Are models better read on paper or on screen? A comparative study

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Mohamed El-Attar, Zayed University

ORCID Identifiers


Document Type


Source of Publication

Software and Systems Modeling

Publication Date



Is it really better to print everything, including software models, or is it better to view them on screen? With the ever increasing complexity of software systems, software modeling is integral to software development. Software models facilitate and automate many activities during development, such as code and test case generation. However, a core goal of software modeling is to communicate and collaborate. Software models are presented to team members on many mediums and two of the most common mediums are paper and computer screens. Reading from paper or screen is ostensibly considered to have the same effect on model comprehension. However, the literature on text reading has indicated that the reading experiences can be very different which in turn effects various metrics related to reader performance. This paper reports on an experiment that was conducted to investigate the effect of reading software models on paper in comparison with reading them on a computer screen with respect to cognitive effectiveness. Cognitive effectiveness here refers to the ease by which a model reader can read a model. The experiment used a total of 74 software engineering students as subjects. The experiment results provide strong evidence that displaying diagrams on a screen allows subjects to read them quicker. There is also evidence that indicates that on screen viewing induces fewer reading errors.




Springer Nature


Computer Sciences


Paper-based reading, Screen-based reading use case diagrams, Feature diagrams, Student-based experiments, Controlled experiment, Model comprehension, Model representation

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access


Open Access Type

Bronze: This publication is openly available on the publisher’s website but without an open license