Requirements Fixation: The Effect of Specification Formality on Design Creativity

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

L2, Linnanmaa

Topic of the dissertation

Requirements Fixation: The Effect of Specification Formality on Design Creativity

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Rahul Prem Mohanani

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Empirical Software Engineering in Software, Systems and Services (M3S)

Subject of study

Empirical Software Engineering


Professor Pekka Abrahamsson, The University of Jyväskylä


Associate Professor Burak Turhan, Monash University

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Requirements specifications reduce design creativity

There is a broad consensus in the software engineering research community that understanding system desiderata and design creativity is critical for the success of software projects. This has motivated a plethora of research in SE to improve requirements engineering (RE) processes. However, little research has investigated the relationship between the way desiderata are presented (i.e., framed) and creative design performance. This dissertation, therefore, examines the effects of more formal presentations of desiderata on design creativity. First, two systematic mapping studies were conducted to summarize the available literature on cognitive biases and how creativity is conceptualized (i.e., understood, assessed and improved) in SE. This was followed by two experiments to investigate the impact of framing desiderata first as requirements (in general) and then as prioritized requirements on design creativity. Finally, a protocol study to explore the underlying cognitive mechanisms that explain the relationship between framing and creativity. While the results of the experiments show that specification formality is negatively related to design creativity, the findings from the protocol study indicate that the negative relationship between specification formality and design creativity is mediated by fixation. Overall, the results of this dissertation suggest that more formal and structured presentations of desiderata cause requirements fixation - the tendency to attribute undue confidence and importance to desiderata presented as formal requirements statements - that affects design creativity, and thus undermines software engineering success.
Last updated: 1.3.2023