A theory of requirements documentation situated in practice

Author(s): Power, Norah, and Tony Moynihan
Venue: ACM Special Interest Group for Design of Communication, Proceedings of the 21st annual international conference on Documentation
Date: 2003

Sample Size: 30
Class/Experience Level: Professional
Data Collection Method: Survey


The paper discusses a theoretical framework of a variety of styles of requirements documentation found in practice in relation to the variety of situations in which software products and systems are developed. The empirical data collected from the interviews in the study was systematically analyzed using the grounded theory method (systematic method of interpreting empirically collected data by discovering categories and relationships) and a computer-based tool (ATLAS.ti is a package which support analysis of qualitative research data using ground theory). The framework is discussed in three parts:

  1. Analysis of requirements documents as texts, categorizing the different constituent elements that might be used to specify requirements.
  2. Scheme for classifying system development situations with respect to the requirements documentation process.
  3. Each of the situation types are matched to an appropriate style of requirements document found typical in its own situation

The goal of the paper is to show the diverse ways that system and software requirements are documented in practice. The paper investigates the differences that “may be found in practice between different styles of requirements documents, and to discover the differences between situations that may explain why these different styles are useful in those situations.”
The paper concludes “that standard prescriptive approaches have failed to identify the necessary and sufficient contents and style of a requirements document because what is good enough in one situation may not be desirable or acceptable in another.”

What type is the study? Qualitative survey
What software or prototypes did the study used? ATLAS.ti

Link: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=944868.944887