It Will Never Work in Theory

Abbreviated vs. Full-Word Identifier Names

Posted Nov 26, 2017 by Greg Wilson

| Programming Languages |

Giuseppe Scanniello, Michele Risi, Porfirio Tramontana, and Simone Romano: "Fixing Faults in C and Java Source Code: Abbreviated vs. Full-Word Identifier Names". ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology 25(2), October 2017, 10.1145/3104029.

We carried out a family of controlled experiments to investigate whether the use of abbreviated identifier names, with respect to full-word identifier names, affects fault fixing in C and Java source code. This family consists of an original (or baseline) controlled experiment and three replications. We involved 100 participants with different backgrounds and experiences in total. Overall results suggested that there is no difference in terms of effort, effectiveness, and efficiency to fix faults, when source code contains either only abbreviated or only full-word identifier names. We also conducted a qualitative study to understand the values, beliefs, and assumptions that inform and shape fault fixing when identifier names are either abbreviated or full-word. We involved in this qualitative study six professional developers with 1--3 years of work experience. A number of insights emerged from this qualitative study and can be considered a useful complement to the quantitative results from our family of experiments. One of the most interesting insights is that developers, when working on source code with abbreviated identifier names, adopt a more methodical approach to identify and fix faults by extending their focus point and only in a few cases do they expand abbreviated identifiers.
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