Intellectual capital reporting in New Zealand: refining content analysis as a research method
This study examines voluntary intellectual capital reporting (ICR) in New Zealand firms' annual reports, with a view to contributing to understanding ICR practice. This study also reflects on content analysis with a view to refining the methodology when applied to investigating ICR.The literature includes widespread claims that intellectual capital (IC) resources are important value drivers and assets, and that IC information should be reported externally. However, complexities relating to identifying IC prevent it from being recognised as an asset under current accounting regulations. Consequently, the traditional financial reporting system is being criticised as out-of-date, giving deficient and irrelevant information, and having lost its value relevance. Numerous scholars have investigated voluntary ICR in several countries, but have presented different results and findings. The literature argues that the results of many ICR studies cannot be meaningfully compared because inconsistent data collection instruments have been applied. To advance ICR research, further refining and developing of the methodology is advocated; problems relating to applying methodological issues need to be resolved. Moreover, to establish consensus about ICR, more research and evidence is needed concerning exactly what and how IC is reported.The 2004 annual reports of the 30 largest (by market capitalisation) New Zealand firms listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange were analysed. Content analysis was applied to determine what and how IC is reported. Inferences about what IC is communicated were made based on an analysis of the content of texts and visual representations. To determine how IC is reported, voluntary reporting was categorised according to the form, nature and location of the disclosure. Frequencies of mention were recorded. Hence, each incidence of occurrence was coded and counted.This study reflected on content analysis methodology by searching the literature for guidance on how to apply this approach and how to deal with the challenges and problems it poses. The thesis discusses methodological issues that could be applied differently, and hence hinder the replicability and comparability of ICR studies. Moreover, the ICR literature provided limited guidance about how to deal with methodological challenges and problems, and revealed an absence of explicit recording instructions. Therefore, explicating this study's recording instructions should enhance replicability and comparability of future ICR research and hence further refine the methodology.Some results of this content analysis study disconfirm those of prior research: New Zealand firms show high levels of ICR, the most reported IC category is human capital, and the most reported IC item is employees. In line with prior research, this study showed that most ICR is presented in declarative terms. Moreover, more than one-third of New Zealand firms' ICR is disclosed as pictures. This indicates the importance of pictorial information as a means of reporting IC and the need to include graphics when conducting ICR research. This study's findings also indicate a narrative approach, similar to the European notion of story telling, to voluntarily report IC information. This approach suggests that narratives have possible potential for voluntary ICR, as an approach that departs from a measurement and quantification approach.