Foundations of Software Engineering

This is the 2017 page. For 2018, go to 17-313 F18.



Successful software projects require more than just technical expertise. Figuring out what the client wants, collaborating in a team, managing complexity, mitigating risks, staying on time and budget, and determining under various constraints when a product is good enough to be shipped are at least equally important topics that often have a significant human component. 15-313 explores these issues broadly covering the fundamentals of modern software engineering.

Quality and feature conflict Assuming a solid technical foundation of software construction from 15-214 or equivalent (solid programming skills, unit testing, and basic understanding of object-oriented analysis and design with UML, design patterns, and frameworks) we will explore the following topics:

This course has a strong technical focus, and includes assignments with and without programming. Assignments also include written components. Students will get experience with team management and modern software-engineering tools. The course puts students on a fast track toward project management positions.

Assignments (mostly done in groups) include:

Logistics and People

Lectures: Tue/Thu 3:00-4:20 p.m. in WEH 5302
Recitations: Wed 12:30-1:20 p.m. in WEH 5316 (Section A) and Wed 1:30-2:20 pm in WEH 5312 (Section B)

Staff contact email: staff-15313@lists.andrew.cmu...
Please use piazza for general discussion or questions, including clarifying questions, related to the assignments, course content, etc. Use the email address above to contact course staff about individual issues, such as extension requests or individual grading queries. The address should accept emails from any andrew or cmu email address by default. Do not be concerned if you receive a notification that your message is being held for moderation; the list is moderated rapidly. Please avoid emailing individual instructors about course-related requests, unless you have a particularly sensitive situation that you are only comfortable sharing with particular individuals.

Professor Claire Le Goues
WEH 5117
Office hours: Thu 4:30-5:30pm
Email: clegoues@cs.cmu...
Professor Christian Kästner
WEH 5122
Office hours: Wed 4-5pm
Email: kaestner@cs.cmu...
Cody Kinneer
WEH 4127
Office hours: Tue 4:30-5:30pm
Email: ckinneer@cs.cmu...

Both instructors have an open door policy: If either of the instructors' office doors are open and no-one else is meeting with us, we are happy to answer any course-related questions. If you prefer an appointment, email the instructors.

Course Syllabus and Policies

The course uses Canvas for homework submission, grading, discussion, questions, announcements, and supplementary documents; slides will be posted here; github is used to coordinate group work.

Waitlist: We believe the waitlist is cleared; if you disagree or are having trouble enrolling, please contact us.

Prerequisites: 15-214 or equivalent (Java programming, unit testing, ability to read UML, design patterns, frameworks, and exposure to small projects)

Teamwork: Teamwork is an essential part of this course. Most assignments are done in teams of 3-5 students. Teams will be assigned by the instructor and stay together for multiple assignments. Guidance on teamwork, reflection, and conflict resolution will be provided throughout the semester. Most assignments have a component that is graded for the entire group and a component that is graded individually. The team policy posted on Canvas applies and describes roles and teams and how to deal with conflicts and imbalances.

Communication: We make announcements through Canvas and use Pizza (integrated in Canvas) for discussion, including clarifying homework assignments and other interactions. The instructors and TAs hold weekly office hours and are reachable by email; see above for information on how to contact us. Email them for additional appointments. They also have an open-door policy: When our door is open and we are not currently meeting with somebody else, feel free to interrupt us for course-related issues.

Textbook: Various readings throughout the semester available online or through the library; we do not have a single text book but rather assemble readings from different sources.
As optional supplementary reading consider Ian Sommerville, Software Engineering, 7th or 8th edition. Note that we do not expect that the bookstore will carry the old edition; instead, many copies are available online, such as through (and many other booksellers and textbook reseller) for significantly less than 20USD.

Grading: Evaluation will be based on the following distribution: 50% assignments, 15% midterm, 20% final, 10% participation, 5% reading quizzes.

