Preprint Open Access

Information Needs in Contemporary Code Review

Luca Pascarella; Davide Spadini; Fabio Palomba; Magiel Bruntink; Alberto Bacchelli

Contemporary code review is a widespread practice used by software engineers to maintain high software quality and share project knowledge. However, conducting proper code review takes time and developers often have limited time for review. In this paper, we aim at investigating the information that reviewers need to conduct a proper code review, to better understand this process and how research and tool support can make developers become more effective and efficient reviewers. Previous work has provided evidence that a successful code review process is one in which reviewers and authors actively participate and collaborate. In these cases, the threads of discussions that are saved by code review tools are a precious source of information that can be later exploited for research and practice. In this paper, we focus on this source of information as a way to gather reliable data on the aforementioned reviewers' needs. We manually analyze 900 code review comments from three large open-source projects and organize them in categories by means of a card sort. Our results highlight the presence of seven high-level information needs, such as knowing the uses of methods and variables declared/modified in the code under review. Based on these results we suggest ways in which future code review tools can better support collaboration and the reviewing task.

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