Guide to Intermediate Accounting Research

by Collins

ISBN: 978-1-61853-163-6 | Copyright 2017


Increasingly, accounting research and communication skills are being regarded as fundamental to success in our profession.

Professionals who excel in these areas will likely experience a distinct competitive advantage relative to their peers. At the same time, in today’s highly regulated business climate, the consequences of inadequately researching and documenting accounting judgments can be severe (e.g., PCAOB or SEC enforcement actions). Recognizing the importance of research skills, research simulations are now a key component of the national CPA exam. What’s been missing, until now, is a high-quality guide that is hands-on and teaches students these important skills.

In this guide, students will learn to confidently address and communicate accounting research issues, from start to finish. Students will not only take away the ability to identify the accounting problem (the “researchable question”), but will gain experience locating and applying guidance within the FASB Codification. In learning to use the Codification, students will have the opportunity to apply guidance to a variety of actual accounting topics.

Recognizing that students cannot learn to research simply by reading about research, the guide offers students numerous opportunities to actively apply what they have learned.

Target Audience

This guide is intended to serve as a supplement to the materials used in an intermediate or advanced accounting course. It includes many opportunities to apply Codification guidance to related accounting topics (including, for example, leases, investment accounting, revenue recognition, and consolidation). Practitioners and staff training programs can also benefit from the research and communication strategies covered in this guide, while gaining exposure to actual excerpts and topics covered in the Codification.

Colleges and universities are increasingly including accounting research as a curriculum requirement for undergraduate and/or graduate-level accounting students. Often, students reaching this stage of their accounting program will soon be completing their first accounting internship. Interns, as with new staff accountants, will quickly discover that they are expected to learn on the job (accounting can be a sink-or-swim environment). This guide will provide students with exposure to research in a format that is understandable and engaging, allowing them to succeed in their future professional endeavors.

Prerequisites for Users of this Guide

To get the most value from this guide, students studying this material should have already taken introductory-level accounting courses.

Users of this guide will need access to the FASB Codification research tool. The American Accounting Association (AAA) provides academic access to the FASB Accounting Standards Codification and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board’s GARS Online database for a low annual fee of $250 per year, per institution.

Outstanding Features of this Guide

his guide unites research techniques with actual technical accounting issues. Students will move their understanding of accounting issues and research techniques forward along the knowledge continuum, from simply understanding to having the ability to critically think about and apply accounting issues. The practical examples and exercises in this guide will challenge students to actively learn while they read.

Instructors will value that this guide allows students to independently read and practice the baseline skills necessary to become accounting researchers, leaving instructors free to expand lectures into discussions of accounting judgments, student presentations, current events, and classroom discussions of (or hands-on group practice with) case studies. In short, instructors will be able to actively engage students in classroom debates and discussions, because they can spend less of their valuable classroom time lecturing on basic research and communication skills.

Engaging Pedagogy

Research is a skill that you learn by doing; accordingly, the pedagogy in this guide is designed to foster active learning.

Chapter Opening Vignettes, Learning Objectives, and “Organization of This Chapter” Diagrams
Each chapter opens with a brief vignette placing students in the shoes of a beginning researcher. This opening vignette is followed by a list of the learning objectives for the chapter, and then by a diagram illustrating the organization of content within the chapter. These chapter-opening elements are intended to generate reader enthusiasm for chapter content, as well as provide students with an overview of the information to come.

Chapter Features
Chapters are written in concise, easy to understand language, with boldfaced key terms to call students’ attention to certain topics. In addition, chapters include extensive screenshots from the Codification and diagrams illustrating key chapter concepts, intended to both engage students and improve their familiarity with the research tools.

Chapters also include the following features, intended to engage students in active learning:

Now You Try
Throughout each chapter, students are challenged to practice and apply key skills as they are taught (Now YOU Try questions). These exercises might involve, for example, a student being asked to “draw a picture” of a transaction, to “draft an email” describing an issue, or to “show the search path you would use.” Instructors can use these questions as a lead-in to active in-class discussions.

Tips from the Trenches
Periodically throughout the guide, students will find TIPs from the Trenches, which offer additional insight on chapter content. These tips are designed to be like the insights you might hear an audit senior offer an audit staffer from across the table.

End of Chapter Questions and Case Studies
At the conclusion of each chapter, review questions and exercises are provided, which instructors may choose to assign as homework.

  • The review questions encourage students to recall and apply key points from the reading. Instructors may choose to use these as a basis for quiz questions.
  • The exercises provide students with an opportunity to practice their research skills using the FASB Codification.

In addition, case study questions are included at the end of each chapter, providing students with the opportunity to apply the research process to more involved accounting issues. Students are frequently asked to respond to these questions in the form of an email or by drafting an accounting issues memo. Cases of varying degrees of complexity are provided; accordingly instructors may choose to assign case study questions as individual homework or as group research assignments.

Expand/Collapse All
Chapter 1: The FASB Codification: Introduction and Search Strategies (pg. 4)
Chapter 2: The Research Process (pg. 42)
Chapter 3: Creating Effective Documentation (pg. 66)
Shelby Collins

Shelby Collins

Shelby Collins currently works as a consultant assisting companies with adoption of the new FASB revenue and lease accounting standards. Prior to this role, she taught the Masters-level accounting and auditing research course at the University at Buffalo School of Management from 2011 through 2016.

Shelby’s entire career has focused specifically on performing and communicating technical accounting research, in a diversity of settings. Immediately after receiving her Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in Accountancy from the University of Georgia, Shelby went on to serve as a postgraduate technical assistant at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). From there, Shelby went on to work in KPMG’s Accounting Advisory Services group, then in the Accounting Policy and Research group at Exelon Corporation in Chicago. In these roles, Shelby focused on the application of technical accounting guidance to complex and judgmental transactions.

While at the University at Buffalo, finding no textbook on the market that offered a hands-on, active learning approach to accounting research, she chose to create her own course materials including handouts, lecture slides, and case studies. Many of these materials have been incorporated into this book and its supplements.

Few professionals have the opportunity to hit the ground running with a career in research; accountants often get their first shot at higher-level research projects after several years on the job. Shelby's career is unique in that she started researching before she even had the depth of knowledge afforded by several years of experience. She quickly achieved that depth of knowledge through her work as a researcher. She therefore understands how to convey complex accounting concepts alongside the basic skills necessary for success in research, in a language that beginning researchers can understand. Her enthusiasm for teaching will serve as an asset to students utilizing this book.