BMAC8020 - Perspectives on Management Accounting and Management Control


Lessons are not given in the academic year 2021/2022

Course content

Behavioral accounting, which marks the beginning of qualitative approaches in accounting research, is introduced through the seminal paper by Burchell, Clubb, Hopwood, Hughes and Nahapiet (1980). This "alternative" approach draws attention to the ambiguous and complex roles accounting can play in the hands of organizational decision-makers. It applies a processual and contextual approach to accounting.

By contrast, the other main strand of behavioral accounting adopts a contingency approach, which is concerned with designing management accounting controls to fit situational contingencies. In the contingency approach human behavior is assumed to be predictable. The focus is on how to study and improve motivational effects of accounting. It introduces to key concepts like strategy types and leadership styles in accounting evaluation, budget participation and some of the dysfunctionalities of accounting. It applies a static approach to management controls, for example by considering the budget within a "package" of controls.

New-Institutional theory has been widely adopted in accounting research and uses key concepts like homogenization, decoupling, window dressing, institutions, etc. The theory has been used to show how accounting practices may be decoupled from their programmatic ideals of rationalism.

Cultural approaches in accounting research seek to show how accounting is culture and creates culture within organizations. It draws upon anthropology to help us study accounting cultures within organizations and how culture can be linked to politics.

Symbolic interactionism is not that common in accounting research, but has recently gained renewed interest especially in terms of the work by Erving Goffman. It portrays everyday life interactions between people as role playing, like between a CEO and a CFO. It uses notions like impression management, performance, backstage/frontstage, etc. to help study "strips of interaction", i.e. organizational processes like when a CFO and a CEO call to press conference presenting the annual report.

Governmentality is a theoretical approach that developed in the late 1980s based on the French sociologist Michel Foucault. It is basically used to show how various accounting programs can disseminate in or across countries to improve management and effectiveness of organizations. Key concepts would be program, problematization and identity to show how programs can develop or change accounting practices and the people involved with them.

Actor-Network-Theory is a more recent theory and methodological approach used widely in accounting research to increase our understanding of the dynamics of accounting change and innovation.

Frequently accounting practices turn out very different from many of the ideals and may end up in technological controversies. ANT invites the student of management accounting controls to "unpack" the "package" and take a closer look inside the black box.

Learning outcome

After the course, students will have the following learning outcome:


  • Knowledge of the most seminal qualitative approaches in accounting research
  • Means to distinguish between various theoretical approaches to qualitative work
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of, and distinguish between, the different MA/MC research methodologies, with particular emphasis on qualitative research
  • Knowledge about the development of the research field and research frontier


  • Critically assess and discuss the different qualitative approaches and their theories
  • Detect underlying theoretical assumptions of the presented theories
  • Relate own research to a qualitative approach and presented theories
  • Place research questions in their broad context(s) by review of the relevant literature
  • Make oral presentations and participate in debates concerning MA/MC problems

General Competence 

  • Position their own research to the accounting literature
  • Communicate and debate their own research findings both in writing and by oral discussions
  • Communicate, discuss and be critical to accounting change research

Learning methods and activities

The course consists of interrelated workshops, which will comprise formal presentations by faculty members, discussions and presentations also by students. There will be introductory lecturers just as participants will be assigned the task of presenting and discussing the various papers in the course. There will also be trouble shooting sessions to relate presented theories to own PhD projects.

Further on evaluation

There will be some mandatory pre-readings before each workshop. Active participation throughout all the workshops' proceedings is expected. Full attendance to the workshops is required. Every student has to write a summary (short paper) that addresses their own research and present this in plenary to the faculty and fellow students. Upon passing the course certificates 7.5 ECTS.

Approximately 36 hours teaching/lectures and approx. 40-50 hours for the paper works, and further approx. 100-130 hours reading and understanding the course literature. In the final paper (approximately max 7.000 words) each student should relate their research work to the course contents. This can be done either in terms of conducting a literature review of the course literature based on a relevant research problem or related to the participant's PhD study itself, or be an application (or sketch) of theories taught in the course to the empirics gathered for the participant's own study. The requirements of this individual paper will be formalized at the end of the course. The paper will be evaluated by the faculty and each student will receive written comments on their work.

Required previous knowledge

Students must be registered on a PhD programme. Basic knowledge in management and accounting.

Course materials

The reading list will be presented to the participants upon registration.

Credit reductions

Course code Reduction From To
BMAC6020 7.5 AUTUMN 2018
More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Doctoral degree level



Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Economics and Administration
Contact information

Department with academic responsibility
NTNU Business School


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