Purpose - The way theory is used and developed in qualitative research has been a controversial issue, since theory provides a filter through which qualitative data are interpreted, and the "story" is told. This paper aims to present a study of the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) that demonstrates the impact a different theoretical lens has on the selection and interpretation of events, the story that is produced, and the unique view of the role of accounting within its social context. Design/methodology/approach - This paper examines two possible interpretations of the FDB's role under the magnifying glass of Llewellyn's five levels of theorising and the world-view of the researchers. Findings - An analysis of the use of theory and the level of theorising brings to light the difference theory makes to the story that unfolds. On the one hand, accounting is seen as a tool of a repressive system, an example of the outworking of a grand theory, and on the other hand, while no grand theory is overtly employed, the FDB is viewed as a unifying catalyst for the coexistence of two apparently contradictory social institutions. Research limitations/implications - This interpretation of the role and effect of theory in qualitative research is unique and contestable, but forms part of the debate that is a necessary part of the advancement of academic knowledge. Originality/value - Llewellyn's claim that higher level theory develops from lower levels of theorising is challenged, and the assertion is made that grand theory is employed not as the culmination of a theoretical hierarchy, but because of the presence of a preconceived world-view which informs the choice of theory at every level. Â© Emerald Group Publishing Limited.