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Do Comments follow Commenting Conventions? A Case Study in Java and Python

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Author Rani Pooja, Abukar Suada, Stulova Nataliia, Bergel Alexander, Nierstrasz Oscar,
Project Agile Software Assistance
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings 2021 IEEE 21st International Working Conference on Source Code Analysis and Manipulation (SCAM)
DOI 10.1109/scam52516.2021.00028

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Assessing code comment quality is known to be a difficult problem. A number of coding style guidelines have been created with the aim to encourage writing of informative, readable, and consistent comments. However, it is not clear from the research to date which specific aspects of comments the guidelines cover (e.g., syntax, content, structure). Furthermore, the extent to which developers follow these guidelines while writing code comments is unknown. We analyze various style guidelines in Java and Python and uncover that the majority of them address more the content aspect of the comments rather than syntax or formatting, but when considering the different types of information developers embed in comments and the concerns they raise on various online platforms about the commenting practices, existing comment conventions are not yet specified clearly enough, nor do they adequately cover important concerns. Our results highlight the mismatch between developer commenting practices and style guidelines, and provide several focal points for the design and improvement of comment quality checking tools.