Christopher Napier is Professor of Accounting in the School of Management at Royal Holloway University of London.
Professor of Accounting, Royal Holloway University of London
After studying Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford University, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG) in London. In 1979, he joined the faculty at the London School of Economics, and in 1996 he was appointed Professor of Accounting at the University of Southampton, where he gained his PhD degree.
He moved to Royal Holloway in 2006. Christopher is the author or co-author of some 80 research papers, books and contributions to edited volumes, covering a wide range of interests: accounting history, theory of financial reporting, specific accounting issues (retirement benefits and intangibles), accounting and law, corporate governance, and Islamic accounting.
Christopher was a member of Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) from 1997 to 2000.
Making Documents Speak
Qualitative researchers often use documents as sources of evidence. In some cases, documents supplement other sources such as interviews and observation, but researchers undertaking longitudinal and historical studies often find that documents are the only significant source available to them. This session examines the challenges in accessing and analysing documents, especially as texts increasingly exist only electronically.
Engaging with and avoiding people
The stereotype of “mainstream” accounting researchers is that they prefer to work with publicly available data in order to avoid having to engage with people. On the other hand, many qualitative researchers love engaging with people, through loosely structured interviews, focus groups, participant observation and other research methods.
Yet some qualitative researchers have strategies for avoiding people, or at least living people – historical research, for example, is often embedded in rich archival material, but the people who created and/or were captured in the documents are now dead, and hence don’t need to be engaged with personally.
Qualitative researchers often adopt approaches that distance them from people, such as using terms like “subject”, “actor” or “agent”. Is this distancing necessary to achieve rigour and objectivity, or does it turn people into objects and take the “social” out of “social science”?