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Analysis of qualitative and quantitative techniques and methods in papers presented at the fifth and sixth USP Controllership and Accounting Congress.
In recent years, scientific production in accountancy has increased. This critical-analytic study analyzed the qualitative and quantitative methods and techniques used in articles approved for presentation at the fifth and sixth Controllership and Accounting Congress held by the University of Sao Paulo (USP). The aim was to present a panorama of what is being used in these research and the most frequent classifications. After all, the development of a science depends on the reliability of its results (NEWTON-SMITH, 1987). Therefore, categories were structured, analyzing 250 articles, 100 from the 2005 and 150 from the 2006 congress. Content analysis was used as the methodology for data collection, while frequency distribution and correspondence analysis was used to analyze and report the results. The conclusions showed the predominant association between quantitative articles and multivariate analysis and between qualitative articles and bibliographic and documentary research.

Key words: methods, techniques, content analysis, accountancy, correspondence analysis

Article Type:
Accounting (Methods)
Accounting (Usage)
Qualitative research (Analysis)
Qualitative research (Methods)
Benetti, Cristiane
Reginato, Luciane
Martins, Gilberto
Pub Date:
Name: International Journal of Business Research Publisher: International Academy of Business and Economics Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, international Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 International Academy of Business and Economics ISSN: 1555-1296
Date: Jan, 2009 Source Volume: 9 Source Issue: 1
Product Code: 9915400 Accounting Methods SIC Code: 8721 Accounting, auditing, & bookkeeping
Geographic Scope: Brazil Geographic Code: 3BRAZ Brazil
Accession Number:
Full Text:

Besides the need for support from theories that sustain the subject under discussion, the development and significance of a scientific study depend on a structure of methods and techniques that facilitates its construction and offers the credibility its product requires. A research cannot be effective without taking into account the steps needed to accomplish it.

Given that one is working with a concrete situation, with actual problems, it is expected that both the diagnosis of the situation and resulting proposals be based on the collection and analysis of data and information (ROESCH, 1996), which, in turn, need instruments that favor their accomplishments. These instruments can be understood as research methods and techniques themselves, distinguished by a quantitative and qualitative perspective. In this respect, in general terms, Collis and Hussey (2005) mention that a quantitative method involves the collection and analysis of numerical data and the application of statistical test, while a qualitative method is more subjective and involves examinaton and reflection about perceptions with a view to understanding social and human activities. However, despite the unquestionable importance of methods and techniques to carry out any research with scientific rigor, literature does not converge on its classifications, especially with respect to the methods and techniques for quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis in the social sciences (BUNGE, 1980).

It is in this context that this study aims to analyze the quantitative and qualitative methods and techniques in the studies presented at the 5th and 6th USP accountancy and controllership Congresses, so as to present a panorama of what this research is using in methodological terms. Moreover, the goal is to classify each article in the method and technique categories, in line with literature about this subject, through content analysis and, next, through multivariate analysis techniques, with a view to presenting the study tendencies, whose methodological steps are shown in section 3 of this study.


The quality of a research does not only depend on the adequacy of it planning, but also on the productivity of the measurement processes that are used. In this sense, a measurement process consists in a technique to join data, besides a set of rules to use these data (SELLTIZ et al, 1975). Departing from the premise that measurement is important, as mentioned by the authors, this study covers the methods and techniques used, as means and forms of achieving the outlined objective, respecting some authors' classification, as exposed next.

In science, methods constitute basic instruments that order thought into systems, outlining how scientists should proceed during their research in an orderly way, so as to reach the objective they set (TRUJILLO, 1982; GIL, 1999). Some authors, like Marconi and Lakatos (2005), claim that methods are divided into inductive and deductive; according to Selltiz et al, in social sciences, observation, sociometric, projective and other indirect methods exist. Martins (1994) states that the general concept of method had not been consolidated until the start of the XVIIth century, despite its birth in the classical Greek period. He also mentions that the first modern thinkers in this area were Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes. Bacon defended the inductive method, while Descartes believed in analysis and deduction.

