Whether a student has a desire to enter a career in academia or not, academic research can be a valuable addition to their university studies. Time management, extended focus, and collaboration are just a few of the key skills students can build with “Introduction to Accounting Research,” a course offered in the Paul W. Parkison Department of Accounting to graduate students in the MS in accounting program.

Dr. Kelsey Brasel and Alumna Emily Denney, ’18 MS ’19 share their thoughts on the course, the MS in accounting, and the value they see in research practices to help future students see the worth in a well-rounded educational experience at Ball State.

“What resources does the intro to academic research class provide to students?”

Emily: This class provided exactly what was promised in the title, an introduction to academic research. An overwhelming majority of students in my cohort had never read an academic research paper prior to this class. At the beginning of the semester, we’re assigned specific research papers to read, and by the end of the semester, we were able to find multiple research papers that pertained to a topic that we were interested in and synthesize that information into a presentation. This class did a wonderful job of introducing us to academic research while also providing us with the skillset to analyze and critically think about very dense and technical information. 

Kelsey: This class introduces academic research in accounting to the MS in Accounting program. The course uses academic research to accomplish a number of goals including reading technical and complex material, presenting technical material in a formal presentation, and preparing clear, concise, and well-written documents. These goals use the context of academic research to build the skills that all students, including those who will never work with academic research in the future, will need in their future careers. I also challenge the students to build time management skills, extended focus on one project, and team management skills during the semester.

“How do the faculty assist students in identifying worthwhile research projects?”

Kelsey: Some students come to an independent study with a research idea already in mind. Other students do not have any idea what types of projects interest them, but we explore different areas and research questions as we define our area of interest and research question. I have completed independent studies with students who have a well-defined research project (like Emily) and also completed independent studies with students who I have invited to join an on-going research project of mine. I have co-authored with three MS Accounting students to date and each project is very different; every independent study is different because every student and faculty member is different at any one point in time. The one constant is the ability to work one-on-one with a student in the program to challenge their critical thinking and project management skills. Even if the student does not decide to join academia eventually, the skills developed in the independent study can be applied to any scenario in the accounting profession.

“What advantages do future academics and/or practitioners gain from the research class and independent studies?”

Emily: The research class opens the door to academic research and independent studies allow students to immediately put those newly acquired skills to use to conduct research of their own. Not only does this provide hands-on experience that will allow a student to see if pursuing a career in academia is something that they are interested in, but it also allows them to walk away as a published author in some cases.

Kelsey: The advantages of completing an independent study relate to the nature and structure of the course. An independent study is a unique opportunity to work with a faculty member in an unstructured and ongoing setting. Because I meet and work with the students every week, I am able to get to know them and challenge them to a better extent. I also enjoy learning what interests each student; individual interests vary and it is fascinating to see how a student’s interest in a topic grows over time.

“How did you develop an interest in doing a research project?”

Emily: I was a part of the Miller College of Business Honors Program which requires the completion of an honors thesis during our senior year of undergraduate studies. This mandatory requirement is what started me on this path, but Ball State’s phenomenal faculty (plus my love of reading and writing) is what kept me on it. I worked with one of my professors at the time, Dr. Douglas Ayres, to conduct a study about a topic that we were both interested in. When I entered the MS in Accounting program, I was able to participate in two independent studies with Dr. Kelsey Brasel and Dr. Jason Stanfield to refine and re-run my initial study on a much larger scale to turn it into an article that could be published. All three of them are now my co-authors! 

“What question does your research project seek to answer?”

Emily: This study explores the difference in perception among accounting professionals and undergraduate accounting students pertaining to the factors that make up an ideal internship or full-time job candidate in the public accounting industry. 

“How does your project answer the question?”

Emily: We found the accounting students do not value some factors that accounting professionals view as crucial. Similarly, we found that accounting students put emphasis on some factors that accounting professionals put a lower value on. Specifically, there are large differences in perception of the importance of involvement in extracurricular activities and other “soft” skills, analytical and problem-solving abilities, prior work experience, and knowledge about the firm.

“Dr. Brasel, what is the current status of Emily’s research project?”

Kelsey: The manuscript is currently being revised in preparation to send to a journal. We are co-authoring with Doug Ayres (Butler) who has completed the data analysis for us. We anticipate submitting the manuscript to a top-tier, peer-reviewed journal by early spring. The manuscript will likely go through multiple rounds of review before being accepted and published in a journal (the review process is usually one to two years in total).

“Anything else you’d like to share about the research course or independent study experience?”

Emily: After expressing an interest in research, I was blown away by the time, effort, and resources that the faculty invested in me. I am so thankful for this experience and I hope to pursue a PhD someday so that I can pay their generosity forward. 

About Kelsey and Emily

Dr. Kelsey Brasel

Kelsey R. Brasel, PhD, CPA

Dr. Kelsey Brasel is an associate professor and the Robert M. Hoffer Distinguished Professor of Accounting in the Miller College of Business. Learn more about Kelsey.

Emily Denney, '18 MS '19

Emily Denney, ’18 MS ’19

Emily Denney is a tax associate at RSM US LLP and a two-time Ball State alumna. Emily received her bachelor’s degree in 2018 and her MS in Accounting in 2019.

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