Context: Bad requirements quality can cause expensive consequences during the software development lifecycle, especially if iterations are long and feedback comes late. Objectives: We aim at a light-weight static requirements analysis approach that allows for rapid checks immediately when requirements are written down. Method: We transfer the concept of code smells to Requirements Engineering as Requirements Smells. To evaluate the benefits and limitations, we define Requirements Smells, realize our concepts for a smell detection in a prototype called Smella and apply Smella in a series of cases provided by three industrial and a university context. Results:
The automatic detection yields an average precision of 59% at an average recall of 82% with high variation. The evaluation in practical environments indicates benefits such as an increase of the awareness of quality defects. Yet, some smells were not clearly distinguishable. Conclusion: Lightweight smell detection can uncover many practically relevant requirements defects in a reasonably precise way. Although some smells need to be defined more clearly, smell detection provides a helpful means to support quality assurance in Requirements Engineering, for instance, as a supplement to reviews.