ACCT20074 – Contemporary Accounting Theory

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Assessment Item: Written Assessment (2,500 words MAX, 30%)

Literature review

At the very core of financial reporting lies the concept of the True and Fair View (TFV). In many countries the requirement for financial statements to reflect the true and fair view of the entity has been codified in national legislation (such as Australia’s Corporations Act), given prominence in financial accounting standards and the accompanying conceptual framework. Nevertheless, the TFV is not really given prominence in accounting practice or accounting education. It seems to be just one of those things that is accepted and is not worthy of further discussion.

Consider, for example, for following quote given by an accountant to the authors of the paper:

I am fairly sure that in all our discussions with the auditors, and we have had many, the term “true and fair” has never once been used. It is a concept that we all hold in common, and not a matter for discussion (Nobes and Parker 1991, p. 360).

It probably won’t surprise you that I disagree with this sentiment even though I understand it. Much more focus has been placed on the outcome of committing to a “true and fair view”: the conceptual framework and the accounting standards. I am therefore going to give you an opportunity to undertake research into the TFV, its origins and its intent.

The assignment requirements

Your literature review, therefore, is to research and report into particular aspects of the TFV. Your assignment is split into two parts.

Part A

What is the history of the TFV? How did it come about, where, and when? What has been this historical purpose of the TFV?

Part B

Part B provides you with a choice; you may research or report on either one of the following:

  • The extent to which the Australian regulatory environment for financial reporting supports the TFV, or
  • Whether the current requirements of the Australian accounting standards to “faithfully represent” the reporting entity’s accounts is the same as requiring a true and fair view.

Some links to journal articles will be provided below to help you start your research, but you will have to search much further than that. Your textbook can also provide some useful references, and I urge you to search the Library’s database for useful articles.

You may certainly work with other students to share the research and discuss the best ways to present the report, but keep in mind that this is an individual assignment. So work with others, share notes, and so on, but you must write your own report.

Report format

A literature review is simply a review of a relevant body of literature. It differs from a regular report because a literature review does not make recommendations or find an answer to a problem. What it does is, for a particular topic, find all the relevant literature and summarises it for the reader. Your textbook, by Craig Deegan, is a form of literature review (actually a lot of them: each chapter is its own literature review). The reader of a literature review receives a guided tour of current knowledge.

I want you to keep your literature review presentation simple. A simple report layout is sufficient, even though you will not be presenting a report. Here is a guide on how to set out your literature review:

Title

Provide a useful title that helps the reader know from the start what he or she is about to read.

Synopsis (also known as an Executive Summary)

Use the synopsis to summarise your topic and the key points of what you found in the literature about your topic. This should be no more than two paragraphs. Professional writers usually write this last.

Introduction

This is not the same as a synopsis. An introduction should be a roadmap to your entire report: what the topic was, where you searched, what you found, what the key points are.

An introduction can take up to half a page. Write this after the literature review and conclusion sections, but before the synopsis.

Literature review (2,500 words max)

This is where you report, in your own words, what the literature says. Make sure you clearly break this up into:

Part A with Part A title

Part B with Part B title (that should clearly indicate which choice you made).

You may decide who much of the 2,500 words you place into each part. The golden rules for knowing if you have enough are:

  1. There must be enough words to get the marks you need, and
  2. They mustn’t be boring or confusing to read. A whole jumble of words and paragraphs that were placed into the report to make up the word count won’t please a marker who has to “hunt and peck” to find relevant passages. And we don’t want a cranky marker, do we?

I would therefore urge you to think less of word count and think more of telling a clear story in your report. If you find that you don’t have enough words, consider whether you have done enough research. If you have exceeded the word limit, consider whether you have clarity in your writing. The only way to do this is to re-read your report several times before submitting.

Conclusion

This wraps up (summarises) the key points of the literature review. Use this section to conclusively and clearly respond to the requirements of the topic.

References

Place your references here. I expect quite a few. Each reference listed here must also have a citation within the text of your literature review. The reverse is also true: every citation of a source within your literature review must point to a reference here in your reference list.

The assessment criteria

As you can probably guess, there is no single “correct” answer for this assignment, although there can be many “incorrect” answers. You will be assessed on:

  • the quality of your scholarship (research, processing information, and finally the ability to present what your found out in a useful way) (80%)
  • the quality of your English expression (10%)
  • the quality (readability) of your presentation (10%).

You may use either the Harvard or APA referencing style for this assignment, but you must be consistent and you must reference all sources of your information. A failure to reference properly will attract penalties of up to 5 marks.

Plagiarism or academic misconduct (such as using someone else to write your assignment) will attract worse penalties.

References

Nobes, CW & Parker, RH 1991, ‘“True and Fair”: A Survey of Uk Financial Directors’, Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 359–375.

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