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An Empirical Study of Plan-Based Representations of Pascal and Fortran Code.
RUTGERS - THE STATE UNIV NEW BRUNSWICK NJ COGNITION AND COMPUTING LAB
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The first step in program modification is comprehension. Several researchers have argued recently that programmers utilize a plan-based representation when composing or comprehending program code. In a series of studies we are testing the psychological validity of this proposal and examining the nature of plan-based program representations. Here we report the results of our first study in which programmers segmented code and sorted programs. The segmenting data showed the programmers agree on the major components of a program and that these components are defined by goals in a plan representation. Pascal and Fortran programs that employ the same plan structures were segmented into similar components. These components were labelled with similar subgoal descriptions. The majority of subgoals described were abstract, with few being task-specific. Program sorting data also shows clustering into plan groups, however some secondary dimensions, like the type of data used in Pascal programs, may also be important parts of program representation. Keywords Man computer interface Software psychology.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE