Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 430–459 | Cite as

Qualitative research on software development: a longitudinal case study methodology

  • Laurie McLeod
  • Stephen G. MacDonell
  • Bill Doolin


This paper reports the use of a qualitative methodology for conducting longitudinal case study research on software development. We provide a detailed description and explanation of appropriate methods of qualitative data collection and analysis that can be utilized by other researchers in the software engineering field. Our aim is to illustrate the utility of longitudinal case study research, as a complement to existing methodologies for studying software development, so as to enable the community to develop a fuller and richer understanding of this complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon. We discuss the insights gained and lessons learned from applying a longitudinal qualitative approach to an empirical case study of a software development project in a large multi-national organization. We evaluate the methodology used to emphasize its strengths and to address the criticisms traditionally made of qualitative research.


Qualitative methods Longitudinal case study Software development Empirical research 



This research was funded through a Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand. We would like to acknowledge the support of AlphaCo and SoftCo.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurie McLeod
    • 1
  • Stephen G. MacDonell
    • 1
  • Bill Doolin
    • 1
  1. 1.Auckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

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