Developing and evaluating theories In software engineering

Monday, May 23, 2016 to Thursday, May 26, 2016


Infotech Oulu Doctoral Program

Lecturer: Dr. Paul Ralph, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Credits: 3 ECTS

Date & time:

May 23, 2016 (Monday), 8-16
May 24, 2016 (Tuesday), 8-16
May 25, 2016 (Wednesday), 8-16
May 26, 2016 (Thursday), 8-12

Room: IT106

Registration: Contact Burak Turhan (burak.turhan(at)

Course Content

  • Types of theories: variance, process, lifecycle, evolutionary, dialectic, teleological. Empirical strategies for theory development: ethnography, grounded theory, interpretive case study, interview study, simulation. Non-empirical strategies for theory development: literature review, extension, adaptation, synthesis.
  • 20th Century Epistemology: Carnap, Popper, Quine, Sober. Empirical strategies for theory evaluation: experimental designs, pseudo-experimental designs, positivist case studies, protocol studies, questionnaires, embedding theories in prototypes. Non-empirical theory evaluation: approaches to construct validity, instrument development
  • Reporting guidelines: positioning, research questions, presenting theories convincingly, finding practical implications. Reviewing guidelines: writing good peer reviews, reviewing studies not papers, having reasonable expectations, common pitfalls. Re-conceptualizing your research as a theory: student presentations

Recommended Reading

  • Hannay, J., Sjøberg, D. and Dyba, T. 2007. A Systematic Review of Theory Use in Software Engineering Experiments. IEEE Transaction on Software Engineering. 33, 2, 87–107.
  • Sjøberg, D., Dyba, T., Anda, B.C.D. and Hannay, J.E. 2008. Building Theories in Software Engineering. Guide to Advanced Empirical Software Engineering. F. Shull, J. Singer, and D. Sjøberg, eds. Springer London. 312–336.
  • Ralph, P. 2015. Developing and evaluating software engineering process theories. Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering. IEEE, 20-31.


Attendance, reflective essay (due 1 week after the course)


About the Lecturer

Dr. Paul Ralph is an author, scientist, consultant and computer science lecturer at The University of Auckland. His research centers on the theoretical and empirical study of software and game development, including projects, processes, practices, tools and developer cognition, socialization, productivity, creativity, wellbeing and effectiveness. His research has been published in premier software engineering and information systems outlets, including the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), the Journal of the Association for Information Systems (JAIS) and Information and Software Technology. Additionally, he has written editorials on technology, education and design for influential outlets including Business Insider, Lifehacker and The Conversation. Paul is the founding director of the Auckland Game Lab, co-founder of the AIS Special Interest Group for Game Design and Research (SIGGAME) and chair of the International Workshop on Theory-Oriented Software Engineering. Paul holds a PhD in management from the University of British Columbia. Previously he was a lecturer at the Lancaster University Management School, the highest rated management research institution in the United Kingdom.

More information: Burak Turhan

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Last updated: 1.4.2016