Selection and Presentation Practices for Code Example Summarization

Annie Ying - McGill University - Graduate Seminar Series

Nov. 3, 2014, noon - Nov. 3, 2014, 1 p.m.

MC 103

Code examples are an important source for answering questions about software libraries and applications. Many usage contexts for code examples require them to be distilled to their essence: e.g., when serving as cues to longer documents, or for reminding developers of a previously known idiom. We conducted a study to discover how code can be summarized and why. As part of the study, we collected 156 pairs of code examples and their summaries from 16 participants, along with over 26 hours of think-aloud verbalizations detailing the decisions of the participants during their summarization activities. Based on a qualitative analysis of this data we elicited a list of practices followed by the participants to summarize code examples and propose empirically-supported hypotheses justifying the use of specific practices. One main finding was that none of the participants exclusively extracted code verbatim for the summaries, motivating abstractive summarization. The results provide a grounded basis for the development of code example summarization and presentation technology.