Writing a research paper in accounting requires that you follow general guidelines for writing a research paper as well as the specific requirements outlined for the class or publication for which you are producing your work. Unless a topic is chosen for you, gather ideas for research topics in accounting from industry professionals, recent issues of accounting journals and even the financial section of current newspapers and magazines.

Select a Research Topic in Accounting

Study the website of a professional publication such as "Journal of Accountancy". A number of broad categories are listed, and you can search for relevant news items and journal articles for any of them. A website geared to the profession may also link to podcasts, blogs and other media entries of interest to those seeking a research title for accounting and finance.

Develop a Thesis Statement

After deciding on a topic, develop your thesis statement. A thesis statement is generally the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. It summarizes the argument you will make in the rest of your paper.

For example, suppose you want to write a paper about the evolution of cloud-based accounting systems. After introducing the topic in your initial paragraph, you could conclude the paragraph with a thesis statement such as this one: "Although many small- and medium-sized accounting firms are reluctant to make the switch to cloud-based accounting systems, recent advances in cybersecurity mean that their fears are largely unfounded."

Create an Outline

In some cases, particularly at the undergraduate level, instructors may require students to submit an accounting research paper outline. By reviewing your outline, instructors can advise you if your topic is too broad, too narrow or if it is outdated. They can guide you to the right resources for conducting your research. Instructors can help you refine a thesis statement or suggest other topics that might be of greater interest to you.

Even if you don't have to turn in a formal outline, it's a good idea to create one for yourself as you begin the research and writing process. An outline will help you focus your topic and answer important questions. When creating an accounting research paper outline, consider the following:

  • Why is this topic significant to the field of accounting?
  • What background material is relevant?
  • Are there any terms or concepts that need to be defined?

Start Research Early

Research is supposed to support the points you want to make. Don't use your sources to organize your paper. By beginning your research early, you'll know if there is enough evidence in the literature to support and explain your thesis.

If there's insufficient information or if there is a preponderance of evidence contrary to your thesis statement, then you may need to revise your topic or its focus.

Good Writing Matters

Students sometimes mistakenly believe that unless they're writing for an English class, grammar and punctuation are not important. Individuals writing for publication in a professional journal may assume that it is the job of copy editors to proofread and format a manuscript. It is the writer's responsibility to present a well-organized research paper that is error free and written in a formal academic style.

Most college campuses have writing centers where you can get free help on any aspect of the writing process, from developing an accounting research paper outline to proofreading the final draft. There are a number of online resources as well, such as the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, called Purdue OWL, a nationally recognized source for detailed information on all types of writing, from general writing to job applications to research papers. The site uses examples extensively and will guide you in the proper formatting of your paper and citations.

Be sure to look at any formatting requirements specified by your instructor or the publication to which you're submitting your work, such as the use of single spacing or Modern Language Association citation format.