Unexpected tokens: A review of programming error messages and design guidelines for the future

Brett A. Becker, Paul Denny, Raymond Pettit, Durell Bouchard, Dennis J. Bouvier, Brian Harrington, Amir Kamil, Amey Karkare, Chris McDonald, Peter Michael Osera, Janice L. Pearce, James Prather

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperConference paper

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Diagnostic messages generated by compilers and interpreters such as syntax error messages have been researched for decades. Unfortunately these messages which include error, warning, and runtime messages, present substantial difficulty and could be more effective, particularly for novices. Recent years have seen increased number of papers in the area including studies on the effectiveness of these messages, improving or enhancing them, and their usefulness as a part of programming process data that can be used to predict student performance. Despite this increased interest, the long history of literature is quite scattered and has not been brought together in any digestible form. We argue that in order to help the community proceed with more work on diagnostic messages, the literature needs to be presented in a state-of-the-art report. In addition we will synthesize and present the existing evidence for these messages including the difficulties they present and their effectiveness. We will also formulate a set of guidelines based on this evidence that can be used when designing or enhancing diagnostic messages. This work can serve as a starting point for those who wish to conduct research on such messages, those who wish to design better messages or those that aim to measure their effectiveness, more effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITiCSE 2019 - Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Pages253-254
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781450363013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Event2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2019 - Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Jul 201917 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE
ISSN (Print)1942-647X

Conference

Conference2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2019
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityAberdeen
Period15/07/1917/07/19

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