Contextual inquiry and requirements shaping

Christine Welch, Peter Bednar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


A primary purpose of traditional systems analysis is seen as ‘capture’ or ‘elicitation’ of user requirements, in order to produce specifications as a basis for information systems design. Such a view presupposes that user requirements are pre-existing, and that the particular ‘users’ concerned know what they are, and can therefore articulate them. We argue that these assumptions cannot be taken for granted. If a system is to be created which is useful to particular individuals, we suggest they need to take ownership and control of the analysis themselves. By exploring their own experiences, aspirations nd sense-making processes in the context of their problem pace, they enable richer and more comprehensive nderstandings to emerge. A creative process of requirements haping is then promoted. Our focus, therefore, moves away rom problem description by an external analyst, towards ontextual inquiry, which supports creative thinking and roblem re-definition by those individuals most affected. We discuss contextual inquiry and requirements shaping to facilitate exploration of multiple, simultaneous and dynamic roles of the same autonomous individuals, separately and collectively. Their purpose is to enable emergence of reflective, shifting perspectives, leading to deepened understandings of problem experiences. It is then possible for resolutions to be created that address experiences, rather than descriptions, of problems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation systems development challenges in practice, theory and education. (Volume 1)
EditorsChris Barry, Michael Lang, Kieran Conboy, Gregory Wojtkowski, Wita Wojtkowski
Place of PublicationNew York
ISBN (Print)9780387304038
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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