Understanding the Role of Use Cases in UML: A Review and Research Agenda

Understanding the Role of Use Cases in UML: A Review and Research Agenda

Brian Dobing (University of Lethbridge, Canada) and Jeffrey Parsons (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada)
Copyright: © 2000 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/jdm.2000100103
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Abstract

A use case is a description of a sequence of actions constituting a complete task or transaction in an application. Use cases were first proposed by Jacobson (1987) and have since been incorporated as one of the key modeling constructs in UML (Booch, Jacobson, & Rumbaugh, 1999) and the Unified Software Development Process (Jacobson, Booch, & Rumbaugh, 1999). This paper traces the development of use cases, and identifies a number of problems with both their application and theoretical underpinnings. From an application perspective, the use case concept is marked by a high degree of variety in the level of abstraction versus implementation detail advocated by various authors. In addition, use cases are promoted as a primary mechanism for identifying objects in an application, even though they focus on processes rather than objects. Moreover, there is an apparent inconsistency between the so-called naturalness of object models and the commonly held view that use cases should be the primary means of communicating and verifying requirements with users. From a theoretical standpoint, the introduction of implementation issues in use cases can be seen as prematurely anchoring the analysis to particular implementation decisions. In addition, the fragmentation of objects across use cases creates conceptual difficulties in developing a comprehensive class model from a set of use cases. Moreover, the role of categorization in human thinking suggests that class models may serve directly as a good mechanism for communicating and verifying application requirements with users. We conclude by outlining a framework for further empirical research to resolve issues raised in our analysis.

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