Studying high impact fix-inducing changes

Ayse Tosun Misirli, Emad Shihab, Yasukata Kamei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


As software systems continue to play an important role in our daily lives, their quality is of paramount importance. Therefore, a plethora of prior research has focused on predicting components of software that are defect-prone. One aspect of this research focuses on predicting software changes that are fix-inducing. Although the prior research on fix-inducing changes has many advantages in terms of highly accurate results, it has one main drawback: It gives the same level of impact to all fix-inducing changes. We argue that treating all fix-inducing changes the same is not ideal, since a small typo in a change is easier to address by a developer than a thread synchronization issue. Therefore, in this paper, we study high impact fix-inducing changes (HIFCs). Since the impact of a change can be measured in different ways, we first propose a measure of impact of the fix-inducing changes, which takes into account the implementation work that needs to be done by developers in later (fixing) changes. Our measure of impact for a fix-inducing change uses the amount of churn, the number of files and the number of subsystems modified by developers during an associated fix of the fix-inducing change. We perform our study using six large open source projects to build specialized models that identify HIFCs, determine the best indicators of HIFCs and examine the benefits of prioritizing HIFCs. Using change factors, we are able to predict 56 % to 77 % of HIFCs with an average false alarm (misclassification) rate of 16 %. We find that the lines of code added, the number of developers who worked on a change, and the number of prior modifications on the files modified during a change are the best indicators of HIFCs. Lastly, we observe that a specialized model for HIFCs can provide inspection effort savings of 4 % over the state-of-the-art models. We believe our results would help practitioners prioritize their efforts towards the most impactful fix-inducing changes and save inspection effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-641
Number of pages37
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software


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