Highly-cited papers in software engineering: The top-100

Vahid Garousi*, João M. Fernandes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Context According to the search reported in this paper, as of this writing (May 2015), a very large number of papers (more than 70,000) have been published in the area of Software Engineering (SE) since its inception in 1968. Citations are crucial in any research area to position the work and to build on the work of others. Identification and characterization of highly-cited papers are common and are regularly reported in various disciplines. Objective The objective of this study is to identify the papers in the area of SE that have influenced others the most as measured by citation count. Studying highly-cited SE papers helps researchers to see the type of approaches and research methods presented and applied in such papers, so as to be able to learn from them to write higher quality papers which will likely receive high citations. Method To achieve the above objective, we conducted a study, comprised of five research questions, to identify and classify the top-100 highly-cited SE papers in terms of two metrics: total number of citations and average annual number of citations. Results By total number of citations, the top paper is "A metrics suite for object-oriented design", cited 1817 times and published in 1994. By average annual number of citations, the top paper is "QoS-aware middleware for Web services composition", cited 154.2 times on average annually and published in 2004. Conclusion It is concluded that it is important to identify the highly-cited SE papers and also to characterize the overall citation landscape in the SE field. We hope that this paper will encourage further discussions in the SE community towards further analysis and formal characterization of the highly-cited SE papers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-128
Number of pages21
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Early online date23 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bibliometrics
  • Highly-cited papers
  • Most cited
  • Most frequently cited
  • Software engineering
  • Top cited

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications


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