Software & Systems Modeling

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 579–603 | Cite as

Identifying duplicate functionality in textual use cases by aligning semantic actions

  • Alejandro Rago
  • Claudia Marcos
  • J. Andres Diaz-Pace
Regular Paper


Developing high-quality requirements specifications often demands a thoughtful analysis and an adequate level of expertise from analysts. Although requirements modeling techniques provide mechanisms for abstraction and clarity, fostering the reuse of shared functionality (e.g., via UML relationships for use cases), they are seldom employed in practice. A particular quality problem of textual requirements, such as use cases, is that of having duplicate pieces of functionality scattered across the specifications. Duplicate functionality can sometimes improve readability for end users, but hinders development-related tasks such as effort estimation, feature prioritization, and maintenance, among others. Unfortunately, inspecting textual requirements by hand in order to deal with redundant functionality can be an arduous, time-consuming, and error-prone activity for analysts. In this context, we introduce a novel approach called ReqAligner that aids analysts to spot signs of duplication in use cases in an automated fashion. To do so, ReqAligner combines several text processing techniques, such as a use case-aware classifier and a customized algorithm for sequence alignment. Essentially, the classifier converts the use cases into an abstract representation that consists of sequences of semantic actions, and then these sequences are compared pairwise in order to identify action matches, which become possible duplications. We have applied our technique to five real-world specifications, achieving promising results and identifying many sources of duplication in the use cases.


Use case modeling Use case refactoring Natural language processing Sequence alignment Requirements engineering Machine learning 



The authors would like to thank Paula Frade and Miguel Ruival, who implemented the ReqAligner prototype and evaluated the technique as part of their final project for the degree of Bachelor in Systems Engineering at UNICEN University. Also, the authors are grateful to the analysts who defined the reference solution for the evaluation of the technique. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewers for their feedback that helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ISISTAN Research InstituteUNICEN UniversityTandilArgentina
  2. 2.CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.CICBuenos AiresArgentina

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