The purpose of this paper is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of three research methods employed in managerial accounting: experimental, survey and field research. We do this by drawing on the three papers published in this issue of the Journal. These three papers provide the reader with a ‘behind the scenes’ exposé on the problems, choices and decisions confronted by the researcher during the method phase of the empirical study. The complexities associated with method are rarely reported in published papers nor is there any explanation of why effort is devoted to particular methodological issues. It is, however, important for the novice researcher to recognise these choices and problems, both when selecting a particular method, and in designing a study. We attempt to critique these papers in terms of choice of method and also the extent to which each of the studies satisfies the three ‘maxims’ of scientific method, namely, construct validity, internal validity and external validity. Our review demonstrates the trade‐offs that are necessarily made when designing a research study. There are, however, ways in which the effects of these trade‐offs can be minimised and we provide guidance as to how the study design might be improved to achieve this.