Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Accounting and/or financial blogs are a big deal.  As the world evolves and becomes faster paced, long-lived jobs will disappear.   We accountants will adapt by piecing together a career from many project-length opportunities.  I believe it will be a matter of professional life or death for accountants to get on top of evolving current events and stay there.  For there to be life, we all need to make life-long learning a lifestyle.

The ability to think will separate thrivers from survivors and hangers-on.  We accountants will need to think critically (buzzword for analyze and understand what is going on), creatively (inventing solutions) and practically (applying cutting edge skills to implement solutions).

How will we learn to think these ways and grow our thinking?  Independent blogs commentaries like The Summa, and re: The Auditors, and TaxGirl.  Blogs provide input to fuel critical thinking, seeds for creating thinking, and energy for practical thinking.

So, I want to encourage accounting/financial blogging.  Then along came this e-mail. from a Summa reader, asking about my blogging process.  Although I don’t reveal his identity, I’m already aware of his writing and his unifying message.  He has a lot to contribute, and I think he should blog.   So, I wrote this blog piece.   His comments/questions are  in emphasized green, answers in normal font.

Love your blog. I’m thinking of starting one………… How many hours a week do you spend on it?

A simple answer is 20-30 hours, but it really depends. Posts, which frequently become essays, start with a four hour time commitment and grow from there.  Some of the technical essays I did on IFRS could took a week to ten days of writing for a 6,000 word essay.  And this was on top of my already having mentally planned the structure of the essay.  If you aren’t already an expert on something, add research time.

An important factor in budgeting for time is your expectation of the blog post’s permanence.  Quality essays that will still be read a year later require more time to create, or else it will be GIGO.


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On Developing a Worldview is proving to be a blog essay with legs.  It’s time to reveal the impetus for that piece.  In waning days of 2009, I received an e-mail:

Hello Professor Albrecht,

My name is Garrett D.; I am a recent graduate of an undergraduate accounting program currently serving in public practice as an audit associate in the Chicagoland area, and am interested in potentially pursuing a career in accounting academia. I have not applied to any programs as of yet, but am rather looking to acquire a fuller understanding of what it means to become an academic, and an accounting academic in particular. Hitherto, my exposure to this way of life has been limited to Stephen Zeff’s biography of Henry Rand Hatfield, fairly intermittent reading of the Financial Accounting Standards Research Initiative blog, and sporadic digestion of select accounting articles and monographs. Your blog has been of interest to me for a while now, and, upon reading your most recent post, “On Being a Blogging Professor,” I was struck by the emphasis you placed on developing a mature worldview as an accounting academic. Though I might be mistaken, I also recall you discussing the development of a “coherent worldview” as an accounting academic in previous posts. This “worldview development” imperative, alongside an intrinsic interest in education as a process, calling, and as a social phenomenon, is, as far as I can tell, primarily driving my interest in academia.

I am curious, if it is not too much trouble, if you will perhaps aid me in this effort to develop a coherent accounting worldview. Would you mind providing me with a recommended reading list of “accounting essentials” to add structure to my excursions within this discipline?

Thank you for your consideration.

Kind regards,
Garrett D.

Such a well-intentioned request.   I delivered On Developing a Worldview, in which the focus is on the process by which a person can acquire a worldview.  I promised a second essay in which I described the path I took in developing my own worldview.  But I didn’t promise a third essay, offering a reading list so that he could start working on his.  I never said never, I just didn’t say yes.

I delivered (and promised) only in part for two reasons.  First, I immediately saw value in a more general response for readers of The Summa.  I didn’t want to scare anyone off by being too detailed in my first essay.  Second, he was asking for something I didn’t have on hand.  So I shirked.   After I published On Developing a Worldview, Garret wrote back:


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Just like anyone else in our fast paced world of American on the Internet, I have many things tugging for my attention and too little time to do them all.

Professors potentially have many task masters, and being a blogging professor means asking for a never-ending work load.

The purpose of today’s blog piece is to show you just how busy and pressured is the life of a blogging accounting professor.


