I don’t understand this section in research papers. What is its purpose?

I am working on a paper. I see some potential limitations and think that my method may or may not work well on some other platforms. Should I put this in my threat to validity section?

  • The following book has a detailed description and systematic guidelines: "Claes Wohlin, Per Runeson, Martin Höst, Magnus C. Ohlsson, Björn Regnell: Experimentation in Software Engineering. Springer 2012" May 23, 2020 at 11:53
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    Please specify the field. E.g. I've never seen such a section. May 23, 2020 at 13:40
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    Out of curiosity, what is the broad classification? Humanities/ Natural Sciences or equiv. qualitative/ quantitative? I often see validity discussions or "extensions and limitations" paragraphs in my area, but not an explicit "threat to validity" section.
    – user117109
    May 23, 2020 at 13:51
  • The my field is software engineering. @lighthousekeeper how is is only applicable to CS and SE?
    – foobar
    May 23, 2020 at 18:14
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    @MuhammadAshfaq The book is written for SE researchers. Many SE papers actually include a reference to the book (and its chapter on Threats to Validity) in the "threats to validity" section. May 23, 2020 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


As usual, the true (but not very useful) answer is: it depends. I typically come across that section when the article describes an experiment. Experiments typically involve quite an abstraction from the real world, which is why they can keep so much under control. However, this also means that one could question whether what one found in the abstract environment in the lab also applies to the real world. This is called external validity. This is what is discussed in such a section.

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