Software & Systems Modeling

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 537–553 | Cite as

A visual language for modeling and executing traceability queries

  • Patrick Mäder
  • Jane Cleland-Huang
Special Section Paper


Current software and systems engineering tools provide only basic trace features, and as a result users are often compelled to construct non-trivial traceability queries using generic query languages such as SQL. In this paper, we present an alternative approach which defines traceability strategies for a project using UML class diagrams and then constructs trace queries as constraints upon subsets of the model. The visual trace modeling language (VTML) allows users to model a broad range of trace queries while hiding underlying technical details and data structures. The viability and expressiveness of VTML for use in a real project are demonstrated through modeling a broadly representative set of queries for a web-based health-care system. It is then evaluated through an experiment with human users to assess the readability and writability of VTML queries in comparison to generic SQL queries. We found that users read and constructed traceability queries considerably faster using VTML than using SQL. Furthermore, visually constructed traceability queries were substantially more correct compared to the same queries constructed with SQL.


Visual traceability queries Requirements traceability Visual query language Traceability information model (TIM) 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DePaul UniversityChicagoUSA

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