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I have occasionally written about the need for a professor to develop a mature worldview.  More so than that, we all (whether professor, student, or professional) should consciously develop a world view.  Yes, a world-view is a good thing.  Although there are three accepted forms for spelling the term, it is not a difficult concept.

A worldview is one person’s mental model of his/her reality.  It is a personal framework for organizing ideas, attitudes and theories about some aspect of the world in which a person lives.  When viewed in its totality, it is a personal description of the way all things work.

When we are young and/or inexperienced, our view is limited because we haven’t seen that much of the world.  Thirty two years ago when I first studied accounting, my worldview of accounting was pretty much limited to what was immediately in front of my nose (an only-in-front-of-nose-view).  Likewise, thirty years ago when I taught my first accounting class, my view of the world of accounting education was very limited.  It was not mature.  Never-the-less, I had a mental model of sorts.  Not a framework, it was more like a clothes hamper where I tossed my ideas and a few attitudes.  Somewhere along the path of my life, I built a few theories for explaining how a few isolated things worked (I always had teaching tendencies).  Eventually the clothes hamper was so crammed, disorganized and messy, I had to develop a framework for classifying and sorting everything.  So I worked on it.  And voilà–I had a worldview.

I’ve been asked to post a reading list for developing an accounting worldview.  I can’t, because it doesn’t work that way.  Here’s why.


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Albrecht is a blogging professor.

I’m a senior accounting professor.  The Summa is my expression of what and how I think about the world of accounting, i.e., the world according to Albrecht.

Why should anyone care?  There are a few ways to answer.

One possible answer is because society has decided that there be professors.  Professors-to-be are charged with studying in a discipline until such time as they are ready to teach others.  What criterion or criteria signal readiness?  I think it should be when he/she has sufficient understanding and wisdom to be able to teach students in the way they should go, or be.  This is a pretty tall order.  Over the years, I’ve claimed this is when a professor has a mature view on the way his/her part of the world works.

A second possibility is because it fits within a professor’s generally accepted professional duties.  The consensus is that a professor has three primary areas of responsibility:


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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

Well, the party’s almost over.  Day 14 of two weeks.  My goals for today are simple.

  1. Catch up on the e-mail I didn’t get to on Friday.
  2. Make progress on writing about the Holy Grail of Accounting, a new blog essay.
  3. Make progress on writing about the accounting theory related to lease accounting, a new blog essay.

5:45-8:15 p.m. E-mail.  I assign papers in my Managerial and Cost Accounting courses, and a frequent topic is productivity.  Interesting article, “Recession or expansion, U.S. productivity continues to soar.”  The author notes that productivity in the U.S. is up 8.1%.  Unfortunately, the productivity increase is recession-driven:  layoffs mean that companies must do as much or more with fewer workers.  The key is to retain productivity gains during and after a recovery.  Professor James R. Martin, though, has assembled some data from World Economic Federation publications that reveal American economic competitiveness has steadily improved over the past 10-15 years to its number one ranking.

Over at AECM, a recurring theme is how huge, obscene government spending programs will eventually lead to multi-trillion dollar deficits, a loss of capital investment and eventual loss of productivity.  A clever and entertaining song from the popular culture doubt the long-term benefit of stimulus plans:

I don’t know if the following song adds value to any discussion, but it entertaining.

Bob Jensen at AECM informs of a song about Mark to market accounting (fair value accounting).  Thanks for the link, Bob.

Bob Jensen also links to a presentation by an invisible woman (Nicole Johnson).  Her message is inspiring.  She encourages all to continue on, even if the absence of recognition or appreciation.  This invisibility is the antidote to pride.  She says that we may never live to see the fruits of our labors, nor may we ever get recognized.  That doesn’t matter, for God sees.  And we see.


