Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Robert L. Pastel

Committee Member 1

Shane T. Mueller

Committee Member 2

Kelly S. Steelman

Committee Member 3

Alex Mayer


Software development is a multidisciplinary collaboration involving many stakeholders. However, existing software development processes exhibit many issues related to that collaboration. Because prior research on stakeholder analysis and teamwork revealed the importance of communication, this study analyzed stakeholder communication with reference to team activities as a social and cognitive process. The study’s goal was to understand the collaboration process during software development and to delineate factors that influence this process. We focused on communication between the software developers and their clients during the requirements gathering phase, the team process, and the inter-team and interdisciplinary collaboration, in particular between software engineers and technical communicators. First, we conducted observations to help uncover the causes of variances in collaboration performance. Then we modified aspects of the collaboration process and compared team performance. We also performed an experimental study to further test the supporting effect of clients’ documents on requirement gathering. Finally, teams’ working structures and their impact on team performance were investigated using social network analysis. Among our findings was that clients are critical to the success of software development. Providing teams with documents that support requirement gathering facilitates team efficiency, but there is a trade-off in that team members may generate fewer creative ideas. Another finding was that software teams should ensure that members from all disciplines actively participate in projects. Finally, although teams need leadership, effective leadership is not a strong team member performing all coordination and tasks. A moderately centralized team structure is preferred.