Searching and Skimming: An Exploratory Study

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Executive Summary

Source code search is an important activity for programmers working on a change task to a software system. As part of a larger project to improve tool support for finding information in source code, the authors conducted a formative study in which programmers were asked to perform corrective tasks to a system they were initially unfamiliar with. Their analysis focused specifically on how programmers decide what to search for, and how they decide which results are relevant to their task. Based on their analysis, they present five observations about their participant's approach to finding information and some of the challenges they faced. They also discuss the implications these observations have for the design of source code search tools.

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