Spreadsheet bibliography

Title An empirical study of spreadsheet error-finding performance
Authors Dennis Galletta, Dolphy Abraham, Mohamed El Louadi, William Lekse, Yannis A. Pollalis, & Jeffrey L. Sampler
Year 1993
Type Article
Publication Accounting, Management and Information Technologies
Series Volume 3, Number 2, April-June, pages 79-95

Several well-founded concerns exist about the integrity and validity of electronic spreadsheets. Thirty CPAs and 30 MBA students volunteered to seek up to two errors planted in each of six spreadsheets to discover if expertise in the domain of accounting and the spreadsheet program would facilitate error-finding performance.

Subjects only found, on average, about 55% of the simple, conspicuous errors on the small spreadsheets.

As expected, both accounting and spreadsheeting expertise contributed to the subjects' error-finding rate, and those who performed this task with both types of expertise found the largest number of errors in the shortest time.

Interestingly, while CPAs were more accurate than non-CPAs in finding accounting-related errors, spreadsheet experts did not outperform novices in finding spreadsheet formula errors. Also, while spreadsheet expertise contributed to greater speed, accounting expertise did not.

Future research would further investigate the contribution of spreadsheet expertise to the error-finding task. Practitioners should be aware of the difficulties in finding even simple errors, and develop training programs to facilitate spreadsheet auditors' performance.

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Mean number of errors found
Mean number of errors found

CPAs out-performed non-CPAs, but not by much. CPAs found only 61% of the spreadsheet errors, compared with 50% for the non-CPAs.

Experts found 57% of the errors, only slightly more than the 55% found by spreadsheet novices. The difference is not significant.