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Literature research by students

I know others have this problem as I have read about it elsewhere but it does not stop if from being frustrating.  Why do students think that a literature search requires putting the first search terms they can think of into Google (not Google Scholar) and summarising the first ten hits?  I spend time in lectures explaining how to do a literature search and how to use search engines properly, and I send students to the library training courses on literature research yet it does not change their behaviour.

I will go back and amend my lecture notes and other teaching materials to improve the scaffolding to address the problems that arose this semester.  In particular, I will stress:

  • The importance of background reading before starting the literature search
  • Using reference lists from the background reading to find the first articles
  • Using the reference lists from the first articles to find other articles
  • Using the “cited by” link in Google Scholar to find more recent articles which cite the articles you have already found
  • Finally, use specialist research search engines (Google Scholar, Ebsco, Proquest, Jstor, etc) to find articles not found using other methods

Maybe this time it will have an impact on students.  However in a recent article by a Wendy Fleet (2013), she stated that when students prepare assignments they do what they have done in the past.  So, in addition, I have added an explanation that the standard of work expected increases as students progress through their degrees.

Fleet, W. (2013). Why do students choose not to follow all instructions when completing assessment tasks? Accounting Education: An International Journal, 22(3), 299-301. doi: 10.1080/09639284.2013.793919

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Teaching debits and credits – gripe about account names

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The texts I am using to teach transaction processing complicate matters by the way they name some accounts.  I’m not going to incite a defamation suit by naming the texts.

My pet hates are:

  1. Using the word “revenue” in a liability account or the word “expense” in an asset account
  2. Not clearly indicating the classification in the account name

First, “unearned sales revenue” is a liability account; “sales revenue” is a revenue account.  How is a first-year student meant to recognise the difference?  Similarly, “prepaid insurance expense” is an asset account while “insurance expense” is an expense account.

This source of confusion can be overcome easily by adopting some simple rules:

  1. Never using the word “revenue” in an account name unless it is a revenue account.
  2. Never using the word “expense” in an account name unless it is an expense account.

“Unearned sales revenue” could be called “deposits received”; “prepaid insurance expense” could be called “prepaid insurance”.

A related gripe which, fortunately, seems to have disappeared from modern texts is using the term “provision” in the name of contra-asset accounts.  The term “provision” now seems to be restricted to liability accounts which is the way it should be.

Second, some account names fail to indicate the classification of the account.  For example, an account named “supplies” could be either an asset or an expense account.  While I can determine which it is from context, a first-year student is likely to struggle to make this determination.  This problem can be overcome by including the classification in the account name when there is any ambiguity; this means the account would be named “supplies asset” or “supplies expense”.

Some may argue that the account names which are used in the texts are the account names commonly used in practice.  This may well be so.  However, when writing texts, pedagogy must always overrule practicality.

I hope some textbook authors, editors and publishers are reading this.