Improving novice analyst performance in modeling the sequence diagram in systems analysis: A cognitive complexity approach

Thant Sin, Florida International University


The Unified Modeling Language (UML) has quickly become the industry standard for object-oriented software development. It is being widely used in organizations and institutions around the world. However, UML is often found to be too complex for novice systems analysts. Although prior research has identified difficulties novice analysts encounter in learning UML, no viable solution has been proposed to address these difficulties. Sequence-diagram modeling, in particular, has largely been overlooked. The sequence diagram models the behavioral aspects of an object-oriented software system in terms of interactions among its building blocks, i.e. objects and classes. It is one of the most commonly-used UML diagrams in practice. However, there has been little research on sequence-diagram modeling. The current literature scarcely provides effective guidelines for developing a sequence diagram. Such guidelines will be greatly beneficial to novice analysts who, unlike experienced systems analysts, do not possess relevant prior experience to easily learn how to develop a sequence diagram. There is the need for an effective sequence-diagram modeling technique for novices. This dissertation reports a research study that identified novice difficulties in modeling a sequence diagram and proposed a technique called CHOP (CHunking, Ordering, Patterning), which was designed to reduce the cognitive load by addressing the cognitive complexity of sequence-diagram modeling. The CHOP technique was evaluated in a controlled experiment against a technique recommended in a well-known textbook, which was found to be representative of approaches provided in many textbooks as well as practitioner literatures. The results indicated that novice analysts were able to perform better using the CHOP technique. This outcome seems have been enabled by pattern-based heuristics provided by the technique. Meanwhile, novice analysts rated the CHOP technique more useful although not significantly easier to use than the control technique. The study established that the CHOP technique is an effective sequence-diagram modeling technique for novice analysts.

Subject Area

Computer science

Recommended Citation

Sin, Thant, "Improving novice analyst performance in modeling the sequence diagram in systems analysis: A cognitive complexity approach" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3393518.