According to Martins (1994), the scientific method is applied to the social sciences as from the end of the last century, and a large part of the advances observed over time are due to Comte's positive philosophy and to the Marxist philosophy. However, the same author comments that the expression scientific method can induce to the belief that it consists of a set of exhaustive and infallible rules while, in fact, what exists is a scientific research strategy, with general and particular techniques and peculiar methods for different sciences.

In view of the above, in their work, authors like Collis and Hussey (2005) demonstrate a separation between quantitative and qualitative data. In this respect, in his research, Martins (1994) found that approximately 50% of research in this area use quantitative methodological instruments.

Besides the so-called quantitative studies, qualitative research exists. According to Trivinos (1987), it is characterized by the non-use of statistical instruments in data analysis, being essentially descriptive and frequently using transcriptions of interviews and testimonies. The logics and coherence of its arguments are based on a range of techniques, such as formal and informal interviews, field observation, historical analysis, ethnography. According to Richardson (1999), this kind of research is characterized by the attempt to get a detailed understanding of the meanings and situational characteristics presented by individuals and the environments they work in. Alassutari (1995) contributes by mentioning that the definition of qualitative research does not imply excluding some quantitative analyses of qualitative data.

Some studies that used to be strictly quantitative started to use the qualitative methodology in order to understand some phenomena that could not be defined a priori, in the attempt to overcome, for example, a limitation in surveys--the tendency to generalize and the difficulty to interpret more symbolic perception, and the characteristic of questionnaire-based studies, whose findings are necessarily limited by relevancy judgments or by the researcher's imagination when data are compiled (SCHOREDER, 1999). Martins (1994) asserts that conventional research can be understood as studies based on quantitatively generated empirical data, collected and processed objectively and neutrally, while non-conventional research uses qualitative analyses. According to the author, this gives rise to expressions like qualitative research, qualitative methodology, among others.

In view of the above and considering the absence of unanimity among authors about methods and techniques, this study constructed a theoretical base to analyze the results.

2.1 Methods and Techniques

According to Trivinos (1987), it cannot be affirmed that qualitative research uses different instruments for data collection than quantitative studies, such as questionnaires, interviews and observation for example. Hence, this study will focus on the instruments used for data analysis, as data collection tools cannot be separated into quantitative and qualitative.

Various authors look at qualitative research and, consequently, the methods and techniques it uses, and some call it the qualitative approach. Yin (2001), for example, refers to the case study as a fundamentally qualitative strategy, and other authors agree with this idea (TULL; HAWKINS, 1976). Neuendorf (2002) and Bardin (1995) highlight content analysis as a qualitative research instrument, although Trivinos (1987) defines it as a method that can be used in both quantitative and qualitative research.

Martins (1994) and Selltiz, Wrightsman and Cook (1981) add assessment research to this list, which is applied to assess social improvement programs, and participant research, which is a social research focus that seeks the community's participation in the analysis of its reality, with a view to promoting social participation for the benefit of the research participants. Moreover, studies can be found that present action-research, which, according to Roesch (1996), joins theory and practice, which distinguishes it from other qualitative research foci. Other instruments, such as historical research and discourse analysis (MARTINS, 1994), as well as the triangulation technique, defended by Yin (2001), are similarly evidenced in literature.

Besides these approaches considered as qualitative, among the consulted authors, methods and techniques can be observed that are classified as quantitative. Due to the lack of unanimity among them and to make this study possible, a classification similar to Martins (1994) was adopted as the base, added with other authors. The classification is: a) descriptive statistics; b) inter-variable relationship; c) non-parametrical techniques; d) inferential statistics; e) multivariate analysis; f) financial mathematics; g) operational research, whose adaptation will be properly presented in section 3.

