Bad Smells in Software Analytics Papers

Tim Menzies, Martin Shepperd

CONTEXT: There has been a rapid growth in the use of data analytics to underpin evidence-based software engineering. However the combination of complex techniques, diverse reporting standards and poorly understood underlying phenomena are causing some concern as to the reliability of studies. OBJECTIVE: Our goal is to provide guidance for producers and consumers of software analytics studies (computational experiments and correlation studies). METHOD: We propose using "bad smells", i.e., surface indications of deeper problems and popular in the agile software community and consider how they may be manifest in software analytics studies. RESULTS: We list 12 "bad smells" in software analytics papers (and show their impact by examples). CONCLUSIONS: We believe the metaphor of bad smell is a useful device. Therefore we encourage more debate on what contributes to the validty of software analytics studies (so we expect our list will mature over time).

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