Requirements engineering (RE) being a foundation of software development has gained a great recognition in the recent era of prevailing software industry. A number of journals and conferences have published a great amount of RE research in terms of various tools, techniques, methods, and frameworks, with a variety of processes applicable in different software development domains. The plethora of empirical RE research needs to be synthesized to identify trends and future research directions. To represent a state-of-the-art of requirements engineering, along with various trends and opportunities of empirical RE research, we conducted a systematic mapping study to synthesize the empirical work done in RE. We used four major databases IEEE, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink and ACM and Identified 270 primary studies till the year 2012. An analysis of the data extracted from primary studies shows that the empirical research work in RE is on the increase since the year 2000. The requirements elicitation with 22 % of the total studies, requirements analysis with 19 % and RE process with 17 % are the major focus areas of empirical RE research. Non-functional requirements were found to be the most researched emerging area. The empirical work in the sub-area of requirements validation and verification is little and has a decreasing trend. The majority of the studies (50 %) used a case study research method followed by experiments (28 %), whereas the experience reports are few (6 %). A common trend in almost all RE sub-areas is about proposing new interventions. The leading intervention types are guidelines, techniques and processes. The interest in RE empirical research is on the rise as whole. However, requirements validation and verification area, despite its recognized importance, lacks empirical research at present. Furthermore, requirements evolution and privacy requirements also have little empirical research. These RE sub-areas need the attention of researchers for more empirical research. At present, the focus of empirical RE research is more about proposing new interventions. In future, there is a need to replicate existing studies as well to evaluate the RE interventions in more real contexts and scenarios. The practitioners involvement in RE empirical research needs to be increased so that they share their experiences of using different RE interventions and also inform us about the current requirements-related challenges and issues that they face in their work.
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