PICOC stands for population, intervention, comparison, outcomes and context.

  • The population in which the evidence is collected, i.e. which group of people, programs or businesses are of interest for the review?
  • The intervention applied in the empirical study, i.e. which technology, tool or procedure is under study?
  • The comparison to which the intervention is compared, i.e. how is the control treatment defined? In particular the ‘placebo’ intervention is critical, as “not using the intervention” is mostly not a valid action in software engineering.
  • The outcomes of the experiment should not only be statistically significant, but also be significant from a practical point of view. For example, it is probably not interesting that an outcome is 10% better in some respect if it is twice as time consuming.
  • The context of the study must be defined, which is an extended view of the population, including whether it is conducted in academia or industry, in which industry segment, and also the incentives for the subjects.

C. Wohlin, P. Runeson, M. Höst, M. C. Ohlsson, B. Regnell and A. Wesslén, "Experimentation in Software Engineering", Springer, ISBN 978-3-642-29043-5, 2012.

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