Empirical software engineering research needs research guidelines to improve the research and reporting processes. We propose a preliminary set of research guidelines aimed at stimulating discussion among software researchers. They are based on a review of research guidelines developed for medical researchers and on our own experience in doing and reviewing software engineering research. The guidelines are intended to assist researchers, reviewers, and meta-analysts in designing, conducting, and evaluating empirical studies. Editorial boards of software engineering journals may wish to use our recommendations as a basis for developing guidelines for reviewers and for framing policies for dealing with the design, data collection, and analysis and reporting of empirical studies.