Writing Effective Use Cases

This course was designed by Alistair Cockburn to accompany his "Writing Effective Use Cases" book. Pete McBreen is licensed to deliver this course in Canada, for other locations please refer to Alistair's site. This course is intended to give attendees the theory of, and practice in, writing "use cases" for functional requirements of a software system. At least 2/3 of the course time is spent writing and discussing the writing of use cases.

A companion 2 day OO Design course is available from Software Craftsmanship Inc. that uses the same course format as this use case course. It is designed as an follow on the this Writing Effective Use Cases course.

Duration and intended Audience

This is a 2 day course intended for anyone who is faced with gathering the requirements for a software system. Typically from an IT department, but possibly from the human factors group, marketing department, or from a user community.

Goals for Attendees

Course Format

This course is based on continuous group exercises and discussions, rather than the slide-based lecture form frequently encountered in industry courses. In each section of the course a concept gets introduced, the groups do an exercise and discuss, and the entire room discusses their results. In this way, each person gets to participate in both exercises and discussions.

Note. The style of this course is different than most of the other courses offered to date by Software Craftsmanship Inc.. There are no slides, participants learn to write effective use cases by writing and critiquing use cases.

In the first day, we cover topics such as usage narratives, system scope, actors, goal levels, pre- and postconditions, and scenarios. In the second day we work through failure discovery, failure handling and sewing together use cases of different levels.

The topics in the course include:


Several different domains will be used for exercises, for different degrees of difficulty. For each exercise, we shall write, then peer review the writing, and discuss the issues that came up in the writing. There are many aspects of writing use cases in a consistent way that bedevil the writer, and many ways of dealing with those difficulties. Each person will have a chance to develop their own preferences.

Room Setup for in-house courses

The idea room setup is with the chairs grouped around tables (in groups of 4 or 5) set up so that all can see a whiteboard or flip chart at one end or the room. There should also be sufficient wall space so that we can put up flip chart size posters from each of the groups for comparison and review purposes. (Typically using post-it style flip charts or masking tape to hold up the standard flip charts.) The course runs completely without powerpoints so no projection facilities are needed. Participants do not need any computers during the course.