Teaching basic lab skills
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Empirical Software Engineering Papers

When I teach scientists programming, I frequently cite empirical studies in software engineering to back up my claims about various tools and practices making people more productive. No good, short survey of those papers exists—writing one has been on my to-do list for several years—but I hope the pointers below will be a useful substitute.

The best short introduction to empirical software engineering is Robert Glass's book Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering, but it's twelve years old now, and the field has exploded since it was published. Steve McConnell's Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction is slightly more up to date, and the anthology Making Software: What Really Works, and Why We Believe It is more recent still, but they are both too long and too dense for most people.

If all you want is a sense of what's out there, It Will Never Work in Theory is an infrequently-updated blog of interesting new results. Some of my favorite entries are:

I'd welcome pointers to other openly-access papers reporting empirical studies that are relevant to what we teach. (Unfortunately, and ironically, the ACM and IEEE are among the most backward of professional societies when it comes to open access publishing. As a result, a lot of really interesting work in this field currently languishes in unfindable obscurity behind their paywalls.)

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