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Studies on Reading Techniques

Studies on Reading Techniques,Victor Basili,Gianluigi Caldiera,Filippo Lanubile,Forrest Shull

Studies on Reading Techniques   (Citations: 30)
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Software reading is a key technical activity that aims at achieving whatever degree of understanding is needed to accomplish a particular objective. The various work documents associated with software development (e.g., requirements, design, code, and test plans) often require continual understanding, review and modification throughout the development life cycle. Thus software reading, i.e., the individual analysis of textual software work products, is the core activity in many software engineering tasks: verification and validation, maintenance, evolution, and reuse. Through our work in the SEL, we have evolved our understanding of reading technologies via experimentation. We have run empirical studies ranging from blocked subject-project experiments (reading by step-wise abstraction vs. functional and structural testing (Basili,Selby87)) to replicated projects (University of Maryland Cleanroom study (Selby,Basili,Baker87)) to a case study (the first SEL Cleanroom study) to multi-project variation (the set of SEL Cleanroom projects (Basili,Green94)) and most recently, back to blocked subject-project experiments (scenario-based reading vs. current reading (Basili,Green, Laitenberger,Lanubile,Shull,Soerumgaard,Zelkowitz96), (Porter,Votta,Basili95)). We have used a variety of experimental designs to provide insight into the effects of different variables on reading. The experiments are based upon the ideas that reading is a key technical activity for improving the analysis of all kinds of software documents and that we need to better understand its effect. We believe these studies demonstrate the evolution of knowledge about reading, experimentation, and the packaging of experimental results over time. Several of these experiments have been replicated by other researchers. To provide a technological base to software reading, we attempt to develop specific reading techniques, made up of a concrete set of instructions which are given to the reader on how to read or what to look for in a software work product. Our current research efforts focus on the development of families of reading techniques, based on empirical evaluation. Each family of reading techniques can be parameterized for use in different contexts and must be evaluated for those contexts. The taxonomy of reading families is shown in Figure 1. The upper part of the tree (over the dashed horizontal line) models the problems that can be addressed by reading. Each level represents a further specialization of the problem according to classification attributes which are shown in the rightmost column of the figure. For example, reading (technology) can be applied for analysis (high level goal), more specifically to detect faults (specific goal) in a requirements specification (document) which are written in English (notation/form). The lower part of the tree, (below the dashed horizontal line) models the specific solutions we have provided to date for the particular problems, represented by each path down the tree. The solution space consists of reading families and reading techniques. Each family is associated with a particular goal, document or software artifact, and notation in which the document is written. Each technique within the family is: (1) tailorable, based upon the project and environment characteristics; (2) detailed, in that it provides the reader with a well-defined set of steps to follow; (3) specific, in that the reader has a particular purpose or goal for reading the document and the procedures that support the goal; (4) focused, in that it provides a particular coverage of the document, and a combination of techniques in the family provides coverage of the entire document. Finally each technique is being studied empirically to determine if and when it is most effective.
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