Behavioral software engineering - guidelines for qualitative studies

by   Per Lenberg, et al.

Researchers are increasingly recognizing the importance of human aspects in software development and since qualitative methods are used to, in-depth, explore human behavior, we believe that studies using such techniques will become more common. Existing qualitative software engineering guidelines do not cover the full breadth of qualitative methods and knowledge on using them found in the social sciences. The aim of this study was thus to extend the software engineering research community's current body of knowledge regarding available qualitative methods and provide recommendations and guidelines for their use. With the support of a literature review, we suggest that future research would benefit from (1) utilizing a broader set of research methods, (2) more strongly emphasizing reflexivity, and (3) employing qualitative guidelines and quality criteria. We present an overview of three qualitative methods commonly used in social sciences but rarely seen in software engineering research, namely interpretative phenomenological analysis, narrative analysis, and discourse analysis. Furthermore, we discuss the meaning of reflexivity in relation to the software engineering context and suggest means of fostering it. Our paper will help software engineering researchers better select and then guide the application of a broader set of qualitative research methods.


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