Verbal effects of visual programs: Information type, structure and error in program summaries

Judith Good, Jon Oberlander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Superficially similar diagrammatic notations used in visual programming languages can reflect very different underlying paradigms. We have been analysing systematic differences between the verbal summaries of computer programs produced by groups of students using languages based on either control flow or data flow paradigms. The study builds on Pennington's approach to information types in program summaries, developing a slightly more ramified set of information types. Using this framework, we gathered, annotated and analysed a small corpus of 80 summaries. A simple, covering set of discourse relations emerges from the date; the resulting characterisation of the groups' discourses can be used to show that control flow subjects exhibit relatively unvaried levels of abstraction in their summaries, compared with data flow subjects. The patterns of error in the program summaries can also be classified, and the groups again exhibit distinctive behaviour. A strong relationship between error and abstraction patterns indicates that difference in the paradigms and notations used in visual program have systematic effects on people's mental representations and subsequent communicative behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-134
Number of pages15
JournalDocument Design
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • discourse structure
  • error types
  • flowcharts
  • program summaries
  • visual programming languages


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