Acceptance Criteria – Definition

Cite this article as:"Acceptance Criteria – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated February 21, 2019, last accessed October 29, 2020,


Acceptance Criteria Definition

Acceptance criteria is a set of pre-established requirements or standards that a project or product must meet. It comprises of sentences structured to encourage a definite accepted or rejected response which establish both practical and non-practical requirements.

A Little More on What is Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance criteria define what needs to happen to finish an Agile user story. A user story describes the goal a user should be able to accomplish when using a company’s website, software, or application. Often stories get written in this format: As an [subscriber] I want [action] so that [goal].

For example: As a Netflix subscriber, I want to be able to save titles of interesting movies so that I can remember to watch them later.

Following the Agile process, which is a specific approach to project management used in software development, the development team goes over different user stories in a meeting. The acceptance criteria define how far a user story can go and upon satisfying the requirements, the acceptance criteria confirm when a story finishes and is functioning as desired. The acceptance criteria for the above example might include:

  • There is an option on the screen that allows the user to select the desired movie to save.
  • Only selected movies will get stored for review later.
  • The user has a section in the profile to view saved movies.
  • A movie deletes from the list once viewed.

Acceptance criteria are written in simple language, in the same manner the user is written. The development teams shows they’ve satisfied each of the requirements when presenting the functionality to the product owner, who for the purpose of development, represents the actual user when the product is finished and made available.

By using acceptance criteria as an integral part of user stories, developers get to see how a feature or function will work from the perspective of the user. Also, uncertainty is removed from requirements because with the criteria the feature or function gets tests to confirm its complete and working.

References for Acceptance Criteria


Academic Research for Acceptance Criteria

  • Analyses of an agile methodology implementation, Ilieva, S., Ivanov, P., & Stefanova, E. (2004, September). Proceedings of the 30th EUROMICRO Conference. This paper discusses how in recent years agile methodologies have become the response to developing software and present an agile approach for software creation of e-business applications. The procedure is named eXPERT and applies to small teams that must deal with tight schedules, rapid requirement changes, and high quality demands. The paper describes a case study in which a software development company implemented the eXPERT approach.
  • Adapting usability investigations for agile user-centered design, Sy, D. (2007). Journal of usability Studies, 2(3), 112-132. Sy had an interface design that needed testing data, which would require usability tests and interviews in a controlled environment and the field within the Agile framework. By choosing to use the Agile development process of user-centered design practices, better-designed products were generated. With the Agile approach of communicating, the process of discovering usability problems and acting on those issues didnā€™t have such a huge separation from each other, which allowed the author to make the appropriate changes to the product.
  • The effects of perceived risk and technology type on users’ acceptance of technologies, Im, I., Kim, Y., & Han, H. J. (2008). Information & Management, 45(1), 1-9. Former research regarding technology adoption do not come to a consensus on the extent of the effects of perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness. Im, Kim, and Han believe the reason the studies disagree is that variables were not controlled. The authors investigate four possible ā€œmoderatingā€ variables in technology adoption, which include gender, technology type, perceived risk, and user experience. The investigation included 161 participants. Of the four controlled variables, only user experience had borderline significance after various errors were removed from the results, the other variables showed significance.
  • Acceptance criteria for using individualā€based models to make management decisions, Ā Bart, J. (1995). Ecological applications, 5(2), 411-420. Bart believes that the reliability of individual-based population models, which allows each to have different attributes, is not properly understood and for the most part overestimated. The author suggests guidelines for evaluation of individual-based models. Two major aspects of the suggestions were providing a model description and approximations of the reliability of its predictions. Reliability should be analyzed at four levels, which are parameter values, secondary and primary predictions of the model, and fundamental assumptions. The author presents “best” and “worst-case” examples, so there is not only one conclusion or projection.
  • User involvement in the systems design process-a practical guide for users, Damodaran, L. (1996). Behaviour & information technology, 15(6), 363-377. There’s a rise if the participation of users in IT design projects who regularly are unclear about what’s expected. Users acknowledge that they are not experts in computing and it concerns them. Damodaran believes there needs to be a framework to support user involvement and instructs on how to develop one. Ā The author uses personal experience as credibility for guidance offered in the paper, as Damodaran has been involved in design processes for different industries, which include footwear, a UK government department, and broadcasting and telecommunications.
  • Public participation methods: a framework for evaluation, Rowe, G., & Frewer, L. J. (2000). Science, technology, & human values, 25(1), 3-29. More and more the need for public involvement in creating science and technology policy is coming up. There are different procedures in place for consulting the public and getting them involved, including consensus conferences and public hearings. Rowe and Frewer believe there is insufficient research as to the quality of these democratic methods and there is a lack of adequate benchmarks to evaluate them. The authors suggest determining what parts of the process are desirable and then assess the quality of those aspects. They specify their idea for evaluation using acceptance criteria and process criteria, which deals with the elements of the process responsible for making sure public participation effectively takes place.
  • From comparative risk assessment to multi-criteria decision analysis and adaptive management: Recent developments and applications, Linkov, I., Satterstrom, F. K., Kiker, G., Batchelor, C., Bridges, T., & Ferguson, E. (2006). Environment International, 32(8), 1072-1093. Comparative risk assessment has been used to support environmental decision-making, and it doesn’t have a structured way to come up with the best alternative. The authors present a general decision-making design which groups mutli-criteria decision analysis with adaptive management methods along with public participation and stakeholder value extraction methods. Then the paper studies how the synthesized decision framework applies to the contamination issues in the New York/New Jersey Harbor.
  • Integrating environmental criteria into the supplier selection process, Humphreys, P. K., Wong, Y. K., & Chan, F. T. S. (2003). Journal of Materials processing technology, 138(1-3), 349-356. This paper addresses how most large companies are starting to consider a suppliersā€™ environmental performance and environmental issues as a whole due to environmental pressure increasing. The authors present a decision support tool that includes environmental criteria, and they develop a framework for the selection process that uses environmental performance.
  • On the use of risk acceptance criteria in the offshore oil and gas industry, Aven, T., & Vinnem, J. E. (2005). Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 90(1), 15-24. Aven and Vinnem present in this paper a risk analysis management that does not involve risk acceptance criteria, which has been used for over 20 years because many think that risk assessments and analyses cannot be done without them. The authors believe that instead of using risk acceptance criteria, that the dominant way of thinking should be along the lines of cost-effectiveness, which is closer to the “as low as reasonably practicable” principle in managing safety-involved systems.
  • On the consistency of risk acceptance criteria with normative theories for decision-making, Abrahamsen, E. B., & Aven, T. (2008). Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 93(12), 1906-1910. This paper discusses how itā€™s common practice to use risk acceptance criteria to support decision-making when evaluating project safety. The authors show that risk acceptance criteria actually goes against rational decision-making when itā€™s necessary to decide between two alternatives.
  • Multi criteria decision making approaches for green supplier evaluation and selection: a literature review, Govindan, K., Rajendran, S., Sarkis, J., & Murugesan, P. (2015). Journal of Cleaner Production, 98, 66-83. This paper questions the criteria used for green supplier management and selection. The authors acknowledge that the most common requirement for selection was environmental management systems. They also review and address the gaps in current literature about the process of green supplier selection.

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