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Investigating Presentational Change in UK Annual Reports: A Longitudinal Perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Business Communication
Issue number2
Volume45
Number of pages42
Pages (from-to)181-222
StatePublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article examines structural and format changes in annual reports of U.K. listed companies from 1965 to 2004 with a particular focus on graph use. The article compares a new sample of 2004 annual reports with preexisting samples by Lee and by Beattie and Jones. Lee's identified trends continue. There has been a sharp increase in page length, voluntary information, and narrative information, particularly among large listed companies. A detailed analysis of voluntary disclosure indicates changes in the incidence and pattern of generic sections. Graph usage is now universal. However, key financial graph use has slightly declined, replaced by graphs depicting other operating issues. Impression management through selectivity, graphical measurement distortion, and manipulation of the length of time series graphed are common. Overall, annual reports continue to exhibit many features of public relations documents rather than financially driven, statutory documents, and the analysis of graph usage suggests a need for policy guidelines to protect users.