According to Maroco (2003) and Collis and Hussey (2005), descriptive statistics is an exploratory data analysis that can be univariate or bivariate. This includes frequency distributions, percentages, position and dispersion measures, histograms. (BRYMAN, CRAMER, 1999; HAIR et al., 2005). The relation between variables contains Pearson's Correlation (NETER et al.,1996), which measures the relationship degrees between two variables; Bartlet's Sphericity Test (HAIR et al, 2005); Kaiser--Meyer--Olkin's Measure (KMO) (HAIR et al., 2005; PESTANA; GAGEIRO, 1998); Lilliefors' and Kolmogorof-Smirnoff's (Normality) Test (LILLIEFORS, 1967); Chi-Square Test (HAIR et al. 2005). Some non-parametrical techniques for related and non-related samples are the Ansari-Bradley, Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney, Kruskal Wallis Tests, among others.

Inferential statistics consists in a set of analytical techniques used to identify and characterize relations between variables (SELLTIZ, WRIGHTSMAN, COOK, 1987). It permits inferences based on univariate and multivariate sample findings. Some of its components are: hypothesis test, dispersion of dispersion, correlation coefficient, regression analysis, time series analysis (DEGROOT, 1975; WONNACOTT, WONNACOTT, 1980).

Multivariate analysis included factor analysis (HAIR et al. 2005; PESTANA, GAGEIRO, 1998); Discriminant analysis (HAIR et al, 2005; JOHNSON, WICHERN, 2002; PESTANA, GAGEIRO, 1998); Linear and Multiple Regression (HAIR et al, 2005; JOHNSON, WICHERN, 2002; NETER et al., 1996; PESTANA, GAGEIRO, 1998); Survival Analysis (GREENACRE, BLASIUS, 1994); Conglomerate or Cluster Analysis (SHARMA, 1995; HAIR et al, 2005); Correspondence Analysis: simple (ANACOR) or multiple correspondence analysis (HOMALS) (CARVALHO, 2004; HAIR et al, 2005; JOHNSON, WICHERN, 2002; PESTANA, GAGEIRO, 1998).

The financial mathematics category includes quantitative studies aimed at testing preexisting models, or the construction of numerical didactical examples, while operations research (OP) aims to provide quantitative tools for the decision-making process. The latter consists of a set of techniques like Linear Programming, Queuing Theory, Simulation, Dynamic Programming, Game Theory etc. According to Wagner (1985) constructing models is the essence of the OP approach.

This theoretical reference framework served as the base for this research, whose methodology will be discriminated next.


3.1 Sample Description

The sample consisted of the articles presented at the 5th and 6th USP Controllership and Accountancy Congresses, held in 2005 and 2006, respectively, taken from the congress annals, totaling a sample of 250 articles.

3.2 Methodological Procedures

This study, with a critical-analytic approach, analyzed the methodological classifications of the articles presented at the above mentioned congresses. Content analysis was used to analyze and classify the articles. According to Neuendorf (2002, p.1) "it can be defined as the qualitative, objective and systematic analysis of the characteristics of messages" or "a set of communication analysis techniques aimed at obtaining, through systematic and objective procedures to describe the message contents, indicators that permit inferring knowledge about the conditions these messages were produced/received in" (BARDIN, 1995, p. 42).

The categories used to classify the quantitative methods and techniques were adapted from studies by Martins (1994), and the classifications adopted for the articles with a qualitative approach were constructed according to the bibliographic research that was carried out. Thus, the following categorization was considered:

Chart 1--Qualitative and quantitative methods and techniques

Each category informed in chart 1 was considered quantitative or qualitative, in line with the scope of each article under analysis. Categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 13 were classified as quantitative, in this study, and the remainder as qualitative because of their non-quantitative essence. This will be better specified in data analysis. Besides these two (qualitative and quantitative), a third category was created to cover articles that jointly used qualitative and quantitative techniques, that is, that could be understood as partially quantitative and partially qualitative.

