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The Choice of Code Review Process: A Survey on the State of the Practice

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Product-Focused Software Process Improvement (PROFES 2017)


Code review has been known to be an effective quality assurance technique for decades. In the last years, industrial code review practices were observed to converge towards “change-based/modern code review”, but with a lot of variation in the details of the processes. Recent research also proposed hypotheses on factors that influence the choice of process. However, all current research in this area is based on small and largely non-random samples of cases. Therefore, we set out to assess the current state of the practice and to test some of these hypotheses with a survey among commercial software development teams. We received responses from 240 teams. They support many of the stated hypotheses, e.g., that change-based code review is the dominating style of code review in the industry, and that teams doing change-based code review have a lower risk that review use fades away. However, other hypotheses could not be confirmed, mainly that the balance of effects a team tries to reach with code reviews acts as a mediator in determining the details of the review process. Apart from these findings, we contribute the survey data set as a foundation for future research.

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  1. 1.

    Also called “modern code review”, “differential code review” or “patch review” in other publications.

  2. 2.

    More precisely, 240 respondents answered at least the questions about being part of the target population and about their team’s review use, which were the only obligatory questions in the survey.

  3. 3.

    The remaining 15 did not answer this question. Unless otherwise noted, we only include respondents that answered the respective questions in our analyses; consequently, the total sum of respondents will differ between analyses.

  4. 4.

    This number is likely biased, see Sect. 5.

  5. 5.

    I.e. we did not check every possible combination, but only those where the prior research gave reason to expect an influence.

  6. 6.

    The numbers are not fully comparable: Rigby and Bird looked at the actual number of reviewers in a large sample of reviews, whereas we asked our participants for the usual number of reviewers in a review.

  7. 7.

    A weakness in the used questionnaire is that there was no explicit “We do not use any tool” choice available. Therefore, the distinction between non-response and non-use of tools cannot be reliably made.


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The authors would like to thank all pre-testers and all participants of the survey for the time and effort they donated. We would further like to thank Philipp Diebold and Paul Clarke for providing questions from their surveys for reuse.

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Correspondence to Tobias Baum .

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Baum, T., Leßmann, H., Schneider, K. (2017). The Choice of Code Review Process: A Survey on the State of the Practice. In: Felderer, M., Méndez Fernández, D., Turhan, B., Kalinowski, M., Sarro, F., Winkler, D. (eds) Product-Focused Software Process Improvement. PROFES 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 10611. Springer, Cham.

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