SYNOPSIS

In this brief paper, I provide an argument that the rigor that allegedly characterizes contemporary mainstream accounting research is a myth. Expanding on arguments provided by West (2003), Gillies (2004), and Williams (1989), I show that the numbers utilized extensively to construct the statistical models that are the central defining feature of rigorous accounting research are, in many cases, not adequate to the task. These numbers are operational numbers that cannot be construed as measures or quantities of any kind of stable property. Constructing elaborate calculative models using operational numbers leads to equations whose results are not clearly decipherable. The rigorous nature of certain preferred forms of accounting research is, thus, largely a matter of appearance and not a substantive quality of the research mode that we habitually label “rigorous.” Thus, the policy recommendations implied by the results of rigorous accounting research may be viewed with considerable skepticism.

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