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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

This will be a tiring but very short day.  I knock off on Friday afternoons, and resume Saturday evening.  I will finish a new IFRS essay Saturday night (I hope), which is unfortunately not the best time of week to publish it.  When work concludes on Fridays, I’m always disappointed with my lack of progress.  There’s always too much to do, and too little time to do it.  Computer breakdowns this week took away six precious hours.  A colleague at school shared with me that people don’t realize that we (academics) live life with something always hanging over us.  We are never finished with work when the day is done.

12:00-3:00 a.m..  Class preparation for Intermediate Accounting.  Only one week of class remains, before finals.  Students need a complete list of past and remaining HW.  In addition, must send out solutions to every HW problem in recent weeks.

8:30-9:10 a.m. E- mail.  There are several e-mails worth commenting on.  Most importantly, there are pending developments for both IFRS and Sarbanes-Oxley.  It looks like SOX opponents are going to be successful in either fatally wounding it, or doing away with it all together.  According to  them, it is too costly, too far reaching and simply too much regulation.  Now, we want to do away with GAAP that will have the similar effects but will hit with more force?  Don’t the proponents know that opposition will arise in the U.S.?  IFRS will be brought to its knees.

9:10-9:30 a.m. Class preparation.  Need to print handouts.

9:50-10:20 a.m. In transit.

10:20-4:10 p.m. Classes and office hours.  The Managerial Accounting class astounded me with how much they remembered about some previous material.  I will miss then after the semester ends.  I related standard costs and variance analysis to activity based costing. and used the standard cost discussion as a segue to the balanced scorecard (BSC).  I enjoyed linking BSC back to basic lessons from a lemonade stand, covered at the start of the semester.

Intermediate Accounting was cool.  In this course I have a segment where a student will present some business-related topic that has a wow factor to them.  Angela in the afternoon section gave a super presentation on the evolution of Black Friday, and why merchants continue to do it.    During the following discussion, one student shared she starts shopping at 4 a.m. that day.  It is a tradition as important to her as the Thanksgiving holiday.  Angela went on to say that the “black” part of the title is a borrowed accounting term, because merchants on that day see profits in the black.  After making a presentation, students are to write a reflective essay on their cool thought, and what it is about them to which the cool item appeals.

In the picture below, Intermediate Accounting students from my morning section are waiting for class to begin.

4:05-4:30 p.m. In transit back home.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

12:15-1:45 a.m. E-mail.

1:45-3:05 a.m. Class preparation work.  I have a student coming in to take a retest of exam 2.  So, I need to create a new test for him.

11:00 am.-12:30 p.m. E-mail.  There are some very interesting developments.  Look for my new essay, “Holy Grail is Unholy,” coming later tonight.

1:30-3:00 p.m. Miscellaneous activities on campus.

3:00-3:30 p.m. E-mail.  Friend Ed Scribner (NMSU) sent out an AECM  e-mail drawing attention to a New York Times article on “Accounting Avoidance.”  I replied with the quip that accounting avoidance takes place anytime an accounting student is assigned HW.  Ed is the funniest guy I know, and it is rare that he leaves anyone an opening for the punch-line.

3:30-5:00 p.m. Work on new essay, “Holy Grail is Unholy.”

5:00-8:00 p.m.   Stupid computer broke down, am helpless.  Talking with Dell tech support, a very frustrating experience because Dell phone systems dropped my call 4 times requiring my reentering queue each time.  Machine is working a bit, now, but will require yet another on-site tech visit.  Eventually this Dell Studio 1737 will be a really fine machine.

Like many professors, I use my own computer for almost all of my work.  I carry it around with me every place.  It is on 15 hours per day.  I simply cannot function without it.  I don’t use my office machine because it does not have the combination of software that I have grown accustomed to using.  So, everything I use is purchased from personal funds.

9:30-10:00 p.m. E-mail.

10:00-11:59 p.m. Class preparation.  Am writing new homework (HW) problems for inventory.  I am much more big picture oriented in Intermediate Accounting.  Since no textbook has HW reflecting my new emphasis, I must write my own HW problems.  I wrote 61 this semester, along with solutions.  This was a major investment of time.  Students probably don’t realize  how valuable this is.