Time management: This is a 12-unit course, and it is our intention to manage it so that you spend close to 12 hours a week on the course, on average. In general, 4 hours/week will be spent in class and 8 hours on reading and assignments. Notice that most homework is done in groups, so please account for the overhead and decreased time flexibility that comes with groupwork. Please feel free to give the course staff feedback on how much time the course is taking for you.

Late work policy: Late work will receive feedback but no credit. Due to heavy reliance on teamwork in this course there are no late days. Exceptions to this policy will be made only in extraordinary circumstances, almost always involving a family or medical emergency with your academic advisor or the Dean of Student Affairs requesting the exception on your behalf. Accommodations for travel (e.g., for interviews) might be possible if requested at least 3 days in advance. Please communicate also with your team about timing issues.

Writing: Describing tradeoffs among decisions and communication with less technical stakeholders are key aspects of this class. Most homework assignments have a component that require discussing issues in written form or reflecting about experiences. To practice writing skills, the Global Communications Center (GCC) offers one-on-one help for students, along with workshops. The instructors are also happy to provide additional guidance if requested.

Academic honesty and collaboration: The usual policies apply, especially the University Policy on Academic Integrity. Many of the assignments will be done in groups. We expect that group members collaborate with one another, but that groups work independently from one another, not exchanging results with other groups. Within groups, we expect that you are honest about your contribution to the group's work. This implies not taking credit for others' work and not covering for team members that have not contributed to the team. Otherwise, our expectations regarding academic honestly and collaboration for group work are the same as for individual work, substituting elevated to the level of "group."

The course includes both individual assignments and individual components of group assignments. Although your solutions for individual parts will be based on the content produced for the group component (e.g., written reflections on lessons learned), we treat individual component of group assignments as equivalent to individual assignments overall, and expect you to complete such components independently of your groupmates.

The rest of this academic honesty and collaboration content is taken from the policy used in 15-214, which we reuse almost directly (with minor modifications, and attribution).

"You may not copy any part of a solution to a problem that was written by another student, or was developed together with another student, or was copied from another unauthorized source such as the Internet. You may not look at another student's solution, even if you have completed your own, nor may you knowingly give your solution to another student or leave your solution where another student can see it.

Here are some examples of behavior that are inappropriate:

If any of your work contains any statement that was not written by you, you must put it in quotes and cite the source. If you are paraphrasing an idea you read elsewhere, you must acknowledge the source. Using existing material without proper citation is plagiarism, a form of cheating. If there is any question about whether the material is permitted, you must get permission in advance. We will be using automated systems to detect software plagiarism.

It is not considered cheating to clarify vague points in the assignments, lectures, lecture notes; to give help or receive help in using the computer systems, compilers, debuggers, profilers, or other facilities; or to discuss ideas at a very high level, without referring to or producing code.

Any violation of this policy is cheating. The minimum penalty for cheating (including plagiarism) will be a zero grade for the whole assignment. Cheating incidents will also be reported through University channels, with possible additional disciplinary action (see the above-linked University Policy on Academic Integrity).

If you have any question about how this policy applies in a particular situation, ask the instructors or TAs for clarification."

Note that the instructors respect honesty in these (and indeed most!) situations.

A note on self care. Please take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.


The following schedule describes the current planing status and the covered concepts. It is subject to change and will be updated as the semester progresses, especially to help focus on requested topics or support learning.

