Object Class or Association Class? Testing the User Effect on Cardinality Interpretation
In UML class diagrams, a many-to-many relationship with attributes can be represented by an association class or by a connecting object class. It is unclear which modeling construct is preferred in particular modeling scenarios. Because of lack of theory, this paper investigates the issue empirically. An experiment was conducted that tested the effect of representational form chosen on the performance of model users at cardinality interpretation tasks. It was shown that, controlling for cardinality knowledge, business users can better interpret the information that a UML class diagram conveys about a many-to-many relationship with attributes if this relationship is represented as an association class. The implication for ‘best practices’ in UML modeling is that modelers should refrain from objectifying such relationships if the goal is an effective communication of domain semantics to users that are not modeling experts.
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