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Prior to performing a software change task, developers must discover and understand the subset of the system relevant to the task. Since the behavior exhibited by individual developers when investigating a software system is influenced by intuition, experience, and skill, there is often significant variability in developer effectiveness. To understand the factors that contribute to effective program investigation behavior, we conducted a study of five developers performing a change task on a medium-size open source system. We isolated the factors related to effective program investigation behavior by performing a detailed qualitative analysis of the program investigation behavior of successful and unsuccessful developers. We report on these factors as a set of detailed observations, such as evidence of the phenomenon of inattention blindness by developers skimming source code. In general, our results support the intuitive notion that a methodical and structured approach to program investigation is the most effective.
Software evolution, empirical software engineering, program investigation, program understanding.
Gail C. Murphy, Martin P. Robillard, Wesley Coelho, "How Effective Developers Investigate Source Code: An Exploratory Study", IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 30, no. , pp. 889-903, December 2004, doi:10.1109/TSE.2004.101
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