Summer School on Empirical Research Methods in Software Engineering and Informatics (ERMSEI)

Today, more and more papers get published that contain an element of empirical research methods in them. In fact, empirical methods are so prominent now, that in the call for papers for the VL/HCC conference, we are reminded that there are also other ways to provide evidence for claims besides human subject studies. However, empirical research is not yet widely taught to our graduate students. Therefore, the course Empirical Research Methods in Software Engineering and Informatics (ERMSEI) was introduced to the curriculum of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), which is the basis for this summer school.


The course focuses on the practical aspects of empirical research, that is, there will be only short introductory lectures on the various topics. After that, participants shall work hands-on with real case studies, some of which derive from my own work. That also means that, while there are no formally prerequisites to the course, understanding Software Engineering as a discipline will greatly improve your understanding of the course material.

For instance, participants will

  • study existing experimental set-ups with a view to finding shortcomings and threats to validity and how they impact the claims put forward in a given article;
  • develop a small experimental set-up for a given case study in small groups and present their design in a plenary discussion; and
  • define and refine a research question, and discuss alternative approaches to providing evidence for or against it.

Of course, there is more to empirical research than what can be taught in a tutorial. Thus, the objective of this course is only to provide its attendees with a starting point, possibly removing any inhibitions that might be there, and equip aspiring researches with some skills and first practical exercises in leading methodologically sound research.

After attending this course, participants

  • will be aware of the potential and limitations of empirical research methods;
  • are capable of choosing an appropriate research paradigm for a given problem; and
  • can assess the quality of the empirical research reported in an article, such as for a review.

Given the time restriction, we will focus mostly on controlled experiments, selected qualitative methods, and oveall study design as far as the practical exercises are concerned. Other paradigms will only be covered by lecture-format introductions.

Intended Audience

The course is intended for people that have little or no background in empirical research methods, in particular people with a technical or formal methods background. We will assume a good understanding of current research topics in Software Engineering for the case studies. So, the ideal participant would be someone who has just started his or her PhD in Computer Science / Software Engineering (or will start it soon), and requires overview knowledge about empirical research methods to inform his or her research project.




The course generally follows a schema where there is some introductory lecture in the morning (typically, 9:00-10:00 or 10:30), then a practical exercises in groups until Lunch. After Lunch, feedback on the results and a follow-up exercise last till 16:00, when we gather together to look at, and critique, each others work, give and receive feedback, and answer any left-over questions that have accumulated over the day. Breaks are taken at your own discretion. I will wander around to discuss with the groups to help them get on with their work. On the last day, we expand on one of the exercises from the first day (study design), but this time, we prepare proper presentations and devote greater space to presentation, discussion, and feedback.


  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Philosophical Perspective
Controlled Experiments
Threats to Validity
Field Work
Qualitative Methods:
Observations and Measurements Physiological Measurements
Statistical Techniques
Observational Techniques
Grounded Theory
Evening Social Event? - -

Breaks will taken as needed. Plenary feedback is given after each session, individual/group feedback is given continuously.

A more detailed program will be announced in the course. Number of attendants permitting, we will try to tailor it somewhat to the audience. After the great success in previous years, we will try to organize a little social program, too!

Teaching material

The course is not based on a single textbook, but uses excerpts from different books, and some research articles. All participants will receive a paper copy of the lecture material. PDF files will be available on request.

Practical Details

Place and Date

The ERMSEI Summer School 2017 is co-located with the EASE conference. ERMSEI will be held on the main campus of BTH in Karlskrona, Monday to Wendesday (12.-14.6.) just before EASE. For travel guidance, please consult the conference web site. The building and room number, and other practical details will be announced in good time. It is a good idea to come a little early on the first day for socialising. Effectively, this means participants should arrive Sunday evening. If sufficiently many participants are present, we could organize a common dinner, or drinks.


If you are interested in taking this course, please get in contact with Harald Störrle. Start by sending me an email with your name, affiliation, status/program. It might also be a good idea if you let me know your expectations, and level of knowledge in empirical SE. If we both agree that it is a good idea you take this course, register here. If you are a PhD student from BTH, you should get in touch with Panagiota Chatzipetrou.

Attendance is limited to twenty (20), first come, first serve! We reserve the right to cancel the course if attendance is too low, though as of May 7th, there are five registrations, after just a few days of announcing.


Up to May 28th, the registration fee is 2000SEK. After that, the registration fee is 3000SEK. For industry participants, the registration fee is 5000SEK. Registration includes printed lecture notes, refrehsments, and lunches. Funding provided, we shall also arrange a little social event.

For further information refer to the Course Homepage!