Using the ASC and other source materials

Structure of your response

Your paper should be between 300 to 550 words longThe most important part of your paper is the arguments. Your first priority is completeness.  However, once that goal is accomplished, you must be concise.

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Your requirements for the case are so concise that your sentence or two should merely restate the requirements. All text between the first and conclusion are arguments.  See the document “Arguments.docx” for guidance on making these arguments.  Most important, each argument shall first provide specific citations to the ASC, cite the facts of the case, then draw a conclusion.

The final sentence or two provides the overall conclusion to your paper. This conclusion fulfills the purpose of the assignment as stated at the beginning of your paper. It summarizes and ties together your prior arguments.  The conclusion leaves no open questions relevant to the stated purpose, nor does it contain information extraneous to answering these questions. 


Your paper will be graded on the extent to which it follows this guidance and meets the expectations in this document and the document “Arguments.docx”

Using the ASC and other source materials

To access the professional literature, go to the “Accounting Standards Codification Link” in this Module.  This user ID and password are valid for all UNL students, but only for UNL students.  Please do not share this password outside of this group. 

Please study the file “FASB Guidance.docx” for instructions on how to use the Accounting Standards Codification (ASC).  This is a summary of the FASB’s document “How to use the Codification.pdf”  It is also very helpful to review “Key Things to Keep in Mind.docx”  In addition to that guidance, be consistent with the original source (e.g., use ASC “420-20-05-5” instead of “420-20-5-5.”)  No footnote or reference should be used, but you should write out any acronym [e.g., write “Accounting Standards Codification (ASC)”] the first time you use it. 

Each of your assertions about GAAP should be supported with specific citations. However, do not use citations just to demonstrate that you can. 

Quoting the ASC provides the most specific and verifiable information.  However, sometimes it is not possible to quote the ASC in a sufficiently concise manner. In this case, paraphrase the relevant portions.  Make sure you paraphrase accurately.  Your paraphrase should include all necessary information and omit all unnecessary information.  Do not mix your paraphrase with facts of the case or the conclusion.  Make sure that the reader will easily understand the distinction between the material you are citing, the facts of the case, and your conclusions. This is a very common problem with student papers.

You must use quotation marks when text is not paraphrased—otherwise, it is plagiarism, even when you cite the source.  Everyone should be extremely careful to avoid plagiarism, but foreign students should be particularly careful because many things considered plagiarism in the U.S. are viewed as perfectly normal, even desirable, in many other countries.  Also, plagiarism is considered a far more serious offense in the U.S. than it is in many other countries.  Having cautioned you, I will say that a bit more leeway is allowed when citing the ASC than to most other sources.  There is no precise cutoff of how many direct words of the ASC are allowed to be cited without using quotation marks, but as long as you are including the specific ASC section number, more is allowed than for most other sources. 

Do not use sources other than the ASC. 

Avoid implying that the ASC mentions your case. Students sometimes mean to say that a particular ASC is applicable, but their wording implies that the ASC specifically mentions the companies in your case.  For example, a student wrote “Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 810-10 Consolidation: Overall determines the financial reporting consolidation requirements that pertain to the organizations in the “Venturing into Consolidations” case.”  A better wording would be “Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 810‑10 is the most relevant ASC section to the ‘Venturing into Consolidations’ case.” Also, the sentence is superfluous. It should be obvious that your specific citations are the most relevant.

Do NOT use any ASC guidance marked as “pending.”  

Never use ASC “implementation guidance” without first citing the main body of the ASC.  Implementation guidance only applies to that ASC section.  If is often very misleading when applied to an incorrect ASC section.

Plagiarism: This describes what it is, why it is important, and how to avoid it.

Grammar, clarity, and conciseness. 

All written work submitted should be submitted to Grammarly to ensure that your report is readable. 

Clarify whether a condition is sufficient or necessary. If one of the sufficient conditions is met, there is no need to mention any of the other conditions.  If none of the sufficient conditions are met, they all must be discussed. If one of the necessary conditions is not met, there is no need to mention the others.  If all of the necessary conditions are met, they all must be discussed.  If there is uncertainty about whether a condition is met, discuss when, and only when, it is potentially relevant.  For example, conditions A and B are necessary to draw the conclusion C.  If A is not met, then we know that C is not valid, and therefore, it is irrelevant whether there is any uncertainty about whether condition B is met. 

Be concise within each sentence.  For example, a student in a prior semester wrote “There were numerous reasons given to justify the acquisition of Nextel by Sprint.  Some of the reasons given in Sprint’s presentation on December 15, 2004 regarding the merger stated that the merger would accelerate…” This is more concisely stated as “There were numerous reasons given to justify Nextel’s 2004 acquisition of Sprint including that the merger would accelerate…”  Another student wrote “The first step to analyzing Wendy’s International’s involvement with Baja Fresh is to examine the financial information related to the acquisition of Baja Fresh.”  The last three words, “of Baja Fresh,” were redundant.  It would also have been more concisely stated as “First, I examine Wendy’s and Baha’s financial information at the time of the acquisition.”  “ASC 1010-10-10-10 states” is both more appropriate and more concise than “According to ASC 1010-10-10-10.”

