What Makes Good Research in Software Engineering?

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Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

Physics, biology, and medicine have well-refined public explanations of their research processes. Even in simplified form, these provide guidance about what counts as "good research" both inside and outside the field. Software engineering has not yet explicitly identified and explained either our research processes or the ways we recognize excellent work.

Science and engineering research fields can be characterized in terms of the kinds of questions they find worth investigating, the research methods they adopt, and the criteria by which they evaluate their results. I will present such a characterization for software engineering, showing the diversity of research strategies and the way they shift as ideas mature. Understanding these strategies should help software engineers design research plans and report the results clearly; it should also help explain the character of software engineering research to computer science at large and to other scientists.