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Studying the advancement in debugging practice of professional software developers

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In 1997, Henry Lieberman stated that debugging is the dirty little secret of computer science. Since then, several promising debugging technologies have been developed such as back-in-time debuggers and automatic fault localization methods. However, the last study about the state-of-the-art in debugging is still more than 15 years old and so it is not clear whether these new approaches have been applied in practice or not. For that reason, we investigate the current state of debugging in a comprehensive study. First, we review the available literature and learn about current approaches and study results. Second, we observe several professional developers while debugging and interview them about their experiences. Third, we create a questionnaire that serves as the basis for a larger online debugging survey. Based on these results, we present new insights into debugging practice that help to suggest new directions for future research.

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  1. The Pearson coefficient can be used to find linear relations between numeric variables. Values between \(-1\) and 1 indicate how well the actual relation can be approximated by a linear function (Pearson 1895).

  2. As early results of the survey have shown a large number of parallel behavioral bugs, we added it as a new choice that was not represented in Eisenstadt’s original version.

  3. A χ 2 test can be used for any kind of discretely categorized data with a large number of samples in each category. A large value indicates dependence and a low independence (Pearson 1900).


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Perscheid, M., Siegmund, B., Taeumel, M. et al. Studying the advancement in debugging practice of professional software developers. Software Qual J 25, 83–110 (2017).

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