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During maintenance developers cannot read the entire code of large systems. They need a way to get a quick understanding of source code entities (such as, classes, methods, packages, etc.), so they can efficiently identify and then focus on the ones related to their task at hand. Sometimes reading just a method header or a class name does not tell enough about its purpose and meaning, while reading the entire implementation takes too long. We study a solution which mitigates the two approaches, i.e., short and accurate textual descriptions that illustrate the software entities without having to read the details of the implementation. We create such descriptions using techniques from automatic text summarization. The paper presents a study that investigates the suitability of various such techniques for generating source code summaries. The results indicate that a combination of text summarization techniques is most appropriate for source code summarization and that developers generally agree with the summaries produced.
Date of Conference: 13-16 Oct. 2010