Introduction to the context of accounting
Introduction to the context of accounting

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Introduction to the context of accounting

3 What is an accountant?

To return to basics, let’s take a few minutes to think about the role of an accountant, and the basic abilities and skills he/she needs to have.

Activity 5

Use your word processor to write a short answer to each of these questions. You should spend at least two minutes on each question:

  • What do you think an accountant does?

  • What makes an accountant different from a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, or an IT specialist?

  • What abilities and skills do you think a ‘good’ accountant has?

  • What abilities and skills do you think make a ‘great’ accountant?

  • What do you think the accountant of 2010 will be doing every day?

Did you manage to write down answers to them all? Did you try? Well done if you did. Even if you wrote something that you later discover was wrong, it’s useful to save these answers as a record of your early ideas about accountants and what they do.

Your views will evolve as you learn more about accounting. Let’s begin by looking at the questions from a different perspective.

Activity 6

Consider your answers to the questions in Activity 5 and then use the course Forum to write 100 words describing why you are studying this course. Then write another 100 words describing what job you want to be doing in 2010. Finally, write 100 words on whether or not accounting is useful for decision making. In each case, try to ensure you write precisely 100 words.


You were asked to write precisely 100 words because accountants have to summarise things a lot. Usually it is data that they have to group together and summarise so as to produce information. However, they also have to produce reports that, ideally, should be clear, brief, and focused. One way to learn how to do this is to set a word limit on something you have been asked to write and then making sure you write exactly that number of words.

Did you find it easy to write precisely 100 words for each of these answers? Did you succeed in doing so? Whatever you did, you now should know why you are working through this course, what you want to be doing in 2010, and whether you think accounting as you know it is or is not useful for decision making. I hope you decided that the answer to that question was ‘yes’.

You have also just experienced one of the features of accounting – summarising. Part of the processing that occurs within the accounting information system is the summarising of data (input) into information (output).

Now, let’s consider the relationship between data and information.


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