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How concept maps can be used in requirement engineering

Sayeda Asma Noor

What is a concept map?

A concept map is a visual representation of concepts and information in a hierarchical manner. The main ideas are usually placed at the top and the ideas connected to them are placed at the bottom, while arrows indicate the links between them. The following are some of the most important aspects of a concept map:

  1. Identification of the problem statement
  2. Nodes
  3. Links
  4. Linking words

Identification of the problem statement

The purpose of a concept map is to present an idea, concept, or problem. For example, the idea, concept, or problem can relate to a potential software product or service. In such a scenario, the concept map may be used as a means to present a roadmap toward the final product or service to potential clients. An example of a problem statement may be ‘‘What does the login system of our application look like?"’

Nodes

Nodes can be information, ideas, or objects in concept maps. These are depicted with a circle or rectangle that encloses information in it. In the case of the example stated above, the node can be a feature of the login system.

Example of a node in a concept map

Links

The relationship between concepts is shown via links in concept maps. These explain how concepts and ideas are related and are represented by arrows in concept maps.

Example of a link in a concept map

Linking words

Linking words show the relationship between two concepts and appear on the lines connecting them.

Example of a concept map examining how a ticket machine interacts with customers

Usage in requirement engineering

Requirement engineering is the process of drawing the requirements and desires of stakeholders and documenting and maintaining them during the design process of a system. This serves as a foundation for all the development activities of a project. Concept maps can be used in requirement engineering in the following ways:

  1. They can be used as a sense-making technique, so that they give meaning to the requirements for specified tasks, which are understood by all the members of a team in a project.
  2. They allow requirement tracking. They connect things, events, and ideas inside the project domain to answer questions like where the requirements originated from and what tasks these requirements fulfill.
  3. They provide a precise and simple description of the system to end-users and customers so as to give customers and end-users feedback about the system design.
  4. They provide clear insight into what a system does.
  5. They organize the requirements in a hierarchical way.

The example below shows how concept maps can be beneficial in requirement engineering.

Example

The following are the requirements specified by a client during the design of a login system of an application:

"The login system contains a login page containing a password, email address, and a login button that returns the homepage of a website upon entering the correct credentials of users. Credentials are verified by querying through the database. An incorrect attempt to log in results in a return to the login page. The login page includes a "Forgot password" button for resetting the password. Password is reset through a link that is sent to the registered email. The "Signup" button is used to register users with the website and to apply input validations on passwords (all passwords should contain 8 letters, one digit and one character) and email addresses (email addresses must be in the format ...@xyz.com) for better security. The signup page contains fields for name, email address, password, phone, and picture. Email address, password, phone, and name are mandatory fields. Upon registration, the information goes to the database."

Drawing the concept map

Before making our concept map for the requirements above, we specify the following details:

  • Key concepts: email, password, phone, picture, name, signup page, database, forgot password, phone, input validations.
  • General requirements: login page, forgot password, signup, database.
  • Specific requirements: password, email address, phone, input validations.

Now we can begin building the map by connecting general ideas with specific ideas with the help of arrows.

Concept map for the login system of a website

As we can see, the requirements of the login system of the website can be clearly and easily understood by the concept map.

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