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Abstract

During the last three decades several hundred papers have been published on the broad topic of “program comprehension”. The goal was always the same: to develop models and tools to help developers with program understanding during program maintenance. However few authors targeted the more fundamental question: “what is program understanding” or, other words, proposed a model of program understanding. Then we reviewed the proposed program understanding models. We found the papers to be classifiable in three period of time in accordance with the following three subtopics: the process, the tools and the goals. Interestingly, studying the fundamental goal came after the tools. We conclude by highlighting that it is required to go back to the fundamental question to have any chance to develop effective tools to help with program understanding which is the most costly part of program maintenance.

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