Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 343–365

Using Metaphor to Analyse Qualitative Data: Vulcans and Humans in Software Development


DOI: 10.1007/s10664-005-1451-y

Cite this article as:
Sharp, H., Woodman, M. & Hovenden, F. Empir Software Eng (2005) 10: 343. doi:10.1007/s10664-005-1451-y


This paper reports on an experience of using metaphor in qualitative research of software engineering in practice. Our project aimed to uncover non-technical factors affecting the adoption and evolution of Software Quality Management Systems (referred to here as ‘the quality process’). Previously we have reported the tensions we uncovered around the quality process in four companies, based on semi-structured interviews. This paper extends this work by applying metaphor to the results. We show how we were able to produce more general statements regarding the tensions and their amelioration, and then introduce results from a fifth company, which we compare against our general statements. We find that these statements are generally supported by results from this fifth company. Finally we present some reflections on our experience of using metaphor in this way.


Qualitative methodsmetaphorsoftware process improvementsoftware quality management systems

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computing DepartmentThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  2. 2.School of Computing ScienceMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK
  3. 3.Pandora’s LabSan FranciscoUSA