Transactions on Software Engineering

The IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering (TSE) is an archival journal published bimonthly. We are interested in well-defined theoretical results and empirical studies that have potential impact on the construction, analysis, or management of software. Read the full scope of TSE.

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From the August 2017 Issue

Preventing Defects: The Impact of Requirements Traceability Completeness on Software Quality

By Patrick Rempel and Parick Mader

Featured article thumbnail imageRequirements traceability has long been recognized as an important quality of a well-engineered system. Among stakeholders, traceability is often unpopular due to the unclear benefits. In fact, little evidence exists regarding the expected traceability benefits. There is a need for empirical work that studies the effect of traceability. In this paper, we focus on the four main requirements implementation supporting activities that utilize traceability. For each activity, we propose generalized traceability completeness measures. In a defined process, we selected 24 medium to large-scale open-source projects. For each software project, we quantified the degree to which a studied development activity was enabled by existing traceability with the proposed measures. We analyzed that data in a multi-level Poisson regression analysis. We found that the degree of traceability completeness for three of the studied activities significantly affects software quality, which we quantified as defect rate. Our results provide for the first time empirical evidence that more complete traceability decreases the expected defect rate in the developed software. The strong impact of traceability completeness on the defect rate suggests that traceability is of great practical value for any kind of software development project, even if traceability is not mandated by a standard or regulation.

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