In this analysis, the following variables were verified in each of the articles: concentration area (accounting applied to external users, controllership and management accounting, financial credit and capital markets, teaching and research, emerging themes); classification (qualitative, quantitative or quali-quantitative), if the article contained a specific chapter that evidenced the methodology, that is, if the article was explicitly informing about the methods and techniques used, and if the article presented hypotheses.

Later, the collected data were subject to quantitative analysis and duly treated, using correspondence analysis. According to Carvalho (2004) and Pestana and Gageiro (1998), simple correspondence analysis uses nominal (categorical) data and possible association procedures among them, depending on the number, level and degree of complexity of the variables under analysis. According to those authors, these analyses permit revealing the relations between the variables and their different levels in a visual way. This was chosen because the intention was to appoint the tendencies in the categories, classification and concentration area of the congress articles.


Analysis of publications in USP congress annals

In the research carried out in the annals of the USP controllership and accountancy congresses between 2005 and 2006, 250 articles were identified. The number of articles presented and published in the USP congress increased from the first to the second year, from 100 articles presented in 2005 to 150 in 2006, representing a 50% increase. There was also a considerable increase in the number of articles related to the concentration areas. The area that registered the smallest increase, 8%, was emerging themes, while the teaching and research area grew by 367%, as evidenced in graph 1 and table 1 on next page.


Graph 1 shows the evolution in the number of articles between 2005 and 2006. Accounting applied to external users registered an 88% increase from one year to the other, management accounting and controllership grew by 70%, financial credit and capital markets registered a smaller increase by 27%, research and teaching displayed the biggest increase, as mentioned above, and emerging themes grew by only 8% from 2005 to 2006.

Two hundred and fifty articles were identified: 19.68% on accounting applied to external users, 24.89% related to management accounting and controllership, 20.10% about financial credit and capital markets, 6.82% refer to research and teaching, and 28.51% to emerging themes. Table 1 shows the number of articles published per area in the congress annals and their growth percentage.

Besides these observations, before presenting the methods and techniques that represent the study objective, it was also verified if the articles under analysis contained a specific chapter on the research methodology and if their constructs and empirical research were based on hypotheses. That is because it is considered that a scientific article should transparently reveal what techniques and methods were used in its development, that is, these item should be explicit and, in this sense, highlighted in a specific section in each article. The result of this specific objective is shown in Table 2 below:

Table 2--Incidence of methodology chapters and hypotheses

It is perceived, in general lines, that the articles were more concerned with highlighting the methodological procedures, methods and techniques in a separate chapter in 2005. Anyway, it can be inferred that, if the article does not clearly present the procedures, methods and techniques, its analysis is naturally impaired. In these cases, it is perceived that some articles mentioned the adopted method and techniques in the introductory chapter, others only in the abstract, while still others left them implicit, so that they had to be understood exclusively in the results chapter.

Hypotheses predominated in quantitative articles, and many were not explicitly exposed. In this scenario, these hypotheses were ignored, that is, only the central hypotheses were considered, which composed the primordial idea of the study. The details related to the evidence exposed until then will be detailed in the categories this study has proposed in the subsequent sections.

Methods and techniques used

Table 3 adds up the figures related to the methods and techniques in each year under analysis. It is highlighted that the classification used here basically considered if the essence of the article was qualitative or quantitative, considering the theoretical framework.

Documentary, bibliographic, description/narration and proposal/discussion of a theoretical model grew by 42% and 28% respectively in the time interval under study. Articles that used multivariate analysis did not register the same significant increase as the other categories mentioned above, totaling 22%. Most of these articles used regression and discriminant analysis. This line includes inferential statistics, for which the correlation coefficient and regression analysis stand out, with a 20% increase from 2005 to 2006. Projective methods did not vary between both years. Only action research and bibliometrics showed a decrease by 134% and 50%, respectively.

