Open Access

An empirical comparative evaluation of requirements engineering methods

  • Sergio España1Email author,
  • Nelly Condori-Fernandez1,
  • Arturo González2 and
  • Óscar Pastor1
Journal of the Brazilian Computer Society201016:3

DOI: 10.1007/s13173-010-0003-5

Received: 22 February 2010

Published: 6 May 2010


Requirements Engineering (RE) is a relatively young discipline, and still many advances have been achieved during the last decades. In particular, numerous RE approaches are proposed in the literature with the aim of understanding a certain problem (e.g. information systems development) and establishing a knowledge base that is shared between domain experts and developers (i.e. a requirements specification). However, there is a growing concern for empirical validations that assess RE proposals and statements. This paper is related to the assessment of the quality of functional requirements specifications, using the Method Evaluation Model (MEM) as a theoretical framework. The MEM distinguishes the actual efficacy and the perceived efficacy of a method. In order to assess the actual efficacy or RE methods, the conceptual model quality framework by Lindland et al. can be applied; in this paper, we focus on the completeness and granularity of requirements models and extend this framework by defining four new metrics (e.g. degree of functional encapsulations completeness with respect to a reference model, number of functional fragmentation errors). In order to assess the perceived efficacy, conventional questionnaires can be used. A laboratory experiment with master students has been carried out, in order to compare (using the proposed metrics) two RE methods; namely, Use Cases and Communication Analysis. With respect to actual efficacy, results indicate greater model quality (in terms of completeness and granularity) when Communication Analysis guidelines are followed. With respect to perceived efficacy, we found that Use Cases was perceived to be slightly easier to use than Communication Analysis. However, Communication Analysis was perceived to be more useful in terms of determining the proper business processes granularity. The paper discusses these results and highlights some key issues for future research in this area.