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Durham University

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Publication details

Brereton, Pearl., Kitchenham, Barbara A., Budgen, David., Turner, Mark. & Khalil, Mohamed. (2007). Lessons from applying the systematic literature review process within the software engineering domain. Journal of Systems & Software 80(4): 571-583.

Author(s) from Durham


A consequence of the growing number of empirical studies in software engineering is the need to adopt systematic approaches to assessing and aggregating research outcomes in order to provide a balance and objective summary of research evidence for a particular topic. The paper reports experiences with applying one such approach, the practice of systematic literature review, to the published studies relevants to topics within the software engineering domain. The systematic literature review process is summarised, a number of reviews being undertaken by the authors and others are described and some lessons about the applicability of this practice to software engineering are extracted.
The basic systematic literature review process seems appropriate to software engineering and the preparation and validation of a review protocol in advance of a review activity is expecially valuable. The paper highlights areas where some adaptation of the process to accommodate the domain-specific characteristics of software engineering is needed as well as areas where improvements to current software engineering infrastructure and practices would enhance its applicability. In particular, infrastructure support provided by software engineering indexing of databases is inadquate. Also, the quality of abstracts is poor; it is usually not possible to judge the relevance of a study from a review of the abstract alone.