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Surfacing ambiguity in natural language requirements

 
: Kamsties, E.

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Stuttgart: Fraunhofer IRB Verlag, 2001, XVI, 325 S. : Ill., Lit.
Zugl.: Kaiserslautern, Univ., Diss., 2001
PhD Theses in Experimental Software Engineering, 5
ISBN: 3-8167-5903-3
ISBN: 978-3-8167-5903-4
Englisch
Dissertation
Fraunhofer IESE ()
Anforderungsanalyse; requirements engineering; natürlichsprachliche Anforderung; Mehrdeutigkeit; Metamodell; Inspektionstechnik; natural language requirement; ambiguity; metamodel; inspection technique; Anforderungsingenieur; Systemanalyst; Software-Entwicklung; software engineering; requirement engineer; software development; inspection; scenario-based reading; requirements specification language; formalization

Abstract
Anforderungsdokumente werden häufig in natürlicher Sprache formuliert, da spezialisierte Sprachen nicht von allen Beteiligten beherrscht werden. Allerdings ist natürliche Sprache inhärent mehrdeutig. Diese Dissertation adressiert das Problem der Aufdeckung von Mehrdeutigkeiten in natürlichsprachlichen Anforderungen, um spätere Softwarefehlverhalten aufgrund von Fehlinterpretationen von Anforderungen zu vermeiden. Mehrere empirisch validierte Techniken zur Aufdeckung von Mehrdeutigkeiten werden für Anforderungsanalyseprozesse unterschiedlichen Reifegrads vorgestellt. Eine Vorgehensweise für die Entwicklung weiterer Techniken wird vorgeschlagen. Weiterhin gibt die Dissertation eine umfassende Definition der verschiedenen Facetten von Mehrdeutigkeit, da gegenwärtige Definitionen in der Literatur widersprüchlich und unvollständig sind. Industrial requirements documents are written usually in natural language, which is easy to use but also inherently ambiguous. This PhD thesis addresses the problem of detecting ambiguities in natural language requirements in order to avoid software failures due to misinterpretations. A set of empirically validated techniques for detecting ambiguities is presented, which allow improving requirements engineering processes of different maturity. An approach is suggested for developing additional techniques if the provided ones do not fit the situation at hand. New insights are provided on the problems that defects cause when formal specifications are developed from an informal statement of requirements. Also, the thesis provides a comprehensive understanding of the various facets of ambiguity. This understanding clarifies the currently ambiguous use of the term in the literature.

 

In industrial requirements engineering (RE), natural language is the most frequently used representation to state the requirements that are to be met by information technology products or services. Natural language is universal, flexible, and wide-spread, but unfortunately also inherently ambiguous. Even worse, often neither customers nor software develirements.
This thesis presents the ADTD approach, which allows developing techniques for detecting ambiguities in natural language requirements on the basis of existing and industrially proven techniques, namely checklists, scenario-based reading, and agendas. A technique for detecting ambiguities must be tailored to a particular RE context to be effective, because RE-specific ambiguities depend heavily on the context in which an RE process takes place. For this purpose, the ADTD approach provides heuristics to investigate meta-models, which capture information about an RE context. These heuristics help identify the RE-specific types of ambiguities that are typical for the particular RE context.
A set of ambiguity detection techniques for the domain of embedded systems was developed using the ADTD approach to show its feasibility. To quantify the benefits of the ADTD approach, the resulting techniques were empirically validated in five experiments. The goals were (1) to validate that the investigation of metamodels pays off in terms of higher efficiency of the resulting technique and (2) to show that our ambiguity detection techniques are superior to existing ones.
From a practitioner's perspective, a set of validated techniques for detecting ambiguities is provided, which allow improving current RE processes of different maturity. The ADTD approach is available for developing additional techniques if the provided ones do not fit the situation at hand. From a researcher's perspective, new insights are provided on the problems that defects, and ambiguities in particular, cause when semi-formal or formal specifications are developed from an informal statement of requirements. Also, the thesis provides a comprehensive understanding of the various facets of ambiguity in RE. This understanding clarifies the currently ambiguous use of the term in the literature.

: http://publica.fraunhofer.de/dokumente/N-6409.html