Application Domain Knowledge and Programmers’ Mental Representations

Application Domain Knowledge and Programmers’
Mental Representations
Despite the fact that the application domain is regarded as critical to software
development, previous research investigating software development has focused on the
implementation domain or computing element. To investigate the role of application knowledge
in computer program comprehension and enhancement, 24 information systems professionals
studied and enhanced computer programs from two different application domains: one familiar,
one unfamiliar.
In a familiar application domain, programmers developed a more accurate mental
representation of a computer program across four different knowledge categories. Hence, it
appears that application domain familiarity helps programmers develop all aspects of their mental
representation, rather than just certain types of knowledge. The results of this study demonstrate
that application domain knowledge is an important element in programmers' ability to
comprehend computer programs.