May 12 – 16 , 1997, Dagstuhl Seminar 9720

Practical Methods for Code Documentation and Inspection


E. Börger (Pisa), P. Joannou (Toronto), D. Parnas (Hamilton)

For support, please contact

Dagstuhl Service Team


Dagstuhl-Seminar-Report 178

Goals of this Dagstuhl Seminar

The aim of the workshop was to bring together software engineering researchers from academia and software engineers from industry to discuss the state of the art of methods for code documentation and code inspection with focus on their industrial strength and on their relevance for safety critical software certification.

The work was done through seminar talks (see the abstracts in the Dagstuhl-Seminar-Report), evening working groups and a code inspection session. The discussions were focussed on the properties a documentation and certification method must satisfy to be appropriate for large scale use, on the evaluation of current methods under the aspect of their industrial strength and on future directions for research in this area.

A particular aspect which has been discussed extensively is the role of formal methods for code verification, including the requirement analysis and specification as part of the design process. A related aspect wich has been investigated is the relation between verification and formally supported validation techniques and in particular the relation between mechanical (tool based) techniques and creative aspects of code inspection.

Here are some of the recomendations which grew out of the discussions. ”Active” reviews were recommended. It was recommended that interfaces describe the behavior that can be expected with normal input and with exception cases (noting that nothing can be guaranteed when assumptions are violated). It was recommended to use techniques of paraphrasing the code by the reader and having the reviewers fill out questionaires. These questionnaires prove that the documents have actually been read and are useful for finding the required information. Another interesting idea is to assign the reviewers to look for different specific faults in the document or code based on their skillset and to strip out the comments for the review. Hypertext tools could offer great traceability from requirements to design specs and to the code and test cases.

Below we list the abstracts of the talks which have been delivered during the seminar. We thank Schloiss Dagstuhl for offering hospitality. Thanks also to Luca Mearelli for his help in compiling this report.


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


Download overview leaflet (PDF).

Dagstuhl's Impact

Please inform us when a publication was published as a result from your seminar. These publications are listed in the category Dagstuhl's Impact and are presented on a special shelf on the ground floor of the library.


Furthermore, a comprehensive peer-reviewed collection of research papers can be published in the series Dagstuhl Follow-Ups.