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Main.ResearchPointersr1.14 - 14 Jan 2009 - 15:34 - ArieVanDeursen

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Research Pointers

This page focuses on students performing the research for their masters thesis at SWERL lab at TU Delft and collects a number of pointers to "tools" that can help them along the way.

  • DelftSpecial Instruction is a free online course from the TU Delft Library that will teach you how to set up a literature search, which sources of information are best to use, what search methods can be applied to find information, how to evaluate the retrieved information, how to manage the literature references, etc.

  • There is a general rule of thumb to assess the quality & maturity of a publication (this order is mainly caused by the peer reviewing process during publication.):
    1. work published in journals >
    2. work published in conferences >
    3. work published in workshops >
    4. work published in technical reports >
    5. information on web pages

  • From the above list it should become clear that to ensure quality, you should focus on (reading, using & referencing) work published in the first two or three categories and minimize the latter (or put more bluntly: "a literature study consisting of web pointers is not acceptable".).

  • ACM Digital library contains the full text of every article ever published by ACM (including lot's of conference proceedings) (see note [1]). The ACM guide also keeps track of citations to papers.

  • CiteSeer is a scientific literature digital library and search engine that focuses primarily on the literature in computer and information science. It maintains information on which papers cite a given paper, and thus allows one to "search forward": investigate which newer papers make use of a given publication. It also contains digital copies for a large part of the database (but see note [2]).

  • Google Scholar maintains citations between scholarly literature: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations (but see note [2]).

  • ISI Web of Science maintained by Thomson and Scopus maintained by Elsevier are two commercial databases maintaining "cited by" information for a range of important journals and conferences.

  • DBLP offers a selection of important computer science journals and conference proceedings.

  • The IEEE and ACM SWEBOK initiative attempts to collect the sum of all knowledge within the profession of software engineering. Note that a document like this is deemed to be in a state of flux as long as software engineering is an emerging discipline. Nevertheless, this project collects an overall view to the various corners of our discipline and can be very useful as starting point for further exploration...

  • Wikipedia is becoming a useful source of information for quickly reading up on particular subjects. However, given the unknown origins of the information, we strongly advise you to only use it as starting point and look further for more official sources to validate the information. If the wikipedia lemma summarizes information from other sources / papers, you should lookup those sources and cite them in your thesis.

  • For many of you, your topic will be in software evolution or a related area. In that case, good starting points for your literature search are the conference proceedings of scientific conferences in software evolution that are usually available through the IEEE Digital Library.


  1. Searching is free, downloading requires subscription or a computer within TUDelft domain (also from home via VPN, see
  2. Papers available online in citeseer or google are often copies (so-called preprints) that authors have made available on the web to ensure timely dissemination of their work. However, those copies may differ from the official published version. Always check (and refer to) the published version of the paper.
  3. DBLP, ACM and CiteSeer also offer Bibtex entries you can use when you want to refer to a paper.

-- Leon Moonen with input from Arie Van Deursen and Frans Ververs.


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