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Stepwise Refinement  

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Identification

Stepwise Refinement

Definitions/Uses

1971
Reference /Scacchi, 2001/ Process Models in Software Engineering
Definition/
Use
In this approach, software systems are developed through the progressive refinement and enhancement of high-level system specifications into source code components /Wirth, 1971/, /Mili, 1986/. However, the choice and order of which steps to choose and which refinements to apply remain unstated. Instead, formalization is expected to emerge within the heuristics and skills that are acquired and applied through increasingly competent practice. This model has been most effective and widely applied in helping to teach individual programmers how to organize their software development work. Many interpretations of the classic software life cycle thus subsume this approach within their design and implementations.
Rationales The author classifies Stepwise Refinement as one of the traditional software life cycle models
1971
Reference /Wirth, 1971/ Program Development by Step-wise Refinement
Definition/
Use
  • Program construction consists of a sequence of refinement steps. In each step a given task is broken up into a number of suhtasks. Each refinement in the description of a task may be accompanied by a refinement of the description of the data which constitute the means of communication between the subtasks. Refinement of the description of program and data structures should proceed in parallel.
  • The degree of modularity obtained in this way will determine the ease or difficulty with which a program can be adapted to changes or extensions of the purpose or changes in the environment (language, computer) in which it is executed.
  • During the process of stepwise refinement, a notation which is natural to the problem in hand should be used as long as possible. The direction in which the notation develops during the process of refinement is determined by the language in which the program must ultimately be specified, i.e. with which the notation ultimately becomes identical. This language should therefore allow us to express as naturally and clearly as possible the structure of program and data which emerge during the design process. At the same time, it must give guidance in the refinement process by exhibiting those basic features and structuring principles which are natural to the machine by which programs are supposed to be executed. It is remarkable that it would be difficult to find a language that would meet these important requirements to a lesser degree that the one language still used most widely in teaching programming: Fortran.
  • Each refinement implies a number of design decisions based upon a set of design criteria. Among these criteria are efficiency, storage economy, clarity, and regularity of structure. Students must be taught to be conscious of the involved decisions and to critically examine and to reject solutions, sometimes even if they are correct as far as the result is concerned; they must learn to weigh the various aspects of design alternatives in the light of these criteria. In particular, they must be taught to revoke earlier decisions, and to back up, if necessary even to the top. Relatively short sample problems will often suffice to illustrate this important point; it is not necessary to construct an operating system for this purpose.
  • The detailed elaborations on the development of even a short program form a long story, indicating that careful programming is not a trivial subject. If this paper has helped to dispel the widespread belief that programming is easy as long as the programming language is powerful enough and the available computer is fast enough, then it has achieved one of its purposes.

See also

Glossary Lifecycle model
Glossary Lifecycle processes
Glossary Lifecycle processes product
Glossary Software Lifecycle (SLC)
Glossary Software Lifecycle Model (SLCM)

Publications on Stepwise Refinement

GDPA Online Last Updated 06.May.2002 Updated by Webmaster Last Revised 06.May.2002 Revised by Webmaster