In 2014, Cathy Shi, ’17, began her student research with two accounting professors at the Robins School. After three years of research, their paper on extraordinary items in accounting history is being published in an internationally renowned accounting journal.

“Our paper studies the evolution of extraordinary items, which consist of gains and losses that are infrequent and unusual,” Shi said. Accountants debated how to report these gains and losses for more than a century, Shi continued, and their research explored which events led to the eventual elimination of extraordinary items from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in 2015.  

“We examine several important Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) pronouncements and events that contributed to the elimination of extraordinary items including APB Opinion No. 30 in 1973, FASB’s treatment of the losses from the World Trade Center attack in 2001, the FASB and International Accounting Standards Board’s convergence initiative, the FASB’s simplification initiative, and widespread use of pro forma earnings in practice,” Shi said.

Shi dedicated the majority of her time at the Robins School to this research, including presenting the paper at the American Accounting Association Annual Meeting in 2015 and 2016.

She worked closely with Professor Joe Hoyle and Dr. Daniel Paik, associate professors of accounting, throughout the process, but both say Shi performed the majority of the research.

“Cathy did as much work as Daniel and me,” Professor Hoyle said. “This paper required finding and studying a lot of accounting pronouncements over a century long period of time.  Cathy and Daniel also did a lot of statistical work using data from the 1960’s until the present to show how the reporting of extraordinary items changed as the official rules were modified.”

“I had the opportunity to go beyond the classroom and work on the research project with Professors Hoyle and Paik,” Shi said of the experience. “They patiently showed me the process, from picking a research topic, setting a milestone, and collecting and analyzing the data, to studying scholarly research papers, and finally to writing up the research paper. They treated me as one of the co-authors instead of just a student research assistant. Open discussions with them improved my self-confidence and independence while significantly developing my critical thinking and communications skills.” 

Hoyle says even though Shi graduated in spring of 2017, she continued her commitment to the project. 

“Having an undergraduate student so heavily involved in a project of this type is a great experience. We worked on this paper for nearly two years and she never slowed down, even after graduation. The work gave Cathy a chance to see how a small idea can gradually grow and morph into a major project,” Hoyle said. “Through numerous conversations, our ideas about the paper constantly evolved until, at the end, we had a paper that I believe provides an excellent overview of how an accounting concept grows, changes, and--eventually--dies.”   

The Accounting Historians Journal will publish their paper.

“It is one of the best journals in the accounting history field,” Paik said. “This is a reward and recognition of our work over the past two and half years.”

Shi also took advantage of some of the other benefits the Robins school provides, including research fellowships of up to four thousand dollars for each summer.

“The Robins School has always promoted scholarly research and close collaboration between faculty members and students,” Shi said. “This serves as an example, and I hope to encourage more students to participate in collaborative research.”