Background Info

0.1 General Information

I’m Dr. Brian D. Knox at Boise State University, and I made this website. I intend it to be used in upper-division undergraduate cost accounting classes, but you could feasibly use it in introductory or graduate-level classes.

You can reach me at

I assign the entire site a CC BY 4.0 copyright. For more information on that, go here:

All images are mine unless otherwise noted. Images that aren’t mine are from the public domain (as noted in the caption for those images).

I thank James R. Martin, professor emeritus from the University of South Florida. His publicly-available managerial accounting site,, helped inspire this website.

0.2 Textbook Philosophy

0.2.1 Clear Narrative Structure

I approach this textbook with an interest in telling students who is doing what in cost accounting and why they are doing it. One of the most impactful books I ever read was a calculus book that takes a historical perspective. I believe it was this one. Understanding the questions that drove ancient societies to develop mathematical techniques made those techniques more understandable.

Although I don’t hammer students with a lot of cost accounting history, I do try to mimic that book by providing a clear narrative structure throughout. Again, my focus is on who is doing what and why.

And that is something I find to be missing from most cost accounting textbooks out there. I created this textbook partly out of frustration with those textbooks. They tend to present topics in a jumble, with empty explanations of how one topic compared to others. When using those textbooks, I found students begging for help. “So how does activity-based costing really relate to job-order costing?” They’d ask me. The textbook’s reasoning (if it existed) was no help.

This is a real shame. Cost accounting is one of the most internally coherent branches of accounting. The sub-topics do all relate to one another. Cost accounting isn’t driven by the whims of a regulatory body with varied political interests, like other branches of accounting. Cost accounting has been shaped by real information needs within real businesses. Each facet of cost accounting can be understood as an adaptation to respond to those real business needs. If every law and regulation about accounting were suddenly repealed, cost accounting would still be done in mostly the same way it’s done today.

0.2.2 Simple Writing

And don’t get me started on the stuffy writing found in cost accounting textbooks. It leaves students so dazed they want to lick a wall for fun. Paragraphs upon paragraphs of dense sentences. I remember trying to read through them as a student. I had to stop and come up for air every few minutes or risk drowning in their blathering jargon.

I keep my terminology and phrasing as simple as I can. I prioritize internal consistency to help students create a strong construct of cost accounting in their minds. I try to be as brief as I can without shortchanging a topic. There’s only so much I can write before this looks like a manifesto mailed to a news station.

I intentionally omit commas after short introductory phrases, unless omitting the comma would be confusing. (These commas aren’t necessary and lead to a fussier text.) I consider about five words to be a long introductory phrase that requires a comma.

More generally I omit commas anytime I can get away with it. Commas are the worst. Maybe I even omit them when I can’t get away with it. I guess that makes me a comma criminal. It’s definitely a petty theft.

I also capriciously split infinitives, maliciously end sentences with prepositions, jaggedly start sentences with conjunctions. Oh, and I use lots of contractions. In short, grammarians, I’m a terrible human being.

But I do try to correctly use singular verb conjugations for the singular pronouns “each,” “every,” “none,” etc. Maybe there’s some hope for me yet.

0.2.3 Theoretical Foundation

I introduce a simple theoretical model for firm profit early on (in section 1.2, the second subsection of the textbook), and I build on that model throughout. This model does a lot of the heavy lifting in building a cohesive narrative structure. I like to say things like, “this topic in cost accounting arranges this part of the equation for profit in this way.”

I decided to take a theoretical approach because it provides (1) a home base to map out where new topics fit in, (2) a simple expression that should be easily understood by students of various backgrounds, and (3) a platform to demonstrate how cost accounting is different from other branches of accounting (i.e. math is a purer science, and cost accounting is a purer form of accounting).

I find that this approach to be the best way to add educational value to as many students as possible. Most students aren’t going to do this stuff full time, but they should benefit from a firm grasp of cost accounting’s unique theoretical foundation.

0.3 Technical Information

I intend this website to be lean, responsive, and simple. I try not to include videos or website add-ons that can be clunky to load.

The textbook works slightly better on a desktop or laptop screen. However, you should still be able to understand the material just fine on a mobile device.

I don’t collect personal information or have any accounts or logins anywhere on the site.

I don’t have ads or affiliate marketing on this site.

I built this site using WordPress, running the High Responsive theme, version 1.5.1, from Catch Themes.