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When conducting research in software engineering, the ultimate goal is usually to come up with results applicable in industry. However, it is not always possible to get industrial professionals to act as subjects in research studies. Instead, students are commonly used as representatives for professionals since they are more convenient to use. This paper presents an experiment on requirements prioritization that was performed with classroom students as subjects. The result of the experiment is compared to the results of similar prioritizations made in student projects, other classroom studies, literature and in an industrial case study. The objective of this comparison was to evaluate in which cases students successfully could be used as subjects in experimentation. The result indicates that students in a classroom environment are less suitable than students in projects as representatives for professionals in studies of this kind. Experience is often mentioned as a factor to determine whether students are suitable or not as subjects. However, commitment seems to be a more important factor in this study. It is concluded that it is important that further research is performed in order to evaluate under what circumstances students are suitable, and what factors that influence the suitability.
Date of Conference: 19-20 Aug. 2004