Conducting Realistic Experiments in Software Engineering

TitleConducting Realistic Experiments in Software Engineering
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsSj"berg, DIK, Anda B, Arisholm E, Dyb{\aa} T, J"rgensen M, Karahasanovic A, Koren EF, Vokác M
Conference NameProceedings of the 2002 International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Conference LocationWashington, DC, USA
ISBN Number0-7695-1796-X
KeywordsEmpirical software engineering, experiments, professionals, technology transfer

An important goal of most empirical software engineering research is the transfer of research results to industrial applications. Two important obstacles for this transfer are the lack of control of variables of case studies, i.e., the lack of explanatory power, and the lack of realism of controlled experiments. While it may be difficult to increase the explanatory power of case studies, there is a large potential for increasing the realism of controlled software engineering experiments. To convince industry about the validity and applicability of the experimental results, the tasks, subjects and the environments of the experiments should be as realistic as practically possible. Such experiments are, however, more expensive than experiments involving students, small tasks and pen-and-paper environments. Consequently, a change towards more realistic experiments requires a change in the amount of resources spent on software engineering experiments. This paper argues that software engineering researchers should apply for resources enabling expensive and realistic software engineering experiments similar to how other researchers apply for resources for expensive software and hardware that are necessary for their research. The paper describes experiences from recent experiments that varied in size from involving one software professional for 5 days to 130 software professionals, from 9 consultancy companies, for one day each.

Refereed DesignationRefereed