Requirements Engineering

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 259–289 | Cite as

Teaching requirements elicitation interviews: an empirical study of learning from mistakes

  • Muneera BanoEmail author
  • Didar Zowghi
  • Alessio Ferrari
  • Paola Spoletini
  • Beatrice Donati
RE 2018


Interviews are the most widely used elicitation technique in requirements engineering (RE). However, conducting a requirements elicitation interview is challenging. The mistakes made in design or conduct of the interviews can create problems in the later stages of requirements analysis. Empirical evidence about effective pedagogical approaches for training novices on conducting requirements elicitation interviews is scarce. In this paper, we present a novel pedagogical approach for training student analysts in the art of elicitation interviews. Our study is conducted in two parts: first, we perform an observational study of interviews performed by novices, and we present a classification of the most common mistakes made; second, we utilize this list of mistakes and monitor the students’ progress in three set of interviews to discover the individual areas for improvement. We conducted an empirical study involving role-playing and authentic assessment in two semesters on two different cohorts of students. In the first semester, we had 110 students, teamed up in 28 groups, to conduct three interviews with stakeholders. We qualitatively analysed the data to identify and classify the mistakes made from their first interview only. In the second semester, we had 138 students in 34 groups and we monitored and analysed their progress in all three interviews by utilizing the list of mistakes from the first study. First, we identified 34 unique mistakes classified into seven high-level themes, namely question formulation, question omission, interview order, communication skills, analyst behaviour, customer interaction, teamwork and planning. In the second study, we discovered that the students struggled mostly in the areas of question formulation, question omission and interview order and did not manage to improve their skills throughout the three interviews. Our study presents a novel and repeatable pedagogical design, and our findings extend the body of knowledge aimed at RE education and training by providing an empirically grounded categorization of mistakes made by novices. We offer an analysis of the main pain points in which instructors should pay more attention during their design and training.


Requirements Engineering Education and Training Requirements elicitation Interviews 



Authors would like to thank all the students who participated in this project. This research was approved by the University of Technology Sydney’s Research Ethics committee, under the number ETH17-1266. This work was partially supported by the National Science Foundation under grant CCF-1718377.


