Is a picture worth a thousand words? A comparative analysis of using textual and graphical approaches to specify use cases

Elizamary Nascimento, Williamson Silva, Tayana Conte, Igor Steinmacher, Jobson Massollar, Guilherme Horta Travassos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Use cases specifications are artifacts employed in all stages of software development, from the requirements elicitation to implementation. During this process, issues related to ambiguity, redundancy, inconsistency, and incompleteness can affect these specifications. These issues can harm software engineers’ understanding and, consequently, affect the software quality. Given this context, this paper describes an empirical study to evaluate two different use cases specifications approaches (textual and graphical-based forms). We compared the approaches by assessing the degree of correctness and the time spent to generate the specifications. In addition, we performed an analysis focusing on evaluating the ease of use and usefulness of each approach. The quantitative results showed that textual form and graphical-based specifications presented similar levels of correctness and the time spent to generate them were also similar. The qualitative results indicated that the subjects had difficulties using both approaches; however, subjects stated that graphic-based specifications were easier and more useful to specify use cases.

Original languagePortuguese
Title of host publicationProceedings - SBES 2016
Subtitle of host publication30th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering
EditorsEduardo Santanda de Almeida
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781450342018
StatePublished - Sep 19 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event30th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2016 - Maringa, Brazil
Duration: Sep 19 2016Sep 23 2016

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference30th Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering, SBES 2016


  • Empirical study
  • UML
  • Use cases specifications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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