Information Needs in Contemporary Code Review

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
376 Downloads (Pure)


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. Preprint []. Data and
Materials [].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalACM Proceedings on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
EventCSCW 2018: The 21st ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing - New York City's Hudson River (Jersey City), New Jersey, United States
Duration: 3 Nov 20187 Nov 2018
Conference number: 21

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 642954
Accepted author manuscript


  • code review
  • information needs
  • mining software repositories


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