Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria in Software Engineering Tertiary Studies: A Systematic Mapping and Emerging Framework

09/16/2021
by   Dolors Costal, et al.
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Context: Tertiary studies in software engineering (TS@SE) are widely used to synthesise evidence on a research topic systematically. As part of their protocol, TS@SE define inclusion and exclusion criteria (IC/EC) aimed at selecting those secondary studies (SS) to be included in the analysis. Aims: To provide a state of the art on the definition and application of IC/EC in TS@SE, and from the results of this analysis, we outline an emerging framework, TSICEC, to be used by SE researchers. Method: To provide the state of the art, we conducted a systematic mapping (SM) combining automatic search and snowballing over the body of SE scientific literature, which led to 50 papers after application of our own IC/EC. The extracted data was synthesised using content analysis. The results were used to define a first version of TSICEC. Results: The SM resulted in a coding schema, and a thorough analysis of the selected papers on the basis of this coding. Our TSICEC framework includes guidelines for the definition of IC/EC in TS@SE. Conclusion: This paper is a step forward establishing a foundation for researchers in two ways. As authors, understanding the different possibilities to define IC/EC and apply them to select SS. As readers, having an instrument to understand the methodological rigor upon which TS@SE may claim their findings.

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