A semiotic analysis of unified modeling language graphical notations

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Journal / PublicationRequirements Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


Unified modeling language (UML) is the standard modeling language for object-oriented system development. Despite its status as a standard, UML has a fuzzy formal specification and a weak theoretical foundation. Semiotics, the study of signs, provides a good theoretical foundation for UML research because graphical notations (or visual signs) of UML are subjected to the principles of signs. In our research, we use semiotics to study the effectiveness of graphical notations in UML. We hypothesized that the use of iconic signs as UML graphical notations leads to representation that is more accurately interpreted and that arouses fewer connotations than the use of symbolic signs. An open-ended survey was used to test these hypotheses. The results support our propositions that iconic UML graphical notations are more accurately interpreted by subjects and that the number of connotations is lower for iconic UML graphical notations than for symbolic UML graphical notations. The results have both theoretical and practical significance. This study illustrates the usefulness of using semiotics as a theoretical underpinning in analyzing, evaluating, and comparing graphical notations for modeling constructs. The results of this research also suggest ways and means of enhancing the graphical notations of UML modeling constructs. © Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008.

Research Area(s)

  • Graphical notations, Modeling methods, Semiotics, Systems analysis and design, Unified modeling language

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