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Debugging from the Student Perspective

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IEEE Transactions on Education Volume 53, Number 3, ISSN 0018-9359


Learning to debug is a difficult, yet essential, aspect of learning to program. Students in this multi-institutional study report that finding bugs is harder than fixing them. They use a wide variety of debugging strategies, some of them unexpected. Time spent on understanding the problem can be effective. Pattern matching, particularly at the syntactic level, is an important technique for beginners. The Web has emerged as an obvious first place to look for similar examples. Lack of Web materials at an appropriate beginner level leads to flailing. Hypothesizing about the cause of bugs is an underdeveloped skill. (Contains 3 tables.)


Fitzgerald, S., McCauley, R., Hanks, B., Murphy, L., Simon, B. & Zander, C. (2010). Debugging from the Student Perspective. IEEE Transactions on Education, 53(3), 390-396. Retrieved March 6, 2021 from .

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