UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Path exploration during code navigation Sherwood, Kaitlin Duck


Previous research in computer science shows that developers spend a large fraction of their time navigating through source code. Improving developers’ effectiveness in navigating code thus should yield significant productivity improvements. Pre vious research in a number of fields suggests that a more breadth-first approach to problem solving should be more successful than a more depth-first approach. Unfortunately, modern Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) do not sup port a breadth-first search well because they do not help developers keep track of exploration paths well. We implemented an IDE that allows developers to track different exploration paths more easily, and ran a user study with seven subjects. To our surprise, sub jects used the tool to mark waypoints instead of to facilitate a more breadth-first search. Intrigued, we examined more closely techniques for finding a starting point and for tracing relationships from there. We describe our findings, including com mon difficulties our subjects encountered, and propose a novel tool to reduce in correct search paths.

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