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Qualitative Methods in Empirical Studies of Software Engineering
July/August 1999 (vol. 25 no. 4)
pp. 557-572

Abstract—While empirical studies in software engineering are beginning to gain recognition in the research community, this subarea is also entering a new level of maturity by beginning to address the human aspects of software development. This added focus has added a new layer of complexity to an already challenging area of research. Along with new research questions, new research methods are needed to study nontechnical aspects of software engineering. In many other disciplines, qualitative research methods have been developed and are commonly used to handle the complexity of issues involving human behavior. This paper presents several qualitative methods for data collection and analysis and describes them in terms of how they might be incorporated into empirical studies of software engineering, in particular how they might be combined with quantitative methods. To illustrate this use of qualitative methods, examples from real software engineering studies are used throughout.

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Index Terms:
Qualitative methods, data collection, data analysis, experimental design, empirical software engineering, participant observation, interviewing.
Citation:
Carolyn B. Seaman, "Qualitative Methods in Empirical Studies of Software Engineering," IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 557-572, July-Aug. 1999, doi:10.1109/32.799955
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