Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine intellectual capital research (ICR) methods and critically analyse how they have been utilised. The data set for this analysis is based on examining IC papers published in specialist IC and important generalist accounting journals from the years 2000 to 2011. Design/methodology/approach: The basis of the analysis is Alvesson and Deetz's critical management framework of "Insight", "Critique" and "Transformative redefinition" with the goal of widening the discourse about how to research IC. This paper is motivated by Guthrie et al., who identify a third stage of ICR which is "based on a critical and performative analysis of intellectual capital (IC) practices in action". Findings: This paper argues that there is an increasing performative research agenda however many researchers appear caught in an "evaluatory trap" (Olson et al.) whereby the researchers' approach to ICR remains stuck in an ostensive approach (see Mouritsen) that characterises second stage ICR (see Petty and Guthrie). The paper also identifies how many accounting researchers are impacted by a "dominance structure" and suggests that they need to break free from the dominance of "accounting" practice before they can understand and realise the potential of IC. Research limitations/implications: The implication of this paper for ICR and practice is to create a continued discourse about evolving approaches to ICR so we can continue communicating leading edge, third wave ICR, which develops IC theory in practice and effective IC management through praxis. Originality/value: From 2004 onwards, Guthrie et al. claim the third stage was gaining impetus and thus this paper is novel because it investigates how ICR has transitioned and how ICR might continue to develop.