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Blekinge Institute of Technology, COM

Guidelines for opposition


Version 1.5, 2012-01-08, Tony Gorschek and Robert Feldt This document presents a checklist for opponents on the Masters Thesis in the Software Engineering Master Thesis course.

1. General
The student is supposed to act as an opponent on another master project defense. The opposition is preferably done prior to the students own defense. Prospective opponents should contact the course responsible 5 weeks in advance of a defense to sign up for being an opponent. The course responsible will assign opponents to theses. The number of opponents on a thesis is limited. Preferably, no more than two students are opponents on a specific thesis. The opposition is individual, even though two students are opposing on the same thesis. You are not supposed to be opponents on each others theses. In other words, if you are the opponent on one thesis, the author(s) of this thesis is (are) not supposed to be an opponent on your thesis. We may grant exceptions, due to availability of thesis. If the student, for some reason, is unable to act as an opponent at one of the scheduled dates, he or she will have to do it at a future date. The opposition shall be approximately 5-10 minutes. With this short time frame you must focus on the critical, content-based comments and questions. You generally will not have the time to comment on low-level language or formatting details. You are expected to also give your comments and questions in written form to the author. In this written account you can list also lower-level comments. The opposition consists of two main parts. One is the verbal opposition at the defense, second is a written report sent to the defendants AND the examiner AND the supervisor of the thesis within 5 work days of the defense. If the student fails in the opponent role, either in the verbal opposition during the defense, or in the written form, the student has to repeat the work, or complement, this is judged by the examiner. The opposition shall be directed towards a constructive review and questioning of the respondents work. As an opponent you shall not only question the work, but also bring forward alternatives. You shall strive for initiating and carrying on a conversation regarding the work. Questions like: Why ...?, How does this correspond with....?, How come...?, Have you considered....?, are good for initiating discussions. The most important element is the works internal connection - the red line. Is the problem definition in correspondence with the method chosen, and the result/conclusions made?

The review can be made by using the checklist below as a framework. All points in the checklist may not be applicable to all theses.

2. Checklist
Is the problem clearly defined? Is the study important? Does it have important implications? How well does it relate to Software Engineering? Are the results interesting? Why? This might require that you actually read up a little on the subject of the thesis (e.g. read a paper or two on the topic and not just the thesis!). Do the literature studies relate to the problem definition? Are there enough depth and quality in the reference list? Are the references up-to-date (still valid)? Does the author have a critical attitude towards the referenced literature? Are the concepts and terms clearly defined? Is the language clear and easy to follow? Does the literature study contribute to a further refinement/reinforcement to the problem definition? What empirical study has been made? What method of investigation has been used? What principle of selection of study/persons has been used? How has data collection been made? How is the data validated? Does the method of investigation lead to reliable results? How are the results presented? Is the presentation clear and understandable? How has the collected data been analyzed? Are there any alternatives? How does the empirical study relate to the theory/literature presented earlier? What results conform and what result differ? Are the empirical results statistically valid/sound? Have the author argued for her/his choice of methods in a scientific manner? Are the authors conclusions and statements clearly stated, clearly motivated and well founded? Do the conclusions relate to the problem definition? Are the conclusions precise? Do the conclusions follow from the empirical results? Does the author assess his/her work? Discuss the possible impact of alternative choices? Is further work discussed? Are the goals/objectives of the study fulfilled? *Looking at the subject of the thesis, is there any contribution in relation to previous work? ** is this clearly stated in the thesis (how the thesis complements/adds to related work) ** do YOU think that there is a contribution, what is it, what is missing, what is wrong You need to read up on the subject of the thesis (and not just read the thesis) to judge many of the bullets above. You do not have to become an expert, but you should read up enough to be able to give constructive critique and also point towards possibilities for improvement. As an example: A thesis is about the effectiveness of Use Cases. The thesis presents an experiment where Natural Language requirements and Use Cases have been used and compared in a formal experiment using students as subjects. You should read the thesis first. Then search for peer-reviewed literature on the subject and scan the field. Are there other experiments doing the same thing? If yes, are they in the thesis related work? What is the novel (in comparison to other studies) contribution? In your oral and written opposition, quote the other peer-reviewed

literature you have found and ask about contribution in relation to it. It is also ok to looked through other master thesis to see if the work presented in the thesis you are opposing has been done before. In addition to subject specific parts you ofcourse have to cover all aspects of methodology, analysis, and synthesis (see bullets above).