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Status Quo in Requirements Engineering: A Theory and a Global Family of Surveys

by   Stefan Wagner, et al.
Queen's University Belfast
Helsingin yliopisto
University of Stuttgart
Karlstad University
Leopold Franzens Universität Innsbruck
Simula Research Lab
University of Oulu
Politecnico di Torino
Hochschule Niederrhein
Technische Universität München
University of Tartu
University of Calgary
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
TU Wien
California State University Long Beach
University of Twente
zeb consulting

Requirements Engineering (RE) has established itself as a software engineering discipline during the past decades. While researchers have been investigating the RE discipline with a plethora of empirical studies, attempts to systematically derive an empirically-based theory in context of the RE discipline have just recently been started. However, such a theory is needed if we are to define and motivate guidance in performing high quality RE research and practice. We aim at providing an empirical and valid foundation for a theory of RE, which helps software engineers establish effective and efficient RE processes. We designed a survey instrument and theory that has now been replicated in 10 countries world-wide. We evaluate the propositions of the theory with bootstrapped confidence intervals and derive potential explanations for the propositions. We report on the underlying theory and the full results obtained from the replication studies with participants from 228 organisations. Our results represent a substantial step forward towards developing an empirically-based theory of RE giving insights into current practices with RE processes. The results reveal, for example, that there are no strong differences between organisations in different countries and regions, that interviews, facilitated meetings and prototyping are the most used elicitation techniques, that requirements are often documented textually, that traces between requirements and code or design documents is common, requirements specifications themselves are rarely changed and that requirements engineering (process) improvement endeavours are mostly intrinsically motivated. Our study establishes a theory that can be used as starting point for many further studies for more detailed investigations. Practitioners can use the results as theory-supported guidance on selecting suitable RE methods and techniques.


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