Day really isn’t done, am going to be burning the midnight oil.

I am not satisfied with what I accomplished today.  I didn’t get my new essay even 50% complete, a real shame given that important IFRS developments are occurring daily and I want to have an impact.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

So sad, TWILAP is almost done.   I’ve grown accustomed to getting online and updating my blog for the day’s events.  Typically, I work so hard and long from the start of the week, that on Wednesday I start feeling like the week is almost done.

How did I do on yesterday’s must do list?  Fine, except for #7 (Decide what to do next: learner-centered paper or IFRS paper), #8 (Work on writing a research proposal for above (more on this later), #9 (Respond to Edith Orenstein’s fine essay on why accounting matters over at FEI blog).  Pretty much routine life got in the way of my turning to scholarly pursuits.   That is the story of my career.

8:30-9:30 a.m. E-mail.

9:55-10:20 a.m. In transit.

10:20-3:30 p.m. At school for classes and office hours.  Having students work on papers and projects is important to me.  I’ve been convinced, for years and years, that people discover what they truly think when they are forced to write it down.  I’ve assigned term papers for several years.  This year, in Managerial Accounting, the two term paper assignments deal with (1) costs of quality (I was grading these papers a week ago) and (2) productivity.  It really is true, that college students will put off writing papers until the night before they are due.  Of course, the writing and thinking quality suffers.  This year, I’m having a work day so students can discuss the paper topic with each other.  Having the work day nine days before the deadline gets them thinking about the topic much earlier than normal, and it sends a clear signal as to how important I view the the topic and the paper.  You can see this year’s class, students work with laptops.    On the right side of the classroom (not pictured), a student was using cell phone wireless to look up material from the Internet.  I really like this class.  What a great group of students.

For Intermediate Accounting, the work day involves playing Monopoly.  Why?  I have students play Monopoly and then do the accounting for their experience.   I’ve had students do this since 1992.  Robert Knechel (University of Florida) came up with the original idea in the late 1980s.  The following photos show some of this year’s group of students playing year 3 of their monopoly game.  I really like the Intermediate Accounting students at Concordia.  What a great group of students.

3:30-6:30 p.m. E-mail

10:30-11:00 p.m. In transit back home.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

It’s a very big day today.  The following must get done today:

  1. Finish grading
  2. Send off proposal for on-line teaching/learning conference
  3. Send off proposal for summer convention for accounting professors
  4. Prepare for interview
  5. Be interviewed
  6. Listen to BGSU women’s basketball via Internet.  What can I say, am still a fan.
  7. Decide what to do next:  learner-centered paper or IFRS paper.
  8. Work on writing a research proposal for above (more on this later)
  9. Respond to Edith Orenstein’s fine essay on why accounting matters over at FEI blog.
  10. Sleep?

12:00-12:15 a.m. 5 to go.  Will I last?  No, am tired and going home.

12:15-12:40 A.M. In transit back home.  I must get some sleep.

11:00-12:59 a.m. E’mail.

1:30-2:00 p.m. In transit.

2:00-3:00 p.m. Various interactions with staff and faculty at school.  One professor is helping design a new curriculum for the School of Business and his views about the importance of financial accounting differ quite a bit from mine.  He doesn’t teach financial accounting, but I do.  Differences of opinion are to be expected.   It just occurred to me, Edith Orenstein has a fine essay Why Accounting Matters over at the FEI blog.

4:00-5:30 p.m. E-mail.

5:30-6:00 p.m. Sent proposals off to two conference.  The proposals deal with conducting a continuing education workshop on advanced teaching.  As I’m about to write several essays on advanced instruction for accounting courses, I’ll defer a description until later.

7:00-9:30 p.m. Interview and preparation for it.   With students of Professor Mark Holtzblatt of Roosevelt University (Chicago/Schaumburg, IL) and their class project.  I think  the interview went well.  I must admit, though, to having anxiety about being recorded.  Does that seem strange that I’d be worried about the taping?  After all, my job is all about making presentations to people (i.e., teaching classes).  I was worried because a camera seems so unforgiving.  When I write blog essays I can edit until happy with the final product.  A taped interview is one and done.   I think the interview went well.

