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    Using systematic reviews and evidence-based software engineering with masters students

    13th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE)

    Durham University, UK, 20 - 21 April 2009


    Briony J Oates, Graham Capper


    Context: The problem of teaching research skills to masters students. In particular, improving their literature reviews, assessing them and providing good feedback.

    Objectives: To introduce systematic reviews and evidence-based software engineering (EBSE) guidance into our teaching, provide an experience report and empirical data, and investigate the results.

    Methods: A systematic review requirement was introduced into the students' assessed work. The format of the assessment brief (also provided in this paper) was influenced by previous research on EBSE work with students. Qualitative and quantitative data was generated, and statistical analysis investigated the students' performance across the different elements of the systematic review.

    Results: Most students could do a systematic review and more useful feedback could be given. The assessment brief deviated from the normal EBSE guidelines in order to address previous difficulties. This modification was successful. Differences were found in student marks for different elements of the systematic reviews, with a large effect size for differing scores between 'search' and 'criteria', and 'search' and 'evaluation'.

    Conclusions: Introducing systematic reviews and EBSE guidance can improve students' literature handing skills and support improved feedback. The EBSE guidance should be modified for students and novice researchers to incorporate the process of developing a well-defined research question. Further work should investigate the differing performance across different elements of the systematic review.


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