Giuseppe Scanniello – Dealing with Faults in Source Code: Abbreviated vs. Full-Word Identifier Names

If we are trying to understand (faults in) a software system, often source code is the only thing we can inspect, as documentation is missing. Giuseppe tries to determine the impact of identifier names on comprehension with the goal of fault detection and fixing. More specific, he is comparing full-word identifiers with abbreviations. For the same system, Giuseppe first removed all comments and then created two versions, one with full names and one with abbreviations (by using the Babel dictionary) Then, he seeded the system with faults.

In a controlled experiment, he compared the performance of one group of student participants on of the system with full names and on the system with abbreviations in a within-participants counterbalanced experimental design. The compared the time needed, the number of faults found and the number of faults fixed.


Based on these results, the authors cannot find a significant difference between the two groups.

It is interesting to see a paper with “non-results” and these results are particularly interesting, because it falsifies the common sense that there should be a difference between full names and abbreviations.

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