The longitudinal, chronological case study research strategy : a definition, and an example from IBM Hursley Park
Context: There is surprisingly little empirical software engineering research (ESER) that has analysed and reported the rich, fine-grained behaviour of phenomena over time using qualitative and quantitative data. The ESER community also increasingly recognises the need to develop theories of software engineering phenomena e.g. theories of the actual behaviour of software projects at the level of the project and over time. Objective: To examine the use of the longitudinal, chronological case study (LCCS) as a research strategy for investigating the rich, fine-grained behaviour of phenomena over time using qualitative and quantitative data. Method: Review the methodological literature on longitudinal case study. Define the LCCS and demonstrate the development and application of the LCCS research strategy to the investigation of Project C, a software development project at IBM Hursley Park. Use the study to consider prospects for LCCSs, and to make progress on a theory of software project behaviour. Results: LCCSs appear to provide insights that are hard to achieve using existing research strategies, such as the survey study. The LCCS strategy has basic requirements that data is time-indexed, relatively fine-grained and collected contemporaneous to the events to which the data refer. Preliminary progress is made on a theory of software project behaviour. Conclusion: LCCS appears well suited to analysing and reporting rich, fine-grained behaviour of phenomena over time.