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Evaluating Guidelines for Empirical Software engineering Studies

TitleEvaluating Guidelines for Empirical Software engineering Studies
Author(s)B.A. Kitchenham and H. Al-Khilidar and M. Ali Babar and M. Berry and K. Cox and J. Keung and F. Kurniawati and M. Staples and H. Zhang and L.Zhu
DetailsConference Proceedings: 2006
AbstractBackground. Several researchers have criticized the standards of performing and reporting empirical studies in software engineering. In order to address this problem, Andreas Jedlitschka and Dietmar Pfahl have produced reporting guidelines for controlled experiments in software engineering. They pointed out that their guidelines needed evaluation. We agree that guidelines need to be evaluated before they can be widely adopted. If guidelines are flawed, they will cause more problems that they solve.Aim. The aim of this paper is to present the method we used to evaluate the guidelines and report the results of our evaluation exercise. We suggest our evaluation process may be of more general use if reporting guidelines for other types of empirical study are developed.Method. We used perspective-based inspections to perform a theoretical evaluation of the guidelines. A separate inspection was performed for each perspective. The perspectives used were: Researcher, Practitioner/Consultant, Meta-analyst, Replicator, Reviewer and Author. Apart from the Author perspective, the inspections were based on a set of questions derived by brainstorming. The inspection using the Author perspective reviewed each section of the guidelines sequentially. Results. The question-based perspective inspections detected 42 issues where the guidelines would benefit from amendment or clarification and 8 defects.Conclusions. Reporting guidelines need to specify what information goes into what section and avoid excessive duplication. Software engineering researchers need to be cautious about adopting reporting guidelines that differ from those used by other disciplines. The current guidelines need to be revised and the revised guidelines need to be subjected to further theoretical and empirical validation. Perspective-based inspection is a useful validation method but the practitioner/consultant perspective presents difficulties.
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TopicsMethodology, Primary Study, Software Engineering