|Title||Comprehending spreadsheets: Which strategies do users apply?|
|Authors||Karin Hodnigg, Christian Macho, Martin Pinzger, & Dietmar Jannach|
|Publication||International Conference on Program Comprehension (ICPC 2021)|
Spreadsheets are a ubiquitous means of communication and decision making, and adequate comprehension is required for reading, interpretation as well as maintenance. Despite being around for forty years, only selected aspects of comprehension were studied, mainly focusing on error detection and correction, and largely disregarding a more holistic view on spreadsheet comprehension processes.
In this paper, we provide the first steps towards a deeper understanding of how users approach comprehension through a user study. In this study, we tasked eight spreadsheet users to describe their thought processes while trying to familiarize themselves with a real-world spreadsheet. The transcripts of these eight think-aloud studies were then used to identify 16 comprehension indicators validated by three experts. With these categories, we set out to qualitatively identify frequent comprehension patterns that the participants applied to understand spreadsheets.
Although the comprehension process is highly individual, we could identify frequently occurring patterns, such as assumptions can imply consolidations and realizations, and realizations often happen before contradictions. The results of this work can be used to design better tools that assist users in comprehending spreadsheets.
From studying sentences in the transcripts, 16 comprehension indicators were identified: