Novel Approaches to Theories Underlying Requirements Engineering

NATURE - 6353

Work Area: Knowledge Engineering and Representation

Keywords requirements engineering, process modelling, domain analysis, reusability, traceability, informal-formal transition, conceptual modelling, knowledge representation

Start Date: 15 August 92 / Duration: 36 months / Status: running

[ participants / contact ]

Abstract NATURE is developing an integrated framework for requirements engineering and management, encompassing domain theories, process theories, and knowledge representation theories that allow comprehensive guidance and reuse of requirements processes. Prototypical tools are developed to demonstrate the theories and empirical studies are conducted to validate them.


NATURE addresses the central problems of requirements engineering: requirements capture, representation and management of functional and nonfunctional requirements in a process context, the interplay between informal and formal representations, and process traceability and guidance. Comprehensive reuse of requirements experience is supported both at the product and at the process level. To guide the work, a comprehensive framework has been developed to define what requirements engineering is and is not.

Approach and Methods

The NATURE framework views requirements engineering as a process of establishing visions in context. Context is organised according to domain theories and structured around the "four worlds" relevant to information systems. Progress in the requirements process is characterised according to three dimensions of social agreement, cognitive understanding, and technical representation. A process model based on situated decision-making deals with the flexible nature of requirements engineering processes, and has been augmented with the explicit consideration of nonfunctional goals. Knowledge representation theories in NATURE integrate formal, semi-formal and informal representations in the framework of the Telos language, and emphasise automated support over fully formal but not evaluable descriptions.

The emphasis of NATURE is to develop the foundations of all these techniques and to demonstrate their usefulness through prototypical implementations and user studies, often in collaboration with industrial projects.

Progress and Results

The first months of the NATURE project have been an initial integration phase, resulting in the above framework and the design of a coordinated demonstrator prototype intended to show the interplay of the different theories.

Within this framework, NATURE has made contributions to the management and comprehensive reuse of requirements experience. Reuse of system experiences is addressed by reverse modelling, reuse of subject domain knowledge by libraries of domain theories, reuse of process knowledge by libraries of type process chunks. These processes are supported by formal models represented in the Telos, language, and by software information systems (ConceptBase, SIB) with flexible consistency and completeness checks, hypertext-oriented integration of formal and informal representation, and similarity-based retrieval.

An initial coordinated NATURE demonstrator has been completed in summer 1993; it consists of eight prototype tools, partially integrated at the data, process, and control level in an innovative manner. The purpose of the demonstrator is to convince industry that standard CASE methods can be significantly enhanced -- without excessive need for analyst re-training -- by back-ending and interconnecting them with intelligent support derived from the NATURE theories.


Progress in requirements engineering is crucial for applications such as software development, organisational information systems management, and computer-integrated manufacturing. Collaborations have been established with industrial projects inside and outside ESPRIT in all of these areas, to foster technology transfer and obtain feedback for theory validation. Examples include the F3 and ITHACA projects in ESPRIT, the Quality Management Programme of the German BMFT, and several new ESPRIT proposals. There is also intensive collaboration with several US and Canadian universities and research programmes.

Latest Publications

Information Dissemination Activies

A NATURE Report Series has been established to provide easy access to publications. NATURE promotes technology transfer through summer schools, tutorials at leading database and software engineering conferences, and demonstrations of the NATURE prototype. It has coordinating role in RE research by organising a Dagstuhl Seminar on Systems Requirements in late 1994, and by editing special issues of leading international journals (eg, IEE Transations on Software Engineering, June 1992; Information Systems, March 1994).


RWTH Aachen - D
Ahornstrasse 55
D-W - 52056 AACHEN


Université de Paris I - F
City University - UK


Prof. Dr. M. Jarke
tel +49/241 8021 500
fax +49/241 8021 529

LTR synopses home page LTR work area index LTR acronym index LTR number index LTR Projects index
All synopses home page all acronyms index all numbers index

NATURE - 6353, August 1994

please address enquiries to the ESPRIT Information Desk

html version of synopsis by Nick Cook