We provide a conceptual framework for analyzing studies on management controls and management control systems (MCSs). This framework describes and analyzes the directing and activating processes of management controls and MCSs. Because our focus is on why management controls are effective, our conceptual framework complements earlier frameworks that focus on specific empirical methods, controls, and literature maps. We discuss several applications of the framework, such as depicting an individual research study, comparing multiple research studies examining the same control, and organizing an area of research. Our approach benefits consumers of management accounting research by increasing understanding and access to extant research. In addition, the application of our approach can reveal gaps in the literature or the potential for mediating factors to explain conflicting findings and can thus inform future research.

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