The Use of NLP-Based Text Representation Techniques to Support Requirement Engineering Tasks: A Systematic Mapping Review

  • 24 Sep 2022
  • Published Resarch - Informatics & Communication


Riad Sonbol, Ghaida Rebdawi, and Nada Ghneim

Published in

IEEE Access, volume 10, article 108933, pages 62811 - 62830, June 2022.



Natural Language Processing (NLP) is widely used to support the automation of different Requirements Engineering (RE) tasks. Most of the proposed approaches start with various NLP steps that analyze requirements statements, extract their linguistic information, and convert them to easy-to-process representations, such as lists of features or embedding-based vector representations. These NLP-based representations are usually used at a later stage as inputs for machine learning techniques or rule-based methods. Thus, requirements representations play a major role in determining the accuracy of different approaches.

In this paper, we conducted a survey in the form of a systematic literature mapping (classification) to find out (1) what are the representations used in RE tasks literature, (2) what is the main focus of these works, (3) what are the main research directions in this domain, and (4) what are the gaps and potential future directions.

After compiling an initial pool of 2,227 papers, and applying a set of inclusion/exclusion criteria, we obtained a final pool containing 104 relevant papers. Our survey shows that the research direction has changed from the use of lexical and syntactic features to the use of advanced embedding techniques, especially in the last two years. Using advanced embedding representations has proved its effectiveness in most RE tasks (such as requirement analysis, extracting requirements from reviews and forums, and semantic-level quality tasks).

However, representations that are based on lexical and syntactic features are still more appropriate for other RE tasks (such as modeling and syntax-level quality tasks) since they provide the required information for the rules and regular expressions used when handling these tasks. In addition, we identify four gaps in the existing literature, why they matter, and how future research can begin to address them.

Keywords: Natural language processing, requirements engineering, requirements representation, syntax, semantic.

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