Software Engineering Research Group - SERG

Computer Science | Faculty of Engineering, LTH

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Case Study Research

PhD student course, 7.5 ECTS, fall 2014

Per Runeson


The learning goal of this PhD student course is to get an understanding of case study methodology, what it is and where it fits into software engineering. The course aims at providing practical tools for planning, conducting, reporting and reviewing case studies in software enginering.


Oct 9, 10.15-16.30

Oct 10, 9.15-15.00

Nov 6, 10.15-16.30

Nov 7, 9.15-15.00

Nov 21, 9.30-16.00

Dec 11, 9.30-16.00

Location: LTH/E-huset, Ole Römers väg 3, Lund, E:2405 (glasburen);



1. Introduction

2. Definitions

3. Design

4. Preparation and collection

5. Analysis

6. Reporting

Case study practice


P. Runeson, M. Höst, A. Rainer, and B. Regnell. Case Study Research in Software Engineering – Guidelines and Examples. Wiley, 2012.



D. Karlström and P. Runeson. Integrating agile software development into stage-gate managed product development. Empirical Software Engineering, 11(2):203–225, 2006.

A. W. Rainer. The longitudinal, chronological case study research strategy: A definition and an example from IBM Hursley Park. Info. and Software Technology, 53(7):730-746, 2011.

C. Andersson and P. Runeson. A spiral process model for case studies on software quality monitoring—method and metrics. Software Process: Improvement and Practice, 12(2):125–140, 2007.

Bjarnason, E., P. Runeson, M. Borg, M. Unterkalmsteiner, E. Engström, B. Regnell, G. Sabaliauskaite, A. Loconsole, T. Gorschek, and R. Feldt (2013). Challenges and Practices in Aligning Requirements and Verification and Validation: An Industrial Multi-Unit Case Study. Empirical Software Engineering


J. Singer and N. G. Vinson. Why and how research ethics matters to you. yes, you! Empirical Software Engineering, 6:287–290, 2001.

K. El-Emam. Ethics and open source. Empirical Software Engineering, 6:291– 292, 2001.

C. B. Seaman. Ethics in qualitative studies of commercial software enterprises: Case description. Empirical Software Engineering, 6:299–300, 2001.

Observation and protocol analysis examples

H. Sharp and H. Robinson. An ethnographic study of XP practice. Empirical Software Engineering, 9(4):353–375, 2004.

A. M. Vans, A. von Mayrhauser, and G. Somlo. Program understanding behav- ior during corrective maintenance of large-scale software. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 51:31–70, 1999

Focus group example

Höst, M., A. Orucevic-Alagic, and P. Runeson (2011). Usage of Open Source in Commercial Software Product Development - Findings from a Focus Group Meeting. In: Proceedings 12th International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement (PROFES). Vol. 6759. LNBIP. Springer, pp.143–155.

Reporting examples

Karlström, D. and P. Runeson (2005). Combining agile methods with stage-gate project management. IEEE software 22(3), 43–49.


Chapter 4: Systematic Literature Reviews in Wohlin, C., P. Runeson, M. Höst, M. C. Ohlsson, B. Regnell, and A. Wesslén (2012). Experimentation in Software Engineering. Springer.

D. S. Cruzes, T. Dybå, P. Runeson, and M. Höst. Case studies synthesis: A thematic, cross-case, and narrative synthesis worked example a thematic, cross-case, and narrative synthesis worked example. EMSE, 2014

N. Oza, T. Hall, A. Rainer and S. Grey (2006) Trust in software outsourcing relationships: an empirical investigation of Indian software companies.  Information and Software Technology  48:345–354

M. A. Babar, J. M. Verner, P. T. Nguyen (2007) Establishing and maintaining trust in software outsourcing relation- ships: an empirical investigation. Journal of Systems and Software 80(9):1438–1449

B. A. Kitchenham, D. Budgen, and O. Pearl Brereton. Using mapping studies as the basis for further research - a participant-observer case study. Information and Software Technology 53(6):638–651, June 2011.

To Do

Before the first meeting (Oct 9-10)

  • Read Runeson et al, Case study research in SE. Chapters 1-4
  • Select two case study papers from your own field of interest and read them carefully
  • Identify a potential/ongoing/recent case study of your own and prepare for a 1 minute presentation of that.
  • Read the Ethics papers

Before the second meeting (Nov 6-7)

  • Read Runeson et al, Case study research in SE. Chapter 5 and two out of chapters 10-12, 14, and corresponding example papers.
  • Write a short (2 pages) report on findings in one of your selected papers wrt to the new insights on planning case studies. Use appendix A.1 as a reference.
  • Prepare a first version of the definition part for your case study.
  • Read the Observation and protocol analysis examples and focus group example

Before the third meeting (Nov 21)

  • Read Runeson et al, Case study research in SE. Chapter 6 and the remaining two out of chapters 10-12, 14, and corresponding example papers
  • Write a short (2 pages) report on findings in one of your selected papers wrt to the new insights on data collection, analysis and interpretation in case studies. Use appendix A.2 and A.3 as a reference
  • Read Reporting example and compare to the corresponding EMSE paper.

Before the fourth meeting (Dec 11)

  • Read Synthesis papers. In the Oza 2006 and Babar 2007 papers, mark each paragraph that has a message about outsourcing relationships with a code of your own choice. Document the coding in an excel sheet.

 After the forth meeting (deadline Dec 31) 

  • Define or redefine a case study in your own field. Report it in the form of a case study protocol.
  • Write a short (1 page) report on findings in one of your selected papers wrt to the new insights on reporting case studies. Use appendix A.4 as a reference. Merge it with the previous reports.

Final delivery (deadline around Jan 31) 

  • Review other case study protocol
  • Update own case study protocol