Requirements Engineering

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 215–237 | Cite as

An automated framework for detection and resolution of cross references in legal texts

  • Nicolas Sannier
  • Morayo Adedjouma
  • Mehrdad SabetzadehEmail author
  • Lionel Briand
Original Article


When identifying and elaborating compliance requirements, analysts need to follow the cross references in legal texts and consider the additional information in the cited provisions. Enabling easier navigation and handling of cross references requires automated support for the detection of the natural language expressions used in cross references, the interpretation of cross references in their context, and the linkage of cross references to the targeted provisions. In this article, we propose an approach and tool support for automated detection and resolution of cross references. The approach leverages the structure of legal texts, formalized into a schema, and a set of natural language patterns for legal cross reference expressions. These patterns were developed based on an investigation of Luxembourg’s legislation, written in French. To build confidence about their applicability beyond the context where they were observed, these patterns were validated against the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) by the Government of Ontario, Canada, written in both French and English. We report on an empirical evaluation where we assess the accuracy and scalability of our framework over several Luxembourgish legislative texts as well as PHIPA.


Legal compliance Natural language processing (NLP) Cross references Conceptual modeling 



Financial support for this work was provided by Luxembourg’s National Centre of Information Technologies (CTIE) and Luxembourg’s National Research Fund (FNR) under grant number FNR/P10/03. We are grateful to members of Luxembourg Inland Revenue Office (ACD) and CTIE, particularly, Thierry Prommenschenkel, Ludwig Balmer, Marc Blau, and Michael Masseroni for sharing their valuable knowledge and insights with us. We thank the anonymous reviewers of the RE Journal and the RE’14 conference for their insightful comments which helped us improve this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT)University of LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg

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