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Software can be considered a live entity, as it undergoes many alterations throughout its lifecycle. Furthermore, developers do not usually retain a good design in favor of adding new features, comply with requirements or meet deadlines. For these reasons, code can become rather complex and difficult to understand. More particularly in object-oriented systems, classes may become very large and less cohesive. In order to identify such problematic cases, existing approaches have proposed the use of cohesion metrics. However, while metrics can identify classes with low cohesion, they cannot identify new or independent concepts. Moreover, these methods require a lot of human interpretation to identify the respective design flaws. In this paper, we propose a class decomposition method using an agglomerative clustering algorithm based on the Jaccard distance between class members. Our methodology is able to identify new concepts and rank the solutions according to their impact on the design quality of the system. Finally, our method has been evaluated by two independent designers who were asked to comment on the suggestions produced by our technique on their projects. The designers provided feedback on the ability of the method to identify new concepts and improve the design quality of the system in terms of cohesion.
Date of Conference: 20-26 Sept. 2009