Date Topic Reading assignments* Assignments due*
29-Aug Intro & Overview (SE as a human activity and business concern; risk) -
30-Aug rec 1 Tools for collaborative software development
31-Aug Process (Lightweight introduction into process, scheduling, risk, and tracking progress) Sommerville, Software Engineering, Chapter "Project management"
5-Sep Case Study ( TIME Magazine 3/10/14, article "Code Red" & Wikipedia on
6-Sep rec 2 Measuring Software Characteristics
7-Sep Measurement Buse, Zimmermann. Information Needs for Software Development Analytics. ICSE 2012 hw1a Team work, time estimation, and implementation (Planning documents)
12-Sep Requirements (Introduction) Lecture notes
13-Sep rec 3 Software Requirements
14-Sep Requirements (Elicitation and documentation) Larman. Applying UML and Patterns. Chapter "Use Cases"
19-Sep Requirements (Valdation and risk) Sommerville, Software Engineering, Chapter "Safety Critical Systems" hw1b Team work, time estimation, and implementation (Code artifacts)
20-Sep rec 4 Requirements Interviews
21-Sep Architecture (Introduction and documentation) Twitter: "New Tweets per second record, and how!" hw1cd Team work, time estimation, and implementation (Reflection)
26-Sep Architecture (Patterns, tactics, evaluation) Shaw, Garlan. Software Architecture: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline, Chapter "A. Styles" and Bass et al. Software Architecture in Practice, Chapter "Understanding QA."
27-Sep rec 5 Architectural Assessment and Decisions
28-Sep Architecture (ROS, Microservices, and DevOps) Garlan. Software Architecture: A Travelogue. FOSE 2014
3-Oct Architecture (Cyber physical systems) Knipfer. A coming communications crunch at Mars. The Space Review. hw2a Requirements
4-Oct rec 6 Let's Create a Startup!
5-Oct Architecture (Case Studies: Uber, Netflix, Spotify) Video "Microservices at Netflix Scale: Principles, Tradeoffs & Lessons Learned" hw2b Requirements (Reflection)
10-Oct QA (Introduction to QA & Testing) Netflix blog on Simian Army
11-Oct rec 7 Midterm review
12-Oct Midterm -
17-Oct QA (Inspection and reviews) Wieger. Peer Review in Software. Chapter "Peer Review Formality Spectrum" hw3a Architecture (Design)
18-Oct rec 8 Static Analysis (FindBugs)
19-Oct QA (Dynamic analysis + profiling) Zeller. Why Programs Fail. Chapter "Observing Facts" hw3b Architecture (Modification)
24-Oct QA (Static analysis part 1) Schwartzbach static analysis notes
25-Oct rec 9 Dynamic Analysis (ASM)
26-Oct QA (Static analysis part 2) - hw4a Advanced testing
31-Oct Process + Teams (From sequential to iterative) Pfleeger and Atlee. Software Engineering: Theory and Practice. Chapter 2, excerpts hw4b Advanced testing
1-Nov rec 10 QA Plan
2-Nov Process + Teams (Agile practices) Fowler and Highsmith, The Agile Manifesto and Stephens and Rosenberg, Extreme Programming Refactored: The Case Against XP (Chapter 2)
7-Nov Process + Teams (QA Process) Jaspan et al. Understanding the value of program analysis tools. OOPSLA, 2007
8-Nov rec 11 Agile Methods
9-Nov Process + Teams (Secure Development Lifecycle) Hernan et al. Uncover Security Design Flaws Using The STRIDE Approach. MSDN 2006 hw5 Static and dynamic analysis
14-Nov Process + Teams (Motivation) Pink. Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. RSA Talk 2010
15-Nov rec 12 Process comparison
16-Nov Process + Teams (Team issues) DeMarco and Lister. Peopleware. 2013 Ch. 22, 23, and 28 hw6a Open source excursion - project description
21-Nov No class -
23-Nov No class (Thanksgiving) -
28-Nov Business models (Open source) Richard Stallman's TEDx Geneva 2014 talk
29-Nov rec 14 Team dysfunctions
30-Nov Process + Teams (Data-driven decision making) Storey. Lies, damned lines, and analytics: Why Big Data Needs Thik Data. 2016
5-Dec SE Ethics and Research Sourour. The code I’m still ashamed of. Blog post, 2016 hw6b Open source excursion - report
6-Dec rec 15 tbd.
7-Dec OSE Presentations & Summary -
12-Dec Final exam (5:30-8:30 pm in GHC 4215 )
* = For details, see assignment in Canvas.