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Insert Title Here: Investigating the communication of placeholders and placeholder-characters in code examples in the programming trade.
Jönköping University, School of Engineering, JTH. Research area Computer Science and Informatics.
2017 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

To improve the communication between programming instructors and learners; placeholders, placeholder-characters and placeholder characteristics are investigated via two focus groups. One focus group with instructors, the other with learners. The combined and analyzed results show that placeholder-characters can confuse more than they help, more often for programming beginners. The semantics of a placeholder is the most crucial part of understanding its purpose and strengthens its characteristics. A placeholder using a different letter case from the surrounding code is easier to differentiate and find in a block of code. 

Abstract [en]

Summary

The study’s purpose is:

To find out if digital characters could improve the communication between programming instructors and learners by standardizing the implication “placeholder” or “replace this”. What characteristics could be used to communicate placeholders?

To answer the purpose, it has been broken down into two research questions.

  1. What opinions do programming instructors and learners have about using placeholder-characters to improve the communication between them?

  2. What characteristics could a placeholder have to better communicate its purpose?

To answer the research questions, two focus groups were held. One with instructors and one with learners. They are then asked to discuss placeholders, placeholder- characters and their characteristics. Later transcribed, categorized and analyzed into findings that are discussed and concluded upon.

The participants mostly believed that placeholder-characters can confuse more than they are able to help, more often the case for beginners. That the placeholder’s semantics of the label is crucial for understanding the purpose of it. Using a different letter-casing for placeholders could make it easier to find and understand that it deviates from the rest of the code in the concerned code example, preferably “SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE”. A placeholder-character is considered viable to use as a global standard if it complies with the following five requirements:

  • It is universally used (A standard).

  • Available easily (found on any keyboard).

  • Shows what and what not to replace (keep quotation marks).

  • Is understood by programming-software (displayed and compiled correctly).

  • Not used for other purposes in coding already (has another implication).

Otherwise it is not considered supposable for implementation. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. , p. 27
Keywords [en]
Placeholder, placeholder-character, code example, semantics, communication, programming
National Category
Computer and Information Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-36738ISRN: JU-JTH-IKA-1-20170053OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-36738DiVA, id: diva2:1127633
Subject / course
JTH, Informatics
Presentation
2017-05-31, E2326, Gjuterigatan 5, Jönköping, 10:00 (English)
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2017-08-09 Created: 2017-07-18 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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