University of Oulu

Stefan Wagner, Daniel Méndez Fernández, Michael Felderer, Antonio Vetrò, Marcos Kalinowski, Roel Wieringa, Dietmar Pfahl, Tayana Conte, Marie-Therese Christiansson, Desmond Greer, Casper Lassenius, Tomi Männistö, Maleknaz Nayebi, Markku Oivo, Birgit Penzenstadler, Rafael Prikladnicki, Guenther Ruhe, André Schekelmann, Sagar Sen, Rodrigo Spínola, Ahmed Tuzcu, Jose Luis De La Vara, and Dietmar Winkler. 2019. Status Quo in Requirements Engineering: A Theory and a Global Family of Surveys. ACM Trans. Softw. Eng. Methodol. 28, 2, Article 9 (February 2019), 48 pages. DOI:

Status quo in requirements engineering : a theory and a global family of surveys

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Author: Wagner, Stefan1; Méndez Fernández, Daniel2; Felderer, Michael3,4;
Organizations: 1University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
2Technical University of Munich, Garching, Germany
3University of Innsbruck
4Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden
5Nexa Center for Internet 8 Society, DAUIN, Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy
6Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
7University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
8University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
9Universidade Federal do Amazonas, Manaus, Brazil
10Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden
11Queen’s University, Belfas, UK
12Aalto University
13SimulaMet, Oslo, Norway
14University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
15University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
16University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
17California State University, Long Beach, USA
18Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
19Hochschule Niederrhein, Krefeld, Germany
20Simula, Fornebu, Norway
21Salvador University - UNIFACS, Salvador, Brazil GmbH, Munich, Germany
23Carlos III University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
24Technische Universität Wien, CDL-SQI, Vienna, Austria
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Association for Computing Machinery, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-06-06


Requirements Engineering (RE) has established itself as a software engineering discipline over the past decades. While researchers have been investigating the RE discipline with a plethora of empirical studies, attempts to systematically derive an empirical 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 externally valid foundation for a theory of RE practice, which helps software engineers establish effective and efficient RE processes in a problem-driven manner. We designed a survey instrument and an engineer-focused theory that was first piloted in Germany and, after making substantial modifications, has now been replicated in 10 countries worldwide. We have a theory in the form of a set of propositions inferred from our experiences and available studies, as well as the results from our pilot study in Germany. We evaluate the propositions with bootstrapped confidence intervals and derive potential explanations for the propositions. In this article, we report on the design of the family of surveys, its underlying theory, and the full results obtained from the replication studies conducted in 10 countries with participants from 228 organisations. Our results represent a substantial step forward towards developing an empirical theory of RE practice. 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 are common, that requirements specifications themselves are rarely changed and that requirements engineering (process) improvement endeavours are mostly internally driven. 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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Series: ACM transactions on software engineering and methodology
ISSN: 1049-331X
ISSN-E: 1557-7392
ISSN-L: 1049-331X
Volume: 28
Issue: 2
Article number: 9
DOI: 10.1145/3306607
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: Tayana Conte is supported by CNPq (311494/2017-0). Dietmar Pfahl was supported by the institutional research grant IUT20-55 of the Estonian Research Council. Rafael Prikladnicki is partially funded by Fapergs (process 17/2551-0001205-4) and CNPq. For the work of Dietmar Winkler, the financial support by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy and the National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development is gratefully acknowledged.
Copyright information: © 2019 Copyright held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record was published in ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, Vol. 28, No. 2,