AuthorsV. B. Kampenes, B. C. D. Anda and T. Dybå
EditorsG. V. M. Turner
TitleFlexibility in Research Designs in Empirical Software Engineering
Publication TypeProceedings, refereed
Year of Publication2008
Conference NameEvaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE 2008)

Problem outline:A common way of classifying empirical research designs is in qualitative and quantitative designs. Typically, particular research methods (e.g., case studies, action research, experiments and surveys) are associated to one or the other of these designs. Studies in empirical software engineering (ESE) are often exploratory and often involve software developers and development organizations. As a consequence, it may be difficult to pre-plan all aspects of the studies, and to be successful, ESE studies must often be designed to handle upcoming changes during the conduct of the study. A problem with the above classification is that it does not cater for the flexibility in the design. Position: This paper suggests viewing research in ESE along the axis of flexible and fixed designs, which is both orthogonal to the axis of quantitative and qualitative designs, and independent of the particular research method. According to the traditional view of ESE, changes to the research design in the course of a study are typically regarded as threats to the validity of the study results. However, by viewing the study designs as flexible, practical challenges can be turned to useful information. The validity of the results of studies with flexible research designs can be established by applying techniques that are traditionally used for qualitative designs. This paper urges for increased recognition of flexible designs in ESE and discusses techniques for establishing the trustworthiness in flexible designs.

Citation KeySimula.SE.275