Be concise within each paragraph.  Avoid extraneous and redundant sentences.  Avoid using multiple paragraphs, whether consecutive or not, to make the same point.  Omit facts which are not necessary for the development of your arguments. 

Avoid excessive precision.  Three significant digits are normally sufficient.  For example, “$15.573 billion” should normally be written as “$15.6 billion.”  Do not use numbers less than 1 unit of measurement.  For example, “$1.05 billion” is fine, but “$0.95 billion” should be written as “$950 million.”

The word “assume” has a very different meaning than the word “conclude.” Avoid the words “assume” and “assumption.” 

Be sure that the reader will understand whether each factual statement is from the case, the ASC, or your conclusion.

It is almost always true that “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. 

Periods go inside parentheses only if the entire sentence is inside the parentheses.  Periods and commas belong inside closed quotation marks.  Punctuation rules are different outside the United States.

If you would like more guidance on grammar, there are several excellent books including “Painless Grammar” and “The English Language: A User’s Guide.” There are also several excellent books which focus on business grammar, writing, and communication.  Each of these books is typically $10-$15.

You can test and improve your grammar skills with online quizzes like the ones found at 

See Exhibit 1 for minimum writing rules.  Please use two spaces between sentences.


Most common suggestions for improvement I made on prior papers. 


  • Provide case facts to connect the ASC citation(s) to the conclusion: You made an excellent start to your argument by citing the most relevant ASC, then properly describing its relevance, and finally, listing the necessary conditions for the resulting accounting treatment. You assert that the conditions are not met and provide a logical conclusion from that. The problem here is that you have no evidence for your assertion. It is necessary to describe the case facts to persuade the reader that the conditions are not met.


  • Put your primary arguments in the form of “if-then.”  ASC XXX-XX-XX-XX states that … [provide quote or paraphrase here which demonstrates that when condition X exists, accounting treatment Y is required].   Your ASC and arguments are very relevant.      However, their relevance is difficult to understand because of the lack of the right starting point.      The best starting point is the citation to the ASC “XXX-XX-XX-XX”.  With this starting point, the relevance of your arguments becomes clear. 


  • Make complete argument(s): Your first quote should be “if-then.” Your first statement only provides the “if” part. What is the “then?” Overall: The argument you made is well structured, but it is missing a key component.


  • Make the purpose of the paper explicit (not implicit): Your conclusion is in the last sentence of the first paragraph.  This provides an implicit question in your document.      This approach is not necessarily wrong in all business documents, but it has the disadvantage of not making the purpose of the paper explicit.  The reader might get the impression that you are describing the situation rather than your conclusion, especially since you have not made it explicit that this is your conclusion.



Minimum Writing Rules



2.  ‘‘It’’ refers to a thing, while ‘‘they’’ refers to humans. A company is a ‘‘thing,’’ so do not use the pronoun‘‘they’’ when referring to a company—the proper pronounis ‘‘it.’’

3.  ‘‘Its’’ is possessive, while ‘‘it’s’’ means ‘‘it is.’’

4.  ‘‘This’’ should not be used as a noun. Instead, use ‘‘this’’ as an adjective or adverb (i.e., improper use would be—‘‘this leads to confusion’’—‘‘this’’ what?).

5.  A singular antecedent(such as a manager) requires a singular pronoun (such as he or she).

6.  Use active voice (i.e., limit your use of variations of ‘‘to be’’ and ‘‘have’’).

7.  Be concise. If one word can replace three words, then use one word.


●    ‘‘due to the fact that’’     –because

●    ‘‘prepare an analysis’’     –analyze

●    ‘‘it should be noted that’’      –(omit)

●    ‘‘in order to’’                   –to

8.  Use simple words


●    utilize            –use

●    discontinue    –stop

●    endeavor       –try

9.  Use the proper homophone (word with different spelling and meaning, but same pronunciation).


●    their, there, they’re

●    to, too, two

●    principle, principal

●    insure, ensure

10.  Check for subject-verb agreement.

11.  Use complete sentences (i.e., must have both a subject and a verb).

12.  Avoid jargon, slang, and cliche´s.

13.  Avoid beginning a sentence with a pronoun as the subject (Ex.: It was blue?).

14.  Avoid using contractions;spell out the words.

15.  Make items in a list parallel.

16.  Thoughts should flow between sentences and between paragraphs.

17.  Theaverage sentence should be about 15 words long (few should exceed 20).


*Exhibit 1 taken from Matherly and Burney, Issues in Accounting Education, 2009.


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