
AIS
journals

1792

55

87

3159
4951
Total
cites

115
170
JIS

1792
3159
4951

Accounti
ng
journals
116

busine
ss
journal
s

Nonbusiness
journals

IS
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123
210
119

149
236
Other
AIS
journals

216
332
Accountin
g journals

55
115

87
149

116
216

170

236

332

287
410

318
528
IS
Other
journals
busine
ss
journal
s
123
210
287
318
410

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528

Conferenc
es

Workin
g
papers

Foreig
n
journa
ls

Boo
ks

111

520

196

64

206
325
Nonbusiness
journals

166
966
294
112
277
1486
490
176
Conference Workin Foreig
s
g
n
papers journal
s

Boo
ks

119
206

111
166

520
966

196
294

64
112

325

277

1486

490

176

Low AIS
content
High AIS
content
Grand Total

Low AIS
content
High AIS
content
Grand Total

Accounti
ng
journals

IS
journals

Other
busine
ss
journal
s

Conferenc
es

Foreig
n
journa
ls

Boo
ks

Total
cites

JIS

1792

55

87

116

123

210

119

111

520

196

64

3159
4951

115
170

149
236

216
332

287
410

206
325

166
277

966
1486

294
490

112
176

Total
cites

JIS

Other
AIS
journals

Accounti
ng
journals

IS
journals

318
528
Other
busine
ss
journal
s

Nonbusiness
journals

Conferenc
es

Workin
g
papers

Foreig
n
journa
ls

Boo
ks

1792

55

87

116

123

210

119

111

520

196

64

3159
4951

115
170

149
236

216
332

287
410

318
528

206
325

166
277

966
1486

294
490

112
176

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Nonbusiness
journals

Workin
g
papers

Other
AIS
journals

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Table 2
Number of articles and key word totals for JIS, AJPT, JMAR, and JATA from 2011 to 2015

Number of articles
Total number of key words
(including duplicates)
Average key words per article

JIS

AJPT

JMAR

JATA

94
464

114
492

59
255

55
165

4.9

4.3

4.3

3.0

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