Evaluating usage and quality of technical software documentation: An empirical study

Golara Garousi, Vahid Garousi, Mahmoud Moussavi, Guenther Ruhe, Brian Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

15 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Context: Software documentation is an integral part of any software development process. However, software practitioners are often concerned about the lack of usage and quality of documentation in practice. Unfortunately, in many projects, practitioners find that software documentation artifacts are outdated, incomplete and sometimes not beneficial. Objective: Motivated by the needs of NovAtel Inc. (NovAtel), a world-leading company of GPS software systems, we propose in this paper an approach to analyze the usage and quality of software documentation in development and maintenance phases. Method: The approach incorporates inputs from automated analysis (e.g., mining of project's data) and also experts' opinion extracted from survey-based questionnaire. The approach has been designed based on the "action-research" approach and in close collaboration between industry and academia. Results: To evaluate the feasibility and usefulness of the proposed approach, we have applied it in an industrial setting and results are presented in this paper. One of the results is that, in the context of our case-study, usage of documentation for an implementation purpose is higher than the usage for maintenance purposes. Conclusion: It is concluded that the usage of documentation differs for various purposes and it depends on the type of the information needs as well as the task to be completed (e.g. development and maintenance). In addition, we identify the most important and relevant quality attributes which are critical to improving documentation quality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEASE 2013 - Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering
Pages24-35
Number of pages12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event17th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering, EASE 2013 - Porto de Galinhas, Brazil
Duration: 14 Apr 201316 Apr 2013

Conference

Conference17th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering, EASE 2013
CountryBrazil
CityPorto de Galinhas
Period14/04/201316/04/2013

Keywords

  • Action research
  • Case study
  • Empirical software engineering
  • Maintenance
  • Software development
  • Software documentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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  • Cite this

    Garousi, G., Garousi, V., Moussavi, M., Ruhe, G., & Smith, B. (2013). Evaluating usage and quality of technical software documentation: An empirical study. In EASE 2013 - Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (pp. 24-35) https://doi.org/10.1145/2460999.2461003