Requirements Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 63–80 | Cite as

Guidelines for using UML association classes and their effect on domain understanding in requirements engineering

  • Palash BeraEmail author
  • Joerg Evermann
Original Article


The analysis and description of the application domain are important parts of the requirements engineering process. Domain descriptions are frequently represented as models in the de-facto standard unified modeling language (UML). Recent research has specified the semantics of various UML language elements for domain modeling, based on ontological considerations. In this paper, we empirically examine ontological modeling guidelines for the UML association construct, which plays a central role in UML class diagrams. Using an experimental study, we find that some, but not all, of the proposed guidelines lead to better application domain models. We use a process-tracing study to investigate in more detail the effects of ontological guidelines. The combined results indicate that ontological guidelines can improve the usefulness of UML class diagrams for describing the application domain, and thus have the potential to improve downstream system development activities and ultimately affect the successful information systems implementation.


UML association class Conceptual model Domain understanding 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Memorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

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