Design rationale: Researching under uncertainty

  • Burge J
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Rationale research in software development is a challenging area because although there is no shortage of advocates for its value, there is also no shortage of reasons for why rationale is unlikely to be captured in practice. Despite more than 30 years of research there still remains much uncertainty: how useful are the potential benefits and how insurmountable are the barriers? Will the value of the rationale (design and otherwise) justify the cost of collecting it? Although there have been numerous rationale research projects, many, if not most, received little or no empirical evaluation. There also have not been many studies examining what the needs are of the practitioners who would be supported by the rationale. This article discusses the “doom and gloom” predictions of rationale’s failure, provides a survey of evaluations of rationale systems, and discusses what we hope is a brighter outlook for rationale research in the future. There are development standards and synergistic research areas thatmay help with rationale research and its acceptance in the software community with which we should be working. This article also presents the results of a pilot survey of software developers who were asked how they would envision using rationale and what they believe the most important barriers are. Although some results were as expected, therewere also some surprises. Research on technology transfer indicates that, among other things, to transition successfully from research into practice we need to understand the need that is being met and demonstrate the value of our approach. Until we have determined how our work is needed by the people we are trying to help we will remain researching under uncertainty.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Design Rationale
  • Empirical Studies
  • Software Engineering
  • Traceability

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  • Janet E. Burge

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