For in-class activities of this week, we learned about modeling with UML class diagram. There were many important elements to compose a class, such as properties, operations, and association. However, my team got stuck at the “association” section, we could not clearly distinguish the different types of relationships between two classes, especially the relationship named have-a. Therefore, I thought it was a good opportunity for myself to learn more about the term “association”.
There are many articles and blogs analyzing about different types of relationships between classes. However, many of them look very complicated with a long list of different relationship types and some are very confusing. Fortunately, I found this article, entitled Association, Composition and Aggregation in Java, which finally satisfied my curiosity about “association”, because the content of this article is focused only into the definition of “association” and the analysis of its types which are aggregation and composition.
There are some key points that I have taken away after reading the article. First, association represents a relationship between two classes, depending on each situation, association can be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, and many-to-many. Second, association has two special forms, which are aggregation and composition.
For aggregation, this term is also known as has-a relationship (a weak association), which is one way relationship and each entity of the relationship can exist independently. The author also provides a simple example to describe those characteristics of aggregation, which is an Institute has-a Department, and Department has-a Student. This is one way relationship because a department can have students, but vice versa is impossible. Moreover, if the Department class is removed, the Student class can still exist independently.
For composition, this is the part-of relationship (a strong association), and the two entities are dependent to each other, which means a class (child) cannot exist without the existing of another class (parent). For this definition, the author gives an example of Book and Library, Book is part-of Library. So, if Library class is removed, Book class cannot exist. In my opinion, this example does not make sense to the part-of relationship because I think Book still can exist without Library. Therefore, I have looked for other resources to find a good example for composition. UML Association vs Aggregation vs Composition is a good resource to provide real-life examples for each conception. Like the first article, this one also focuses on the analysis of the term “association” and its two special types, aggregation and composition. According to the article, I got an example that Head, Hand, Leg are part-of Person. Thus, if Person class is removed, Head, Hand and Leg classes cannot exist. For myself, this is a perfect example to describe the term composition.
In short, I have learned a lot of information and had a clear understanding about the term “association” from the two articles recommended above. I will apply this knowledge to design relationships between classes in my UML diagrams. Moreover, I believe the articles that I choose are good resources because their content is clearly organized with good examples. In other words, I would say the two articles complement each other, so it is good if readers can pull out the best parts from each article and be able to combine them consistently.