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Structured Flowcharts Outperform Pseudocode: An Experimental Comparison
September/October 1989 (vol. 6 no. 5)
pp. 28-36

The author discovered, while teaching a course on data structures, that his students overwhelmingly preferred structured flowcharts over pseudocode for comprehending the algorithms presented. He describes an experiment that he designed to find out if real differences in comprehension exist between structured flowcharts and pseudocode when used to describe conditional logic. He hypothesized that structured flowcharts (1) take less time to comprehend, (2) produce fewer errors in understanding, (3) give students more confidence in their understanding of an algorithm, (4) reduce the time spent answering questions about an algorithm, and (5) reduce the number of times students need to look at an algorithm. These hypotheses were tested on three algorithms of varying complexity. The results strongly indicate that structured flowcharts do indeed aid algorithm comprehension. A large difference was found even for the simplest algorithm.

Index Terms:
pseudocode; experimental comparison; data structures; structured flowcharts; comprehension; conditional logic; algorithm comprehension; flowcharting; human factors
David A. Scanlan, "Structured Flowcharts Outperform Pseudocode: An Experimental Comparison," IEEE Software, vol. 6, no. 5, pp. 28-36, Sept.-Oct. 1989, doi:10.1109/52.35587
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