In view of the above, it is inferred that the most used methods and techniques in both congresses were: multivariate analysis--quantitative; documentary, bibliographic, description/narration qualitative, and proposal/discussion of theoretical model--qualitative. On the other hand, the least used methods and techniques were: action research--qualitative; bibliometrics--quantitative , and projective methods--qualitative, despite efforts to use new methods and techniques suggested for research in social sciences. Greater emphasis on the qualitative and quantitative classifications can be contemplated next, in section 4.3.

Tendencies observed in quantitative and qualitative classifications

After analyzing the result frequencies, correspondence analysis was performed between the classification and area variables. ANACOR is an exploratory technique that studies the relation between two qualitative variables, in this case classification and area, and also helps to connect area and methodological procedures. The percentage maps below show the association between the classification and area variables in 2005 and 2006.


It is perceived that, in 2005, the concentration area financial credit and capital market is more associated with the quantitative classification. This association corroborates the perception of this area due to the fact that most of the articles contain regressions, factor analysis and descriptive statistics. The emerging themes area, on the other hand, is more associated with the qualitative classification, and contains many theoretical discussions about recent themes that have received little in-depth attention in the academy. The research and teaching area, in turn, is more associated with the quali-quantitative classification, with many studies that jointly use content analysis and descriptive statistics or bibliometrics.

Accounting for external users and management accounting and controllership are not strongly associated with any of the dimensions. This is due to the fact that, in accounting for external users, in general, the authors do not prefer the qualitative or quantitative dimension, like in the three areas described above. In management accounting and controllership, a quantitative tendency is perceived, encouraged by the use of descriptive statistics and financial mathematics.

Slight alterations in this scenario are perceived in 2006. The financial market area remains more associated with quantitative studies, emerging themes with qualitative, and management accounting and controllership reinforce the quantitative tendency observed in 2005 even more, accounting applied to external users remains unaltered and the teaching and research area demonstrates a more qualitative tendency, using content analysis with a frequency distribution only.


This study proposed an analysis of the quantitative and qualitative methods and techniques adopted in research presented at the 5th and 6th USP Controllership and Accountancy Congress, so as to present a scenario of what these studies are using and what classifications are observed. Initially, it was through descriptive analysis that, among the concentration areas adopted by the congress, the area that stands out in terms of the total number of articles is emerging themes (28.51%), followed by management accounting and controllership (24.89%) and the financial credit and capital markets (20.10%), with lower percentages for accounting applied to external users and teaching and research. As to the variation between 2005 and 2006, the area with the greatest growth was teaching and research, followed by accounting applied to external users and management accounting and controllership, while the smallest growth was found in the financial credit and capital market and emerging themes areas.

It addition, it was observed that, in 2005, 76% of the articles highlighted their methods and techniques in a specific methodology chapter, indicating greater clarity and scientific rigor in this respect, against 73% in 2006. Only 25% of the articles in 2005 and 37% in 2006 explained hypotheses for testing. This percentage is fundamentally linked with the quantitative classification.

When specifically looking at the quantitative methods and techniques used in the papers under study, the predominance of operations research, financial mathematics, non-parametrical techniques and descriptive statistics was observed. Considerable figures were found for qualitative methods and techniques, concentrated in content and documentary/bibliographic description/narration analysis. The use of action research and bibliometrics decreased from 2005 to 2006.

Through the use of correspondence analysis, it was detected that the quantitative classification is strictly connected with the financial credit and capital market area, as most of the articles in this area use statistical techniques. On the counterpart, the emerging themes area more closely approached the qualitative classification, with the predominance of theoretical discussions. As to the third classification constructed for this study, quali-quantitative research, it could be related with the research and teaching area, whose articles essentially use content analysis, descriptive statistics and bibliometrics.


