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Measuring the Comprehensibility of a UML-B Model and a B Model

Authors: Rozilawati Razali, Paul W. Garratt


Software maintenance, which involves making enhancements, modifications and corrections to existing software systems, consumes more than half of developer time. Specification comprehensibility plays an important role in software maintenance as it permits the understanding of the system properties more easily and quickly. The use of formal notation such as B increases a specification-s precision and consistency. However, the notation is regarded as being difficult to comprehend. Semi-formal notation such as the Unified Modelling Language (UML) is perceived as more accessible but it lacks formality. Perhaps by combining both notations could produce a specification that is not only accurate and consistent but also accessible to users. This paper presents an experiment conducted on a model that integrates the use of both UML and B notations, namely UML-B, versus a B model alone. The objective of the experiment was to evaluate the comprehensibility of a UML-B model compared to a traditional B model. The measurement used in the experiment focused on the efficiency in performing the comprehension tasks. The experiment employed a cross-over design and was conducted on forty-one subjects, including undergraduate and masters students. The results show that the notation used in the UML-B model is more comprehensible than the B model.

Keywords: Model comprehensibility, formal and semi-formal notation, empirical assessment

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