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Using a Visual Abstract as a Lens for Communicating and Promoting Design Science Research in Software Engineering


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Authors: Margaret-Anne Storey, Emelie Engstrom, Per Runeson, Martin Host, Elizabeth Bjarnason (Lund University, Sweden and University of Victoria, Canada)

Empirical software engineering research aims to generate prescriptive knowledge that can help software engineers improve their work and overcome their challenges, but deriving these insights from real-world problems can be challenging. In this paper, we promote design science as an effective way to produce and communicate prescriptive knowledge. We propose using a visual abstract template to communicate design science contributions and highlight the main problem/solution constructs of this area of research, as well as to present the validity aspects of design knowledge. Our conceptualization of design science is derived from existing literature and we illustrate its use by applying the visual abstract to an example use case. This is work in progress and further evaluation by practitioners and researchers will be forthcoming.

Preprint is available at:

A blog post is available here:

A template for the visual abstract can be found here, if you use it, please share your experience with us!

Published in: Software
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Using a Visual Abstract as a Lens for Communicating and Promoting Design Science Research in Software Engineering

  1. 1. Using a Visual Abstract as a Lens for Communicating Design Science Research in Software Engineering Margaret-Anne Storey Emelie Engstrom Per Runeson Martin Host Elizabeth Bjarnason @MargaretStorey @SoftEngResGrp 1
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  3. 3. Can we use “Design Science” as an effective lens for communicating software engineering research? 3
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  5. 5. Design science research in information systems: 5
  6. 6. Wierenga’s view “Design science is the design and investigation of artifacts in context” 6
  7. 7. Another view… by Emelie Engstrom 7
  8. 8. Towards a Visual Abstract to communicate, promote and evaluate Design Science Research 8
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  10. 10. Approach to understand problem Technological rule: To achieve an effect in a situation apply this intervention Problem instance(s) Addressed problem instance(s) Solution(s) Proposed solution(s) Evaluation approach Approach to design solution Problem relevance Scientific rigor Novel contributions 10
  11. 11. 11
  12. 12. ISERN Workshop 2017 on Design Science (Trying out the visual abstract on ICSE best papers!) 12
  13. 13. 13
  14. 14. Feedback and limitations Quite well received by professors, students and practitioners Seen as useful for training, reviewing, communication and for research design Preferred over structured abstracts -- different emphasis, more flexible emphasis But… The abstract does not apply to studies that don’t produce an artifact/tech rule Not all components of the abstract may be relevant for all studies Doesn’t scale well to multiple studies nor to research programs Not visual enough 14
  15. 15. In comparison, visual abstracts provide additional insights with a more flexible reading order A structured abstract is an abstract with distinct, labeled sections (e.g., Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion) for rapid comprehension. 15
  16. 16. Graphical abstracts != Visual abstracts 16
  17. 17. Discussion... How could the visual abstract be improved (if you like it)? Should technological rule be called a “socio-technological rule” or “takeaway”? What other types of visual abstracts may be needed for software engineering research (e.g., empirical studies that do not produce an artifact)? Would a “gallery” of visual abstracts in software engineering be useful? If yes, how could it be organized? @margaretstorey @SoftEngResGrp 17
  18. 18. Thanks to the ISERN workshop participants, Barbara Russo and Markku Oivo, and the UVic Research Seminar group for reflecting on and improving the visual abstract! We are also grateful for the Lise Meitner Guest Professorship at Lund University for enabling our collaboration! We welcome your input and ideas! Talk to us or email: or or @MargaretStorey @SoftEngResGrp 18
  19. 19. Selected Design Science References A. Hevner and S. Chatterjee, Design Research in Information Systems: Theory and Practice, 2010th ed. New York ; London: Springer, May 2010. J. E. v. Aken, “Management Research Based on the Paradigm of the Design Sciences: The Quest for Field-Tested and Grounded Technological Rules,” vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 219–246, 2004. S. Gregor, “The nature of theory in information systems,” MIS Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 611–642, 2006. R. J. Wieringa, “What Is Design Science?” in Design Science Methodology for Information Systems and Software Engineering. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014, pp. 3–11. M. Bunge, Philosophy of Science: Volume 2, From Explanation to Justification, 1st ed. New Brunswick, N.J: Routledge, Feb. 1998. S. Gregor and A. R. Hevner, “Positioning and Presenting Design Science Research for Maximum Impact,” vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 337– 356, Jun. 2013. R. Wieringa and A. Moralı, “Technical Action Research as a Validation Method in Information Systems Design Science,” in Design Science Research in Information Systems. Advances in Theory and Practice. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, May 2012, pp. 220–238. 19