Developer Reading Behavior while Summarizing Java Methods : Size and Context Matters
An eye-tracking study of 18 developers reading and summarizing Java methods is presented. The developers provide a written summary for methods assigned to them. In total, 63 methods are used from five different systems. Previous studies on this topic use only short methods presented in isolation usually as images. In contrast, this work presents the study in the Eclipse IDE allowing access to all the source code in the system. The developer can navigate via scrolling and switching files while writing the summary. New eye-tracking infrastructure allows for this improvement in the study environment. Data collected includes eye gazes on source code, written summaries, and time to complete each summary. Unlike prior work that concluded developers focus on the signature the most, these results indicate that they tend to focus on the method body more than the signature. Moreover, both experts and novices tend to revisit control flow terms rather than reading them for a long period. They also spend a significant amount of gaze time and have higher gaze visits when they read call terms. Statistical evidence was found that experts tend to revisit the body of the method more frequently than its signature as the size of the method increases. Moreover, experts tend to write their summaries from source-code lines that they read the most.