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

  • RE 2018
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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. Case Study 1: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DLXjLUnqISrq2XlSmuZYf4GlS9FGhuZP/view?usp=sharing.

    Case Study 2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EMOhQOw4GCFfQoT7nCYgOlSN4sLNain-/view?usp=sharing.

  2. The authors playing the role of customer and observer were not available in study 2 to have an active role during the class term; therefore, we do not have customer think aloud or observation data in study 2.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Interview Questionnaire

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about QUESTION FORMULATION * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The analyst asked vague questions

The analyst asked technical questions

The analyst asked questions that appeared irrelevant to me

The analyst asked the customer for solutions

The analyst asked long and overly complex questions

The analyst formulated their questions in a way that appeared incorrect to me

The analyst asked vague questions

The analyst asked technical questions

The analyst asked questions that appeared irrelevant to me

The analyst asked the customer for solutions

The analyst asked long and overly complex questions

The analyst formulated their questions in a way that appeared incorrect to me

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about QUESTION OMISSION * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The analyst DID NOT ask for additional stakeholders

The analyst DID NOT ask probing questions to confirm their understanding

The analyst DID NOT ask about the existing system or business process

The analyst DID NOT ask questions about feature prioritisation

The analyst DID NOT ask information about the problem domain

The analyst DID NOT identify goals and success criteria

The analyst DID NOT ask all the questions that I consider relevant

The analyst DID NOT ask for additional stakeholders

The analyst DID NOT ask probing questions to confirm their understanding

The analyst DID NOT ask about the existing system or business process

The analyst DID NOT ask questions about feature prioritisation

The analyst DID NOT ask information about the problem domain

The analyst DID NOT identify goals and success criteria

The analyst DID NOT ask all the questions that I consider relevant

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about ORDER OF INTERVIEW * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The analyst DID NOT perform a summary at the end of the interview

The analyst started the interview by asking direct questions about the system

The analyst asked questions in an order that appeared incorrect to me

The analyst repeated the same questions multiple times

The analyst DID NOT perform a summary at the end of the interview

The analyst started the interview by asking direct questions about the system

The analyst asked questions in an order that appeared incorrect to me

The analyst repeated the same questions multiple times

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about COMMUNICATION SKILLS * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The dialogues style used by the analyst appears unnatural to me

The analyst showed poor communication skills

The analyst showed poor listening skills

The analyst spoke with a low and unclear tone

The dialogues style used by the analyst appears unnatural to me

The analyst showed poor communication skills

The analyst showed poor listening skills

The analyst spoke with a low and unclear tone

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about ANALYST BEHAVIOUR * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The analyst showed lack of confidence

The analyst appeared overconfident or arrogant

The analyst showed a passive attitude

The analyst showed a behaviour that appeared unprofessional to me

The analyst showed lack of confidence

The analyst appeared overconfident or arrogant

The analyst showed a passive attitude

The analyst showed a behaviour that appeared unprofessional to me

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about CUSTOMER INTERACTION * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

The analyst DID NOT create rapport with the customer

The analyst tried to influence the customer

The analyst interrupted the customer

The analyst DID NOT create rapport with the customer

The analyst tried to influence the customer

The analyst interrupted the customer

Please rate your agreement with the following statements about TEAMWORK and PLANNING * [Strongly Agree (1), Agree (2), Not sure (3), Disagree (4), Strongly Disagree (5)]

There was lack of coordination and choreography among team members

The analyst did NOT manage their time in a proper way

The analyst showed a lack of preparation on the domain

The analyst looked like they did not plan the interview

There were long pauses during the interview

There was lack of coordination and choreography among team members

The analyst did NOT manage their time in a proper way

The analyst showed a lack of preparation on the domain

The analyst looked like they did not plan the interview

There were long pauses during the interview

Appendix 2: Group performance based on SRS Document Assessment

We had three groups each for top marks, average marks and the lowest marks. We were interested to see whether their performance during the interviews had any correlation with their understanding that leads to writing the SRS document. For ease of visualization, we have divided the interview themes into further two categories, i.e. domain-specific aspects of elicitation interview (question formulation, question omission and interview order) and social aspect of interview (communication skills, analyst behaviour, customer interaction, and teamwork and planning). The higher scores show better performance and the lower scores show poor performance (Figs. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

Fig. 20
figure 20

Performance of Groups with top marks in domain-specific aspects of interview

Fig. 21
figure 21

Performance of Groups with top marks in social aspects of interview

Fig. 22
figure 22

Performance of Groups with average marks in domain-specific aspects of interview

Fig. 23
figure 23

Performance of Groups with average marks in social aspects of interview

Fig. 24
figure 24

Performance of Groups with lowest marks in domain-specific aspects of interview

Fig. 25
figure 25

Performance of Groups with lowest marks in social aspects of interview

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Bano, M., Zowghi, D., Ferrari, A. et al. Teaching requirements elicitation interviews: an empirical study of learning from mistakes. Requirements Eng 24, 259–289 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00766-019-00313-0

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