In business, there are few professions more important than accounting. Accountants help managers determine how much profit they are making, how much they need to pay in taxes and how much they owe their creditors. As an academic subject, accounting is heavily grounded in mathematics and is closely related to finance. Academic accounting is much more conceptual than "real world" accounting and the types of topics that are preferred for master's research in accounting reflect this.
Accounting standards govern the technical work of accountants. In America, accounting standards are governed and codified by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. An example of an accounting standard is "total assets must equal total liability." A master's thesis on accounting standards should deal with some aspect of international accounting standards, national accounting standards or accounting regulation. For example, a thesis on accounting regulation could evaluate aspects of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley act and whether its instruments are powerful enough to prevent accounting fraud.
In accounting, ethics is sometimes a hot topic. As much as we might like to think that corporate fraud is the result of the odd "bad apple" executive, the truth is often that less-than-honest accountants act as enablers of dishonest executives. A thesis on accounting ethics could look at any issue related to ethics in the accounting profession, such as corporate accounting, independence of auditors and the relationship between accounting and banking. As an example, a thesis on auditors could examine whether expense account auditors in state legislatures are truly independent from political influence by examining the conduct of auditors in various high-profile scandals.
Accounting and Finance
There is a close relationship between finance and accounting. Financiers are interested in the world of accountants, because the accountant's profitability ratios help financier's analyze investments. Accountants are interested in issues of finance, because the basic subject matter of accounting -- assets and liabilities -- is financial in nature. Topics for financial accounting theses include financial ratios and accounting in corporate finance. A thesis on financial ratios, for example, could investigate the mathematical structure behind various financial ratios, such as price-earnings ratios, and whether these ratios are as sound as simple profitability ratios in accounting.
The Accounting Profession
The accounting profession is a prestigious one but is not without its issues. Complaints are often made that accountants are either too regulated or too unregulated, and complaints about gender bias in accounting are not rare. A master's thesis about accounting reform could cover educational, business or social topics. For example, a thesis on accounting education could evaluate whether accounting curricula at various schools gives students an idea of what kind of work accountants do in the real world. Accounting course schedule sheets could be compared with accountant work schedules. These materials would be obtained from accountants and accounting professors.
Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.