How a Textual Analysis Tool Helps Accounting Researchers Analyze Participants' Written Responses

February 24, 2022

Sanaz Aghazadeh

             Sanaz Aghazadeh

Linguistic Indicator and Word Count (LIWC) analysis has strong potential for applicability to evolving topics in judgment and decision-making literature in accounting research, according to LSU Department of Accounting Assistant Professor Sanaz Aghazadeh. Described in her recent paper titled, “Using LIWC to Analyze Participants’ Psychological Processing,” published by Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, Aghazadeh, along with co-authors Kris Hoang from the University of Alabama and Bradley Pomeroy from the University of Waterloo, explained that LIWC is a machine-based, psychometrician-developed application designed to produce easily replicable, validated measures of psychological constructs from writing samples.

LIWC utilizes dictionaries to sort words from writing samples into word categories that are measurable. For example, suppose a researcher designs an experiment that asks auditor participants to write a rationale for their risk assessment (an open-ended question) to determine auditors' levels of discomfort or anxiety related to the assessment. To measure this affective state, the researcher analyzes the response using LIWC to search the writing sample for words such as worried, fearful, and concern that relate to affective processing associated with anxiety. The researcher then uses the generated LIWC score to investigate whether auditors’ anxiety, revealed by their linguistic choices and measured as the percentage of anxiety words included in participants’ writing samples, differs across experimental conditions.  

Typically, accounting research uses a mixture of scale-based questions and writing samples. Scale-based questions are efficient to analyze, but writing samples are more like documentation auditors complete as part of their jobs. For writing samples, researchers typically use human-based coding, and human-coders are subject to bias. LIWC allows an efficient, low-cost way to analyze writing samples to complement responses from scale-based questions. 

In their paper, Aghazadeh and her co-authors state that “a key feature of LIWC is that it enables researchers to examine how participants express thoughts and feelings about a subject of interest, which reveals psychological processing through participants' linguistic choices.”

Recent studies suggest a growing interest in linguistic patterns found in all sorts of accounting communication. For example, client deception is an affective quality that LIWC could detect in managers’ communications to an auditor. LIWC captures this by examining differences between honest and lying words. 

As you can see, there is great value in being able to psychologically analyze how accounting research participants feel about certain topics. The authors successfully concluded that LIWC can be a powerful tool when guided by theory and applied appropriately.

Read Full Study.

About Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory

The purpose of Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory is to contribute to improving the practice and theory of auditing. The term “auditing” is to be interpreted broadly and encompasses internal and external auditing as well as other attestation activities (phenomena). An essential objective is to promote communication between research and practice, which will influence present and future developments in auditing education as well as auditing research and practice.

About the Department of Accounting
The Department of Accounting at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business strives for excellence in teaching, research, and service to the accounting profession. With a mission of producing graduates at all levels who excel in their pursuits, the department offers undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students for careers in various fields, including industry, auditing, finance, government, and academia. For more information, visit, call 225-578-6202, or email


“Like” us on Facebook (LSUOursoCollege) or follow us on Twitter (@lsuoursocollege).