Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 822–856 | Cite as

Data collection in global software engineering research: learning from past experience

  • Rafael PrikladnickiEmail author
  • Alexander Boden
  • Gabriela Avram
  • Cleidson R. B. de Souza
  • Volker Wulf


Global Software Engineering has become a standard in today’s software industry. Research in distributed software development poses severe challenges that are due to the spatial and temporal distribution of the actors, as well as to language, intercultural and organizational aspects. These challenges occur in addition to “traditional” challenges of the domain itself in large-scale software projects, like coordination and communication issues, requirements volatily, lack of domain knowledge, among others. While several authors have reported empirical studies of global software development projects, the methodological difficulties and challenges of this type of studies have not been sufficiently discussed. In this paper, we share our experiences of collecting and analysing qualitative data in the context of Global Software Engineering projects. We discuss strategies for gaining access to field sites, building trust and documenting distributed and complex work practices in the context of several research projects we have conducted in the past 9 years. The experiences described in this paper illustrate the need to deal with fundamental problems, such as understanding local languages and different cultures, observing synchronous interaction, or dealing with barriers imposed by political conflicts between the sites. Based on our findings, we discuss some practical implications and strategies that can be used by other researchers and provide some recommendations for future research in methodological aspects of Global Software Engineering.


Global software engineering Research methods Qualitative research Data collection 



The studies reported in this paper were partially supported by: the Research Group on Distributed Software Development of the PDTI program, financed by Dell Computers of Brazil Ltd. (Law 8.248/91); CAPES (project BEX 426006-6); CAPES (project BEX 1312/99-5); FAPERGS; CNPq (project 479206/2006-6, project 550130/2011-06, project 560037/2010-4, project 483125/2010-5); Science Foundation Ireland and Lero—The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre under PI grant 03/IN3/1408C; and the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Project ARTOS—Articulation work in Offshoring Projects of Small and Medium- sized Enterprises of the Software Branch.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Prikladnicki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Boden
    • 2
  • Gabriela Avram
    • 3
  • Cleidson R. B. de Souza
    • 4
  • Volker Wulf
    • 2
  1. 1.PUCRSPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.University of SiegenSiegenGermany
  3. 3.University of LimerickLimerickIreland
  4. 4.Vale Institute of Technology and Universidade Federal do ParáBelémBrazil

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