Fundamental Laws and Assumptions of Software Maintenance

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Researchers must pay far more attention to discovering and validating the principles that underlie software maintenance and evolution. This was one of the major conclusions reached during the International Workshop on Empirical Studies of Software Maintenance. This workship, held in November 1996 in Monterey, California, brought together an international group of researchers to discuss the successes, challenges and open issues in software maintenance and evolution.

This article documents the discussion of the subgroup on fundamental laws and assumption of software maintenance. The participants of this group in included researchers in software engineering, the behavioral sciences, information systems and statistics. Their main conclusion was that insufficient effort has been paid to synthesizing research conjectures into validated theories and this problem has slowed progress in software maintenance. To help remedy this situation they made the following recommendations: (1) when we use empirical methods, an explicit goal should be to develop theories, (2) we should look to other disciplines for help where it is appropriate, and (3) our studies should use a wider range of empirical methods (Also cross-referenced as UMIACS-TR-97-21)