BUS 421: Accounting Theory

Start off on a good foot! Watch our brief video introduction to an efficient way to conduct literature reviews:  

Spying on a Conversation: Literature Review Assignments in Business

Title slide of video: "Spying on a Conversation"

Scholarly journals

Your assignment requires that you use scholarly (academic, peer-reviewed) journal articles, which means that you'll need to learn how to recognize them and where to search for them.

What are they?

Also known as peer-reviewed journals or academic journals, scholarly journals tend to have articles written by academic researchers (university professors). The main reason you are expected to use scholarly journals in your research is that their quality tends to be dependably higher than the average article in a journal/magazine that is aimed only at people who work in the field (e.g., Pivot from CPA Canada).

  1. They have bibliographies, so you know where they got their information;
  2. They tell you about the author, so you know the education and academic reputation that is behind each article, and those authors are usually people with PhD degrees who work at universities;
  3. They provide details of the methodology of any study they report on so that you can determine if the results are relevant to your specific argument (and so that you can decide if you think the results are valid at all); and...
  4. They are usually peer reviewed. That is, other experts look the articles over before publication to make sure that the methodology and the arguments are sound and that the research takes all past and current developments in the field into account.

You can learn more about scholarly journals in the SFU Library guides: What is a scholarly journal?  and What is peer review? What is a peer-reviewed journal? 

If an article is in a scholarly journal, you can be reasonably sure that it has some good authority behind it and that the research was probably done well, but you still have to evaluate it. Is the information outdated? Does it completely cover the topic you are researching, or is an important perspective missing? Do the research results fit your needs? (If they did a study on corporations in Alabama, can you apply the results to nonprofits in British Columbia?) For help with evaluation criteria, try: How to critically evaluate sources.

Major scholarly journals in accounting

NOTE: This list is not complete. It's just meant as a sample of the many scholarly accounting journals available to SFU researchers

You may also find some good accounting articles in more general scholarly business journals such as the Journal of Business Research or the Journal of Business Ethics. Don't limit yourself to just journals that have "accounting" in their titles - but do be sure to evaluate the quality and relevance of every article you find.

Finding scholarly articles on a specific topic

Cover many of the major journals in accounting with a single search in Business Source Complete

Here's an example of a search for scholarly articles in Business Source Complete. Note that I've checked off the box for peer-reviewed (scholarly) articles. This will help focus my search on more academic material, but it isn't a substitute for evaluating the article yourself; it's possible that some of the results may not be scholarly even if you check off such a box on the search screen. Don't let the database do the thinking for you!

Search tips

  • Start with a broad keyword search (e.g., (corporate social responsibility or csr) and accounting),
  • then scan for any articles that even come close to your topic,
  • then use those first articles to help you find more articles by ...
    • using their subject headings in further searches;
    • searching for more articles by the same authors;
    • scanning their bibliographies/references for other relevant articles;
    • scanning their abstracts and titles for other keywords that you could use; and
    • (in Business Source Complete) looking for links to "Times cited in this database" to find out who has cited the articles since they were written.
  • See our brief video for details on this time-saving process: Only 4 Steps! Researching in Academic Business Journals.

Finding news articles on an accounting topic

Canadian Newsstream
Fulltext online from most major Canadian newspapers (Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun, National Post, etc.) from the last 10-30 years. No pictures (text only). If you are looking for a story in the business section of a paper, try a search like the following. Note the use of non-academic language and the focused search in the business part of the newspapers.

Financial Times
Full access to one of the most important global business newspapers, including special reports, graphics, and multimedia content. See this blog post for details.

Wall Street Journal
Online access for SFU researchers via our Factiva database. Click on Modify Search, then add terms to focus on your topic. 

Issues published in the last 1-2 months in many international newspapers, including most major Canadian papers. Provides images of the entire paper which allows for "paper-like" browsing in which you click to flip a page. Useful if you just want to browse recent issues.

Business Source Complete
A good place to start as it includes publications such as Forbes, Fortune, and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Print newspapers (link is to a library map)
The SFU Library carries the most recent few weeks of many major papers in print format.  Go up to the north side of the 6th floor of the Bennett Library and sit in comfortable chairs while you scan the paper for relevant stories.  Also check the lounge area to the east of our main entrance (floor 3) for today's editions of many major newspapers.

Other resources and guides

  • You may be able to use some books to support your argument. Start your search in our catalogue with the subject heading Accounting (also try the 31 related subjects).
  • Scan our guide: Start Your Research Here which provides an overview of the research process.
  • Knotia.ca provides online access to the IFRS, as well as to the CPA Canada Standards and Guidance Collection (CPACHB).

Getting help

  • Look for an online or print guide. Many of the databases that you will use have built-in 'help' sections (e.g., Business Source Complete). In addition, for general help using our catalogue or moving from citation to journal, we have some online tutorials.
  • Come to the Research Help Desk at the Bennett Library or to the Research Help desks in our Harbour Centre and Surrey branches. Staff can help you identify your concepts, think of synonyms, choose databases and print indexes, search for articles and books here or at other libraries, search for web resources.
  • If you are researching from off-campus, you could try contacting our reference librarians via telephone, chat, or email using our Ask A Librarian services.

You are also welcome to email me (mbodnar@sfu.ca) with your questions. It makes things much more efficient if you start your email by explaining...

  • what class you are in (so I have an idea of your assignment and background);
  • when the assignment is due;
  • what exactly you are after (saying that you need "everything about accounting standards" is far too broad - saying that you need to know where to find "information about current accounting standards in China" is better (though not necessarily simpler!));
  • where you have you looked so far (have you tried the catalogue and Business Source Complete?);
  • and what search terms you tried when you searched.

Writing your report

Research is only half the battle! You also need to communicate your findings in a clear, well-structured paper, Check the SFU Library guides to Business Writing and University Reading & Writing for resources to help with paper structures, grammar, spelling, and more.

Citing your sources

You also need to correctly cite all of the books, journal articles, and sites that you used in your research. Start with the SFU Library's general guide to APA Style and its guide to using APA for Business sources.

There are a growing number of guides to citing electronic or Internet sources. Concordia University Library's Citation & Style Guides includes links to APA, MLA, Turabian, ISO, and other standard citation style guides.  The APA offers a bit of online guidance for those citing electronic materials in APA format at their APAStyle page.

Note that some of our article indexes have information within their Help pages on how to cite articles found in databases using common formats such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, and that some of them will even allow you to save/email your citations in a specific format like APA (e.g., Business Source Complete has this feature).

NOTE: Citation or reference management tools collect your journal article, book, or other document citations together in one place, and help you create properly formatted bibliographies in almost any style — in seconds. Citation management tools help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse.


Learning how to properly credit others when you use their ideas is a difficult, but important part of research. Start with the SFU Library's interactive tutorial "Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism" to test yourself and to learn more about plagiarism. Also read the SFU Library Guide on Plagiarism for further discussion of this critical topic and for links to other plagiarism guides.