  1. 1.
    Briggs CL (1986) Learning how to ask: a sociolinguistic appraisal of the role of the interview in social science research, vol 1. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Zowghi D, Coulin C (2005) Requirements elicitation: a survey of techniques, approaches, and tools. In: Engineering and managing software requirements. Springer, pp 19–46Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sutcliffe A, Sawyer P (2013) Requirements elicitation: towards the unknown unknowns. In: 2013 21st IEEE international on requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Davis A et al (2006) Effectiveness of requirements elicitation techniques: empirical results derived from a systematic review. In: 14th IEEE international conference on requirements engineering. IEEEGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dieste O, Juristo N (2011) Systematic review and aggregation of empirical studies on elicitation techniques. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 37(2):283–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Donati B et al (2017) Common mistakes of student analysts in requirements elicitation interviews. In: International working conference on requirements engineering: foundation for software quality. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Pitts MG, Browne GJ (2007) Improving requirements elicitation: an empirical investigation of procedural prompts. Inf Syst J 17(1):89–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hogarth RM et al (1991) Learning from feedback: exactingness and incentives. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 17(4):734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Li S (2010) The effectiveness of corrective feedback in SLA: a meta-analysis. Lang Learn 60(2):309–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Svensson RB, Regnell B (2017) Is role playing in Requirements Engineering Education increasing learning outcome? Requir Eng 22(4):475–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zowghi D, Paryani S (2003) Teaching requirements engineering through role playing: lessons learnt. In: 11th IEEE international on requirements engineering conference. Proceedings. IEEEGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Yusop N, Mehboob Z, Zowghi D (2007) The role of conducting stakeholder meeting in requirements engineering techniques. In: International workshop on the requirements engineering education and training. IEEE Computer SocietyGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bano M et al (2018) Learning from mistakes: an empirical study of elicitation interviews performed by novices. In: 2018 IEEE 26th international requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Spoletini P, Ferrari A (2017) Requirements elicitation: a look at the future through the lenses of the past. In: 2017 IEEE 25th international on requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aranda AM, Dieste O, Juristo N (2016) Effect of domain knowledge on elicitation effectiveness: an internally replicated controlled experiment. IEEE Trans Software Eng 42(5):427–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hadar I, Soffer P, Kenzi K (2014) The role of domain knowledge in requirements elicitation via interviews: an exploratory study. Requir Eng 19(2):143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Niknafs A, Berry D (2017) The impact of domain knowledge on the effectiveness of requirements engineering activities. Empir Softw Eng 22(1):80–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Niknafs A, Berry DM (2013) An industrial case study of the impact of domain ignorance on the effectiveness of requirements idea generation during requirements elicitation. In: 2013 21st IEEE international on requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pitts MG, Browne GJ (2004) Stopping behavior of systems analysts during information requirements elicitation. J Manag Inf Syst 21(1):203–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Distanont A et al (2012) The engagement between knowledge transfer and requirements engineering. Int J Manag Knowl Learn 1(2):131–156Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ferrari A, Spoletini P, Gnesi S (2016) Ambiguity and tacit knowledge in requirements elicitation interviews. Requir Eng 21(3):333–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Coughlan J, Macredie RD (2002) Effective communication in requirements elicitation: a comparison of methodologies. Requir Eng 7(2):47–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Agarwal R, Tanniru MR (1990) Knowledge acquisition using structured interviewing: an empirical investigation. J Manag Inf Syst 7(1):123–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Browne GJ, Rogich MB (2001) An empirical investigation of user requirements elicitation: comparing the effectiveness of prompting techniques. J Manag Inf Syst 17(4):223–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Shuraida S, Barki H (2013) The influence of analyst communication in IS projects. J Assoc Inf Syst 14(9):482Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Portugal S (2013) Interviewing users: how to uncover compelling details. Louis Rosenfeld, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. 27., Requirements elicitation for business analysts: interviews. Accessed 14 May 2019
  28. 28.
    International, L.T., Developing user requirements: the key to project success. Accessed 14 May 2019
  29. 29.
    Walcott-Justice K Requirements elicitation: artifact and stakeholder analysis. Accessed 14 May 2019
  30. 30.
    Hathaway T, Hathaway A (2016) Requirements elicitation interviews and workshops—simply put!: best practices, skills, and attitudes for requirements gathering on IT projects. BA-Experts, USAGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Adams S (2001) Interviewing for journalists. Psychology Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Martin JR (2017) Actuality interviewing and listening: how to conduct successful interviews for nonfiction storytelling, actuality documentaries and other disciplines. Real Deal Press, USAGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Grobel L (2010) The art of the interview: lessons from a master of the craft. Three Rivers Press, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    De Burgh H (2003) Skills are not enough: the case for journalism as an academic discipline. Journalism 4(1):95–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    DiCicco-Bloom B, Crabtree BF (2006) The qualitative research interview. Med Educ 40(4):314–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Brinkmann S (2014) Interview. In: Encyclopedia of critical psychology. Springer, pp 1008–1010Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Jacob SA, Furgerson SP (2012) Writing interview protocols and conducting interviews: tips for students new to the field of qualitative research. Qual Rep 17(42):1–10Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Turner DI (2010) Qualitative interview design: a practical guide for novice investigators. Qual Rep 15(3):754Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Dilley P (2000) Conducting successful interviews: tips for intrepid research. Theory Pract 39(3):131–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Seidman I (2013) Interviewing as qualitative research: a guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. Teachers College Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ritchie J et al (2013) Qualitative research practice: a guide for social science students and researchers. