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Understanding object-oriented source code from the behavioural perspective

Walkinshaw, N. and Roper, M. and Wood, M. (2005) Understanding object-oriented source code from the behavioural perspective. In: Proceedings of the 13th International Workshop on Program Comprehension (IWPC'05). IWPC, USA. ISBN 0-7695-2254-8

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Comprehension is a key activity that underpins a variety of software maintenance and engineering tasks. The task of understanding object-oriented systems is hampered by the fact that the code segments that are related to a user-level function tend to be distributed across the system. We introduce a tool-supported code extraction technique that addresses this issue. Given a minimal amount of information about a behavioural element of the system that is of interest (such as a use-case), it extracts a trail of the methods (and method invocations) through the system that are needed in order to achieve an understanding of the implementation of the element of interest. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach by implementing it as part of a code extraction tool, presenting a case study and evaluating the approach and tool against a set of established criteria for program comprehension tools.