Using differences among replications of software engineering experiments to gain knowledge

  • Juristo N
  • Vegas S
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In no science or engineering discipline does it make sense to speak of isolated experiments. The results of a single experiment cannot be viewed as representative of the underlying reality. The concept of experiment is closely related to replication. Experiment replication is the repetition of an experiment to double-check its results. Multiple replications of an experiment increase the credibility of its results. Software engineering has tried its hand at the identical repetition of experiments in the way of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.). After numerous attempts over the years, excepting experiments repeated by the same researchers at the same site, no exact replications have yet been achieved. One key reason for this is the complexity of the software development setting. This complexity prevents the many experimental conditions from being reproduced identically. This paper reports research into whether non-exact replications can be of any use. We propose a process that allows researchers to generate new knowledge when running replications. To illustrate the advantages of the proposed process, two different replications of an experiment are shown.

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