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Scents in Programs:Does Information Foraging Theory Apply to Program Maintenance?

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3 Author(s)
Lawrance, J. ; Oregon State Univ., Corvallis ; Bellamy, R. ; Burnett, M.

During maintenance, professional developers generate and test many hypotheses about program behavior, but they also spend much of their time navigating among classes and methods. Little is known, however, about how professional developers navigate source code and the extent to which their hypotheses relate to their navigation. A lack of understanding of these issues is a barrier to tools aiming to reduce the large fraction of time developers spend navigating source code. In this paper, we report on a study that makes use of information foraging theory to investigate how professional developers navigate source code during maintenance. Our results showed that information foraging theory was a significant predictor of the developers' maintenance behavior, and suggest how tools used during maintenance can build upon this result, simply by adding word analysis to their reasoning systems.

Published in:

Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, 2007. VL/HCC 2007. IEEE Symposium on

Date of Conference:

23-27 Sept. 2007