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Applying Program Comprehension Techniques to
Improve Software Inspections
by Lionel E. Deimel and
Stan Rifkin

Software inspections are a popular method of examining code to uncover defects, what ordinary people would call mistakes. An inspection involves a group of computer professionals inspecting code line-by-line. The process is always highly structured, though there are many different conventions for providing that structure. One might say that the theory behind inspections is based on the observation by Yogi Berra that “you can observe a lot by just watching.” Debugging software is difficult and time-consuming, and it is hoped that inspections will identify problems before code is actually run.

Inspections do not come free, of course. Assigning a group of professionals to an inspection team costs money, and the activity is not always popular with the participants. More worrisome, however, is the fact that inspections are not always as effective as we would like them to be.

Stan Rifkiin—Stan and I are both alumni of Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute—had an opportunity to test whether providing instruction to software professionals actually improved their ability to understand code and find defects in it. Although our joint paper (citation) hardly proves that this approach will always produce desirable results, it suggests that program comprehension instruction is indeed useful.



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— LED, 4/17/2023

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