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Cristiane Benetti, University of Sao Paulo--FEA, BRAZIL Luciane Reginato, University of Sao Paulo--FEA, BRAZIL Gilberto Martins, University of Sao Paulo--FEA, BRAZIL

1       Descriptive statistics (frequency distribution, percenta
        jes, position and dispersion measures)

2       Relation between variables (linear correlation coefficient;
        chi-square test, contingencycoefficient, Lilliefors and
        Kolmogorof test--normality; Pearson; Bartlett sphericity;
        Kaiser- Me er-Olkin measure)

3       Non-parametrical techniques (Wilcoxon, Mann-Whitney,
        Kruskal, Ansari-Bradley)

4       Inferential statistics (hypothesis tests, dispersion of
        dispersion; correlation coefficient;regression analysis;
        time series)

5       Multivariate analysis (linear and multiple regression;
        discriminant; factor; cluster andcorrespondence--ANACOR,

6       Financial mathematics

7       Operations research (linear programming, queuing theory,
        games, simulation, inventoryoptimization

8       Documentary, bibliographic, description/narration

9       Action research

10      Content analysis

11      Proposal/discussion of theoretical model

12      Projective methods

13      Bibliometrics

Table 1--Number of articles per area

Areas                             2005   2006   Variation   % Total

ACC. APPLIED TO EXT. USERS          17     32         88%     1,968
MANAGEMENT ACC. AND CONTR.          23     39         70%     2,489
FIN. CRED. AND CAPITAL MARKETS      23     28         27%     2,010
RESEARCH AND TEACHING                3     14        367%       682
EMERGING THEMESS                    34     37          8%     2,851
Total                              100    150                   100

Table 3--Incidence of methodological procedures per area


                                     ACC.         MANAG.
                                   EXTER.           ACC.
                                    USERS         CONTR.

Methods and techniqes           2005   2006     2005   2006

Descriptive statistics             0      3        3      2
Intervariable relation             2      2        1      3
Non-param. techniques              1      4        1      1
Inferential statistics             1      3        1      1
Multivariate analysis              3      1        2      7
Financial mathematics              1      2        1      4
Operations research                0      1        0      4
Doe/bibliog. Desc/narration        5     11        7     13
Action research                    0      0        2      0
Content analysis                   1      3        0      0
Theoretical model                  3      2        5      3
Projective methods                 0      0        0      1
Bibliometrics                      0      0        0      0
Total                             17     32       23     39


                                   CAPIT.            RES.
                                    MARK.          TEACH.

Methods and techniqes           2005   2006     2005   2006

Descriptive statistics             2      5        1      1
Intervariable relation             3      1        0      1
Non-param. techniques              1      1        0      1
Inferential statistics            l       1        0      0
Multivariate analysis             10      1        0      2
Financial mathematics              2      3        0      1
Operations research                1      2        0      0
Doe/bibliog. Desc/narration        2      2        1      2
Action research                    0      0        0      1
Content analysis                   1      1        0      2
Theoretical model                  0      0        0      2
Projective methods                 0      0        0      0
Bibliometrics                      0      0        1      1
Total                             23     28        3     14



Methods and techniqes           2005   2006

Descriptive statistics             0      1
Intervariable relation             0      2
Non-param. techniques              1      2
Inferential statistics             2      1
Multivariate analysis              8      6
Financial mathematics              1      2
Operations research                1      3
Doe/bibliog. Desc/narration       13      1
Action research                    1      0
Content analysis                   2      1
Theoretical model                  3      7
Projective methods                 1      0
Bibliometrics                      1      0
Total                             34     37



Methods and techniqes           2005   2006    Gen.

Descriptive statistics             6      1       18
Intervariable relation             6      9       15
Non-param. techniques              4      9       13
Inferential statistics             5      6       11
Multivariate analysis             23      2       51
Financial mathematics              5      1       17
Operations research                2      1       12
Doe/bibliog. Desc/narration       28      4       68
Action research                    3      1        4
Content analysis                   4      7       11
Theoretical model                 11      1       25
Projective methods                 1      1        2
Bibliometrics                      2      1        3
Total                            100    150      250

Tests in the studies presented at both congresses.
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