Purpose: The aim of this paper is to review the use of content analysis as a research method in understanding social and environmental accounting (SEA) and to examine current contemporary foci of this research tradition. Further, seeks to examine several research method issues relating to the use of content analysis are examined.
Design/methodology/approach: Contemporary focus and research issues are analyzed to provide some future directions for scholars in the field of SEA, by categorizing work in the SEA, social environmental reporting (SER) and intellectual capital reporting (ICR) literature, according to the following: normative literature/theory/commentaries; focus of empirical investigation; quality SER research; combined research methodologies; content analysis method issues.
Findings: Literature indicates that few attempts have been made to combine other research methodologies with content analysis, although it has proven fruitful with the limited investigation undertaken to examine aspects of SER. Further extending the performance reporting by combining SER with ICR may provide useful information.
Research limitations/implications: Increasingly, researchers in the field of SEA need to be able to justify the specific research methods they use when collecting the empirical data that they examine in order to support and test opinions regarding the merit of different approaches to managing, measuring and reporting of SEA.
Originality/value: Traditionally, the focus of content analysis has been narrow but this paper breaks new ground in proposing to broaden the focus to include SEA and to combine content analysis with other methods of data collection.