The inconsistency between theory and practice in managing inconsistency in requirements engineering

Irit Hadar, Anna Zamansky, Daniel M. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The problem of inconsistency in requirements engineering has been in the spotlight of the RE community from the early 1990s. In the early years, inconsistency was perceived in the literature as a problem that needs to be eliminated on sight. More recently, it has become recognized that maintaining consistency at all times is not only infeasible, but also even counterproductive. Based on this recognition, paradigms and tools have been proposed in the RE literature for managing inconsistency. However, over the same period, inconsistency as perceived and managed in practice has not received much attention. Our research aims to better understand the phenomenon of inconsistency and the strategies to address it in RE practice. This paper describes an empirical study investigating practitioners’ perceptions of inconsistency manifestations in RE, their attitudes towards these manifestations, and strategies they apply to address them. The findings of this research led to the two contributions: (a) an explanation of how the ideas of the RE field about managing RE inconsistency are reflected in practitioners’ perceptions of the inconsistency that they encounter in their daily work, and (b) the identification of some barriers that appear to be hindering practitioners’ adoption of the RE field’s inconsistency management strategies, together with possible reasons underlying these barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3972-4005
Number of pages34
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Yael David for her help in translating Hebrew quotes into English. Daniel Berry’s work was supported in part by a Canadian NSERC grant NSERC-RGPIN227055-15. Anna Zamansky’s work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation under grant agreement 817/15.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Empirical study
  • Grounded analysis
  • Grounded theory
  • Inconsistency
  • Qualitative study
  • Requirements engineering
  • ViewPoint framework
  • Zave–Jackson validation formula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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