Yi Li bio photo

Yi Li

Associate Professor

College of Computing and Data Science (CCDS)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Address: Block N4-02b-63
50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798
Phone: +65 6790 4287

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A Meta-Study of Software-Change Intentions

Jacob Krüger, Yi Li, Kirill Lossev, Chenguang Zhu, Marsha Chechik, Thorsten Berger, and Julia Rubin

ACM Computing Surveys, 2024

Abstract: Every software system undergoes changes, for example, to add new features, fix bugs, or refactor code. The importance of understanding software changes has been widely recognized, resulting in various techniques and studies, for instance, on change-impact analysis or classifying developers’ activities. Since changes are triggered by developers’ intentions—something they plan or want to change in the system, many researchers have studied intentions behind changes. While there appears to be a consensus among software-engineering researchers and practitioners that knowing the intentions behind software changes is important, it is not clear how developers can actually benefit from this knowledge. In fact, there is no consolidated, recent overview of the state-of-the-art on software-change intentions (SCIs) and their relevance for software engineering. We present a meta-study of 122 publications, which we used to derive a categorization of SCIs; and to discuss motivations, evidence, and techniques relating to SCIs. Unfortunately, we found that individual pieces of research are often disconnected from each other because a common understanding is missing. Similarly, some publications showcase the potential of knowing SCIs, but more substantial research to understand the practical benefits of knowing SCIs is needed. Our contributions can help researchers and practitioners improve their understanding of SCIs and how SCIs can aid software engineering tasks.


  author = {Kr{\"u}ger, Jacob and Li, Yi and Lossev, Kirill and Zhu, Chenguang and Chechik, Marsha and Berger, Thorsten and Rubin, Julia},
  journal = {ACM Computing Surveys},
  title = {A Meta-Study of Software-Change Intentions},
  year = {2024}