AR Course

PhD course: Action Research in Software Engineering, 7.5 hp /ECTS

Action research has been gaining attention in software engineering in the last two decades. It is an appealing research methodology for empirical software engineering researchers, because it advocates a close collaboration between the researchers and the practitioners. The collaboration often leads to co-creation of results – research results in forms of new theories and observations, and actionable results for the industrial partners.

However, the methodology of action research needs to be rigorously planned and executed in order to lead to reliable results. Action research is a methodology which is close to design science research. It also exposes similarity to case studies and experiments, but it has significant differences. It requires interventions, which is different from the case studies. It does not control the environment before the intervention, which makes it different from controlled experiments. It also allows the interventions to be processes, routines and methods, which makes it different from design science research.

The purpose of this course is to introduce action research as a methodology for software engineering research and related fields.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • understand the epistemology of action research
  • understand the principles of different types of action research (e.g. canonical action research, information systems action research)
  • know the principles of action research in general and in software engineering (or related field) in particular

Skills and abilities

  • plan and execute action research projects
  • collect and analyze data in action research projects
  • report action research studies

Judgement and approach

  • assess the quality of action research publications/projects
  • discuss the differences between action research methodology and related methodologies – case studies, experiments, and design science research
  • assess the applicability of action research methodology for a given research project


  • Module 1: Introduction, and Diagnosing
    • Date: 2021-05-21, 9.00 – 11.00
  • Module 2: Action Planning and Action Taking
    • Date: 2021-06-04, 9.00 – 11.00
  • Module 3: Collaborative method development (Guest lecture), Yvonne Dittrich
    • Date: 2021-06-15, 9.00 – 11.00
  • Module 4: Evaluation and and Specifying Learning
    • Date: 2021-06-23, 9.00 – 11.00
  • Module 6: Reporting
    • Date: TBD
    • ACM guidelines
    • Guest Lecture, Guilherme Horta Travassos


  • Staron M. Action Research in Software Engineering. Springer International Publishing; 2020.
  • Dittrich Y, Rönkkö K, Eriksson J, Hansson C, Lindeberg O. Cooperative method development. Empirical Software Engineering. 2008 Jun;13(3):231-60.
  • Dos Santos PS, Travassos GH. Action research can swing the balance in experimental software engineering. InAdvances in computers 2011 Jan 1 (Vol. 83, pp. 205-276). Elsevier.
  • dos Santos PS, Travassos GH. Action research use in software engineering: An initial survey. In2009 3rd International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement 2009 Oct 15 (pp. 414-417). IEEE.
  • Ralph P, Baltes S, Bianculli D, Dittrich Y, Felderer M, Feldt R, Filieri A, Furia CA, Graziotin D, He P, Hoda R. ACM SIGSOFT empirical standards. arXiv preprint arXiv:2010.03525. 2020 Oct 7.

Training methods

  • online lectures,
  • literature studies, and
  • written assignments


  • Miroslaw Staron, Chalmers | University of Gothenburg (course responsible)
  • Yvonne Dittrich, University of Copenhagen
  • Guilherme Horta Travassos, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro