Software engineering case studies examine software engineering phenomena in their real-life settings and it is because the phenomena and setting will change during the study that such case studies require a flexible design, in contrast to for example the fixed designs of classic experiments. A flexible design does not mean that there should be no design or, alternatively, that a laissez-faire attitude to the design of the case study is acceptable. It is precisely because the case study researcher expects the phenomenon to change, and in unanticipated ways, that the design should be intended to be flexible enough to accommodate that change. In other words, the researcher should design for flexibility while also maintaining rigor and relevance.

The research design for the case study can be distinguished from both a workplan for the study, and from the legal, professional, and ethical requirements of the study. For example, researchers could develop a sophisticated multiple case study design but not have the time or resources to conduct a study with such a design. Software, and hence software engineering, is becoming increasingly complex with increased costs and resource requirements. Software engineering research must examine these increases in complexity, but this has implications for the costs and resource requirements of the software engineering research itself. Research projects will typically have resource constraints and these ...

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