Accession Number:

ADA091614

Title:

The Effects of Symbology and Spatial Arrangement on the Comprehension of Software Specifications.

Descriptive Note:

Technical rept.,

Corporate Author:

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO ARLINGTON VA INFORMATION SYSTEMS PROGRAMS

Report Date:

1980-10-01

Pagination or Media Count:

81.0

Abstract:

Seventy-two participants were presented with specifications for each of three modular-sized computer programs. Nine different specification formats were prepared for each program. These formats varied along two dimensions type of symbology and spatial arrangement. The type of symbology included natural language, constrained language PDL, and ideograms flowchart symbols. The spatial arrangement included sequential vertical flow, branching flowchart, and hierarchical tree-like. The participants answered a series of comprehension questions on each program presented interactively on a CRT using only the program specifications. Three types of questions were presented. These included the forward-tracing of conditions to determine the next process to be executed, backward-tracing to determine the conditions which must be satisfied for a process to be executed, and tracing of variable values input-output. Both forward- and backward-tracing questions were answered more quickly from specifications presented in constrained language or ideograms than in natural language. Forward-tracing questions were answered most quickly from a branching arrangement, and backward-tracing questions were answered more quickly from branching and hierarchical arrangements. Response times to the input-output questions did not vary significantly as a function of they type of symbology or the spatial arrangement. These results extend previous research on presentation formats by demonstrating the separate contributions of symbology and spatial arrangement to comprehension. Author

Subject Categories:

  • Computer Programming and Software

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE