The University of Edinburgh -
Division of Informatics
Forrest Hill & 80 South Bridge

Research Paper #772

Title:The 'Right' Tool for the Task: an Investigation of External Representations, Program Abstractions and Task Requirements
Date:Sep 1995
Presented:To appear in the Proceedings of ESP'96 - Empirical Studies of Programmers - Sixth Workshop
Keywords:program abstractions, graphical representations
Abstract:The pilot study described in this paper considers the utility of diverse types of graphical representations of programs for use by novices when reasoning about the program's behaviour and/or states. The study tests the hypothesis of information congruency: i.e. that performance on a task improves when the type of information highlighted in a given representation is congruent with the information required by the task. it also looks at the effect of differing presentation type on performance, and the interaction between information congruency and presentation type. Finally, it presents a qualitative analysis of the types of strategies used and the misunderstandings which occur when attempting to navigate through the diagram. The results of this preliminary study tend not to support the information congruency hypothesis and seem to suggest that other factors are at work. Likewise, although there is a trend for presentation to affect performance, the results are not conclusive. The general outcome of the study suggests the need for a more formal analysis of the processes involved in reasoning over data flow and control flow representations.

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