The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: A pragmatic guide to assessing empirical evaluations

Stephen M. Blackburn, Amer Diwan, Matthias Hauswirth, Peter F. Sweeney, José Nelson Amaral, Tim Brecht, Lubomír Bulej, Cliff Click, Lieven Eeckhout, Sebastian Fischmeister, Daniel Frampton, Laurie J. Hendren, Michael Hind, Antony L. Hosking, Richard E. Jones, Tomas Kalibera, Nathan Keynes, Nathaniel Nystrom, Andreas Zeller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    An unsound claim can misdirect a field, encouraging the pursuit of unworthy ideas and the abandonment of promising ideas. An inadequate description of a claim can make it difficult to reason about the claim, for example, to determine whether the claim is sound. Many practitioners will acknowledge the threat of unsound claims or inadequate descriptions of claims to their field. We believe that this situation is exacerbated, and even encouraged, by the lack of a systematic approach to exploring, exposing, and addressing the source of unsound claims and poor exposition. This article proposes a framework that identifies three sins of reasoning that lead to unsound claims and two sins of exposition that lead to poorly described claims and evaluations. Sins of exposition obfuscate the objective of determining whether or not a claim is sound, while sins of reasoning lead directly to unsound claims. Our framework provides practitioners with a principled way of critiquing the integrity of their own work and the work of others. We hope that this will help individuals conduct better science and encourage a cultural shift in our research community to identify and promulgate sound claims.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number15
    JournalACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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