How do open source communities document software architecture: an exploratory survey

Wei Ding, Peng Liang, Antony Tang, Hans Van Vliet, Mojtaba Shahin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Software architecture (SA) documentation provides a blueprint of a software-intensive system for the communication between stakeholders about the high-level design of the system. In open source software (OSS) development, a lack of SA documentation may hinder the use and further development of OSS, but how much 'architecture' documentation is enough and appropriate is largely dependent on the contextual factors of development. In order to understand the state of the practice of SA documentation in OSS projects, we conducted a documentation-based survey to explore how SA is documented in OSS projects. Out of 2,000 OSS projects from four major OSS sources, we found that 108 projects have some SA documentation, which shows that the SA documentation is scarce in OSS development. We analyzed these 108 projects to understand what SA information has been documented and how they have been described. We have found that frequently-documented architectural information is model, system, and mission, natural language is the most frequently-used architectural language for specifying architectural information in OSS SA documents. The results also show that the likelihood that an OSS project will document SA is increased when more developers are involved in the project, and industry and research OSS projects are more likely to create SA documents than freelance projects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 19th International Conference on Engineering of Complex Computer Systems, ICECCS 2014
EditorsÉtienne André, Lei Zhang
Place of PublicationPiscataway NJ USA
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781479954827, 9781479954810
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventIEEE International Conference on Engineering of Complex Computer Systems 2014 - Tianjin, China
Duration: 4 Aug 20147 Aug 2014
Conference number: 19th (Proceedings)


ConferenceIEEE International Conference on Engineering of Complex Computer Systems 2014
Abbreviated titleICECCS 2014
Internet address


  • architecture document elements
  • architecture documentation
  • open source software
  • software architecture

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