The Structure of Design Theories, and an Analysis of their Use in Software Engineering Experiments

Roelf J. Wieringa, Maia Daneva, Nelly Condori-Fernandez

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In this paper we analyse possible reasons for the relatively low use of theories in software engineering (SE) papers found by Hannay et al.~cite{Hannay07}. We provide an initial explanation in terms of properties of theories, test this by analyzing 32 of the 40 theories reviewed by Hannay et al., and then revise our analysis based on this test. Our analysis revealed that background theories from other disciplines are context-free and make idealizing assumptions, which make it easier for them to be (re)used across settings. Theories built in SE are mid-range and context-sensitive, and make less idealizing assumptions. This is normal for engineering theories, but it does make them harder to (re)use across settings. We also found that background theories from other disciplines usually provide explanations for phenomena in terms of mechanisms, whereas SE theories are statistical models of phenomena observed in an experiment, which also makes them harder to (re)use across settings. We end the paper with a recommendation of bottom-up development of theories about mechanisms in software engineering projects by doing case studies.
    Original languageUndefined
    Title of host publicationInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement (ESEM 2011)
    Place of PublicationUSA
    PublisherIEEE Computer Society
    Pages295-304
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Print)978-1-4577-2203-5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011
    Event5th International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ESEM 2011 - Banff, Canada
    Duration: 22 Sep 201123 Sep 2011
    Conference number: 5
    http://esem.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/esem2011/esem/index.html

    Publication series

    Name
    PublisherIEEE Computer Society
    ISSN (Print)1938-6451

    Conference

    Conference5th International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ESEM 2011
    Abbreviated titleESEM 2011
    CountryCanada
    CityBanff
    Period22/09/1123/09/11
    Internet address

    Keywords

    • METIS-281619
    • Architectural theories
    • IR-78886
    • EWI-20938
    • Generalization
    • IS-Design science methodology
    • SCS-Services
    • Research Methodology

    Cite this

    Wieringa, R. J., Daneva, M., & Condori-Fernandez, N. (2011). The Structure of Design Theories, and an Analysis of their Use in Software Engineering Experiments. In International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement (ESEM 2011) (pp. 295-304). USA: IEEE Computer Society. https://doi.org/10.1109/ESEM.2011.38