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Creating Use Case Diagrams

  • March 14, 2003
  • By Mandar Chitnis, Pravin Tiwari, & Lakshmi Ananthamurthy
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Relationships in UML Use Cases

UML use cases share different kinds of relationships. A relationship between two use cases is basically a dependency between the two use cases. Defining a relationship between two use cases is the decision of the modeler of the use case diagram. This reuse of an existing use case using different types of relationships reduces the overall effort required in defining use cases in a system. A similar reuse established using relationships, will be apparent in the other UML diagrams as well. Use case relationships can be one of the following:

  • Include: When a use case is depicted as using the functionality of another use case in a diagram, this relationship between the use cases is named as an include relationship. Literally speaking, in an include relationship, a use case includes the functionality described in the another use case as a part of its business process flow. An include relationship is depicted with a directed arrow having a dotted shaft. The tip of the arrowhead points to the parent use case and the child use case is connected at the base of the arrow. The stereotype "<<include>>" identifies the relationship as an include relationship.

     

    Figure 3.4: an example of an include relationship

    For example, in Figure 3.4, you can see that the functionality defined by the "Validate patient records" use case is contained within the "Make appointment" use case. Hence, whenever the "Make appointment" use case executes, the business steps defined in the "Validate patient records" use case are also executed.

     

  • Extend: In an extend relationship between two use cases, the child use case adds to the existing functionality and characteristics of the parent use case. An extend relationship is depicted with a directed arrow having a dotted shaft, similar to the include relationship. The tip of the arrowhead points to the parent use case and the child use case is connected at the base of the arrow. The stereotype "<<extend>>" identifies the relationship as an extend relationship, as shown in Figure 3.5.

    Figure 3.5: an example of an extend relationship

    Figure 3.5 shows an example of an extend relationship between the "Perform medical tests" (parent) and "Perform Pathological Tests" (child) use cases. The "Perform Pathological Tests" use case enhances the functionality of the "Perform medical tests" use case. Essentially, the "Perform Pathological Tests" use case is a specialized version of the generic "Perform medical tests" use case.

     

  • Generalizations: A generalization relationship is also a parent-child relationship between use cases. The child use case in the generalization relationship has the underlying business process meaning, but is an enhancement of the parent use case. In a use case diagram, generalization is shown as a directed arrow with a triangle arrowhead (see Figure 3.6). The child use case is connected at the base of the arrow. The tip of the arrow is connected to the parent use case.

     

    Figure 3.6: an example of a generalization relationship

On the face of it, both generalizations and extends appear to be more or less similar. But there is a subtle difference between a generalization relationship and an extend relationship. When you establish a generalization relationship between use cases, this implies that the parent use case can be replaced by the child use case without breaking the business flow. On the other hand, an extend relationship between use cases implies that the child use case enhances the functionality of the parent use case into a specialized functionality. The parent use case in an extend relationship cannot be replaced by the child use case.

An example should help you understand things better. From the diagram of a generalization relationship (refer to Figure 3.6), you can see that "Store patient records (paper file)" (parent) use case is depicted as a generalized version of the "Store patient records (computerized file)" (child) use case. Defining a generalization relationship between the two implies that you can replace any occurrence of the "Store patient records (paper file)" use case in the business flow of your system with the "Store patient records (computerized file)" use case without impacting any business flow. This would mean that in future you might choose to store patient records in a computerized file instead of as paper documents without impacting other business actions.

Now, if you had defined this as an extend relationship between the two use cases, this would imply that the "Store patient records (computerized file)" use case is a specialized version of the "Store patient records (paper file)" use case. Hence, you would not be able to seamlessly replace the occurrence of the "Store patient records (paper file)" use case with the "Store patient records (computerized file)" use case.





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