9:30-9:55 p.m. Return home.

9:55-10:55 p.m. E-mail.

10:55-11:59 p.m. Grading.  Almost done.  I’ve sometimes been asked why I assign papers and projects when it takes me so long to grade them and I get so stressed over it.  It is because students learn so much better when they write and when they do.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

7:40-8:15 a.m. E-mail. Francine McKenna at re: The Auditors has a provocative piece called, “Suing Audit Firms re: Madoff: The Iguana In The Room“.  As I understand her, she thinks that investor plaintiffs stand a better than normal chance of getting international umbrella organizations for the auditing firms to pony up.  I hope so, seems reasonable.  There is an increasing amount of coordination amongst the largest international firms.  This coordination expands the responsible legal entity to the umbrella organization, IMHO.

8:15-9:35 a.m. Grading.

9:35-9:40 a.m. E-mail.

10:00-10:25 a.m. In transit.

10:25-4:00 p.m. Classes and office hours.  It is the first day of class after a break.  In general, students are are tired.  So am I after staying up too late last night, grading.

I like teaching at Concordia because of the small classes.  This semester, my classes have 19, 25 and 8 students.  Here is a shot of Managerial accounting before we got underway.

I really like this classroom (my others are more traditional) because students must sit around tables.  Much of the education literature describe how students learn more if they are working together during class, instead of sitting listening to a professor.  It is so true.  I try to bring something to every Managerial Accounting class for the students to work on, in small groups.  Sometimes it happens that when clever students at one table figure out how to do something, they share with other tables.  The nicest thing is the furniture is organized much like that of a kindergarten classroom.

4:00-5:30 p.m. E-mail.

5:30-6:30 p.m. Grading.  Ugh!

10:20-11:59 p.m. Grading.  Ugh!

Over and out.

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TWILAP, Two Weeks in the Life of an Accounting Professor.  Most people think I only work a few hours per week, just the time spent in the classroom.  They aren’t aware of all the behind the scenes activity.  In this series, I’ll journalize on what it’s like to be a professor.

I’m rededicating myself to work today.  Must finish grading projects.  Must plan for tomorrow’s classes.  Nothing else matters.  Only 13.5 hours available, must make every minute count.

Comic published yesterday so perfectly describes how long I’m expected to work.  Thanksgiving isn’t on the list.  PhDComics.com is written for graduate students.  Professors, though, are expected to work as hard and as long as students.

9:55-10:40 a.m. TWILAP.  Established goals for week.

10:40-11:40 a.m. E-mail.  Nothing important enough to cite.

12:25-12:50 p.m.  In transit.

12:50-3:50 p.m. Class preparation for Intermediate Accounting.  During this block of time I have a lot to do.  I write my own homework (HW) problems, hoping that they are more realistic and general that the often picayune problems that accompany most accounting textbooks.  I had to repair solutions for my receivables HW.  I also had to get problems ready for the chapter on inventory methods.  I don’t collect HW from my classes for grading.  No professor should do this, because HW is intended for students to learn.  They shouldn’t be graded on learning attempts, because it is normal to expect imperfections during learning, and not everyone learns as quickly as others.  Instead, professors should wait until after students have learned the material and are ready to perform on tests.  In Intermediate Accounting, I send out solutions so that students can check their work.  Do students work on HW without getting credit?  My experience is that they do.  I wait until the end of the semester, and then require students to show me that they worked at least 80% of all assigned HW problems.

3:50-4:10 p.m. Class preparation for Managerial Accounting.

4:10-4:15 p.m. E-mail.

4:15-4:40 p.m. In transit back home.

5:40-11:59 p.m. Grading Intermediate Accounting projects.  Students are doing well, but grading is still drudgery for professors.

Total:  12 hours, 20 minutes.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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