Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Hayes


Today, software has become deeply woven into the fabric of our lives. The quality of the software we depend on needs to be ensured at every phase of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). An analyst uses the requirements engineering process to gather and analyze system requirements in the early stages of the SDLC. An undetected problem at the beginning of the project can carry all the way through to the deployed product.

The Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) serves as a tool to demonstrate how requirements are addressed by the design and implementation elements throughout the entire software development lifecycle. Creating an RTM matrix by hand is an arduous task. Manual generation of an RTM can be an error prone process as well.

As the size of the requirements and design document collection grows, it becomes more challenging to ensure proper coverage of the requirements by the design elements, i.e., assure that every requirement is addressed by at least one design element. The techniques used by the existing requirements tracing tools take into account only the content of the documents to establish possible links. We expect that if we take into account the relative order of the text around the common terms within the inspected documents, we may discover candidate links with a higher accuracy.

The aim of this research is to demonstrate how we can apply machine learning algorithms to software requirements engineering problems. This work addresses the problem of requirements tracing by viewing it in light of the Ant Colony Optimization (ACO) algorithm and a reinforcement learning algorithm. By treating the documents as the starting (nest) and ending points (sugar piles) of a path and the terms used in the documents as connecting nodes, a possible link can be established and strengthened by attracting more agents (ants) onto a path between the two documents by using pheromone deposits. The results of the work show that ACO and RL can successfully establish links between two sets of documents.