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Experimental Comparison of the Comprehensibility of a UML-based Formal Specification versus a Textual One

Experimental Comparison of the Comprehensibility of a UML-based Formal Specification versus a Textual One
Experimental Comparison of the Comprehensibility of a UML-based Formal Specification versus a Textual One
The primary objective of software specification is to promote understanding of the system properties between stakeholders. Specification comprehensibility is essential particularly during software validation and maintenance as it permits the understanding of the system properties more easily and quickly prior to the required tasks. Formal notation such as B increases a specification’s precision and consistency. However, the notation is regarded as being difficult to comprehend due to its unfamiliar symbols and rules of interpretation. Semi-formal notation such as the Unified Modelling Language (UML) is perceived as more accessible but it cannot be verified systematically to ensure a specification’s accuracy. Integrating the UML and B could perhaps produce an accurate and approachable specification. This paper presents an experimental comparison of the comprehensibility of a UML-based graphical formal specification versus a purely textual formal specification. The measurement focused on the efficiency in performing the comprehension tasks. The experiment employed a cross-over design and was conducted on forty-one third-year and masters students. The results show that the integration of semi-formal and formal notations expedites the subjects’ comprehension tasks with accuracy even with limited hours of training.
Notation comprehensibility, semi-formal and formal notations, empirical assessment
1-11
Razali, R
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Snook, C. F.
b2055316-9f7a-4b31-8aa1-be0710046af2
Poppleton, M. R.
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Garratt, P. W.
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Walters, R. J.
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Kitchenham, B
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Brereton, P
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Turner, M
3eaf332e-b356-4167-8a7d-152c63689050
Razali, R
4edbb956-0e94-4def-ab45-037707e40d47
Snook, C. F.
b2055316-9f7a-4b31-8aa1-be0710046af2
Poppleton, M. R.
4c60e63f-188c-4636-98b9-de8a42789b1b
Garratt, P. W.
949a7e95-1648-47e6-85a0-a526dfa98f8e
Walters, R. J.
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Kitchenham, B
0ee3b128-0e5d-4ca0-ae2b-61e4a3be67b6
Brereton, P
a02ae7bf-994d-48bd-ab52-d4545beef03e
Turner, M
3eaf332e-b356-4167-8a7d-152c63689050

Razali, R, Snook, C. F., Poppleton, M. R., Garratt, P. W. and Walters, R. J., (2007) Experimental Comparison of the Comprehensibility of a UML-based Formal Specification versus a Textual One Kitchenham, B, Brereton, P and Turner, M (eds.) At 11th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE'07), United Kingdom. 02 - 03 Apr 2007. , pp. 1-11.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)

Abstract

The primary objective of software specification is to promote understanding of the system properties between stakeholders. Specification comprehensibility is essential particularly during software validation and maintenance as it permits the understanding of the system properties more easily and quickly prior to the required tasks. Formal notation such as B increases a specification’s precision and consistency. However, the notation is regarded as being difficult to comprehend due to its unfamiliar symbols and rules of interpretation. Semi-formal notation such as the Unified Modelling Language (UML) is perceived as more accessible but it cannot be verified systematically to ensure a specification’s accuracy. Integrating the UML and B could perhaps produce an accurate and approachable specification. This paper presents an experimental comparison of the comprehensibility of a UML-based graphical formal specification versus a purely textual formal specification. The measurement focused on the efficiency in performing the comprehension tasks. The experiment employed a cross-over design and was conducted on forty-one third-year and masters students. The results show that the integration of semi-formal and formal notations expedites the subjects’ comprehension tasks with accuracy even with limited hours of training.

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More information

Published date: 2007
Additional Information: Event Dates: 2-3 April 2007
Venue - Dates: 11th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE'07), United Kingdom, 2007-04-02 - 2007-04-03
Keywords: Notation comprehensibility, semi-formal and formal notations, empirical assessment
Organisations: Electronic & Software Systems

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 263323
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/263323
PURE UUID: a9a1d8ac-ccf7-459c-bff2-58189b67608a
ORCID for C. F. Snook: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0210-0983

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 16 Jul 2007
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 07:46

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Contributors

Author: R Razali
Author: C. F. Snook ORCID iD
Author: M. R. Poppleton
Author: P. W. Garratt
Author: R. J. Walters
Editor: B Kitchenham
Editor: P Brereton
Editor: M Turner

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