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Improving user participation in requirements gathering by writing b

How natural is natural language? Improving user participation in requirements gathering by writing better use cases.

Software developers frequently complain about poor user participation in projects, blaming failed projects on the lack of interest and involvement from the customer. As true as it might be in some cases, we would like to take a closer look at the other side of the story, to see what the industry does to ensure effective user participation. In other words, how user friendly is the software development industry itself? A very common mechanism employed to communicate with users regarding systems requirements are use cases. In this paper we would like to consider how to make use cases more readable and accessible to non-technical people. This would significantly improve communication on the projects, which in turn facilitates cooperation, enhancing chances of project success. We have analyzed 88 use cases written by final-year undergraduate Computer Science students for an assignment at the University of Hertfordshire and point out ways in which a computing-based mindset or way of thinking infiltrates the use cases, possibly making them difficult to understand for non-technical partners and hindering or pre-empting design decisions. The problems observed among students, and connections made between these issues and those encountered by software practitioners, indicate a need for, and potential directions of, future work in this area.

Dorota Jagielska, Unversity of Hertfordshire
Paul Wernick, Unversity of Hertfordshire
Mick Wood, Unversity of Hertfordshire
Steve Bennett, Unversity of Hertfordshire

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