A survey of self-admitted technical debt

Giancarlo Sierra, Emad Shihab, Yasutaka Kamei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Technical Debt is a metaphor used to express sub-optimal source code implementations that are introduced for short-term benefits that often need to be paid back later, at an increased cost. In recent years, various empirical studies have focused on investigating source code comments that indicate Technical Debt often referred to as Self-Admitted Technical Debt (SATD). Since the introduction of SATD as a concept, an increasing number of studies have examined various aspects pertaining to SATD. Therefore, in this paper we survey research work on SATD, analyzing the characteristics of current approaches and techniques for SATD detection, comprehension, and repayment. To motivate the submission of novel and improved work, we compile tools, resources, and data sets made available to replicate or extend current SATD research. To set the stage for future work, we identify open challenges in the study of SATD, areas that are missing investigation, and discuss potential future research avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture


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