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Morrison J (2014) The first interview. Guilford Publications, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Warner RE (2013) Solution-focused interviewing: applying positive psychology, a manual for practitioners. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Miller C (2003) Interviewing strategies. In: Diagnostic interviewing. Springer, pp 47–66Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Hoffman CD (2005) Investigative interviewing: strategies and techniques. International Foundation for Protection Officers, NaplesGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Investigations, I.f.I.C. (2017) Investigative interview skills course. Accessed 14 May 2019
  47. 47.
    Navarro EO (2011) On the role of learning theories in furthering software engineering education. In: Instructional design: concepts, methodologies, tools and applications. IGI Global, pp 1645–1666Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Dewey J (1916) Education and democracy. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Lave J (1988) Cognition in practice: mind, mathematics and culture in everyday life. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bruner JS (1979) On knowing: Essays for the left hand. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Schank R (1997) Virtual learning. A revolutionary approach to building a highly skilled workforce. ERIC, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Schön DA (1987) Educating the reflective practitioner. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Moore M, Potts C (1994) Learning by doing: goals and experiences of two software engineering project courses. In: Conference on software engineering education. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Tvedt JD, Tesoriero R, Gary KA (2001) The software factory: combining undergraduate computer science and software engineering education. In: Proceedings of the 23rd international conference on software engineering. IEEE Computer SocietyGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Germain T, Robillard PN, Dulipovici M (2002) Process activities in a project based course in software engineering. In: Frontiers in education. FIE 2002. 32nd Annual. IEEEGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    dos Santos SC, Soares FS (2013) Authentic assessment in software engineering education based on PBL principles: a case study in the telecom market. In: Proceedings of the 2013 international conference on software engineering. IEEE PressGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Herrington J, Herrington A (1998) Authentic assessment and multimedia: how university students respond to a model of authentic assessment. Higher Educ Res Dev 17(3):305–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Gulikers JT, Bastiaens TJ, Kirschner PA (2004) A five-dimensional framework for authentic assessment. Educ Tech Res Dev 52(3):67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Dawson R (2000) Twenty dirty tricks to train software engineers. In: Proceedings of the 22nd international conference on Software engineering. ACMGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Ferrari A et al (2017) Interview review: detecting latent ambiguities to improve the requirements elicitation process. In: 2017 IEEE 25th international on requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Spoletini P et al (2018) Interview review: an empirical study on detecting ambiguities in requirements elicitation interviews. In: International Working Conference on Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Burnay C, Jureta IJ, Faulkner S (2014) What stakeholders will or will not say: a theoretical and empirical study of topic importance in Requirements Engineering elicitation interviews. Inf Syst 46:61–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Moody JW, Blanton JE, Cheney PH (1998) A theoretically grounded approach to assist memory recall during information requirements determination. J Manag Inf Syst 15(1):79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Wetherbe JC (1991) Executive information requirements: getting it right. Mis Q 15:51–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Pacheco C, Garcia I (2012) A systematic literature review of stakeholder identification methods in requirements elicitation. J Syst Softw 85(9):2171–2181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Gervasi V et al (2013) Unpacking tacit knowledge for requirements engineering. In: Managing requirements knowledge. Springer, pp 23–47Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Saiedian H, Dale R (2000) Requirements engineering: making the connection between the software developer and customer. Inf Softw Technol 42(6):419–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Lauer TW, Peacock E, Jacobs SM (1992) Question generation and the systems analysis process. In: Questions and information systems, pp 47–61Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Coughlan J, Lycett M, Macredie RD (2003) Communication issues in requirements elicitation: a content analysis of stakeholder experiences. Inf Softw Technol 45(8):525–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Gallivan MJ, Keil M (2003) The user–developer communication process: a critical case study. Inf Syst J 13(1):37–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Berry DM (1995) The importance of ignorance in requirements engineering. J Syst Softw 28:179–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Denzin NK, Lincoln YS (1994) Handbook of qualitative research. Sage Publications Inc., Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Karras O, Kiesling S, Schneider K (2016) Supporting requirements elicitation by tool-supported video analysis. In: 2016 IEEE 24th international on requirements engineering conference (RE). IEEEGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.CNR-ISTIPisaItaly
  4. 4.Kennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA
  5. 5.DILEFUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

Personalised recommendations