Understanding large-scale software-a hierarchical view

Omer Levy, Dror Feitelson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Program comprehension accounts for a large portion of software development costs and effort. The academic literature contains research on program comprehension of short code snippets, but comprehension at the system level is no less important. We claim that comprehending a software system is a distinct activity that differs from code comprehension. We interview experienced developers, architects, and managers in the software industry and open-source community, to uncover the meaning of program comprehension at the system level. The interviews demonstrate, among other things, that system comprehension is detached from code and programming language, and includes scope that is not captured in the code. It focuses on the structure of the system and less on the code itself. This is a continuous, iterative process, which mixes white-box and black-box approaches at different layers of the system, and combines both bottom-up and top-down comprehension strategies.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2019 IEEE/ACM 27th International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2019
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781728115191
StatePublished - May 2019
Event27th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2019 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 25 May 2019 → …

Publication series

NameIEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension


Conference27th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Program Comprehension, ICPC 2019
Period25/05/19 → …

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 IEEE.


  • Architecture
  • Black box
  • Bottom up
  • Design
  • Documentation
  • Interview
  • Large scale software
  • Program comprehension
  • Source code
  • System comprehension
  • Top Down
  • White box


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