Self-admitted technical debt in R: detection and causes




Sharma, Rishab
Shahbazi, Ramin
Fard, Fatemeh H.
Codabux, Zadia
Vidoni, Melina

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Springer US


Self-Admitted Technical Debt (SATD) is primarily studied in Object-Oriented (OO) languages and traditionally commercial software. However, scientifc software coded in dynamically-typed languages such as R difers in paradigm, and the source code comments’ semantics are diferent (i.e., more aligned with algorithms and statistics when compared to traditional software). Additionally, many Software Engineering topics are understudied in scientifc software development, with SATD detection remaining a challenge for this domain. This gap adds complexity since prior works determined SATD in scientifc software does not adjust to many of the keywords identifed for OO SATD, possibly hindering its automated detection. Therefore, we investigated how classifcation models (traditional machine learning, deep neural networks, and deep neural Pre-Trained Language Models (PTMs)) automatically detect SATD in R packages. This study aims to study the capabilities of these models to classify diferent TD types in this domain and manually analyze the causes of each in a representative sample. Our results show that PTMs (i.e., RoBERTa) outperform other models and work well when the number of comments labelled as a particular SATD type has low occurrences. We also found that some SATD types are more challenging to detect. We manually identifed sixteen causes, including eight new causes detected by our study. The most common cause was failure to remember, in agreement with previous studies. These fndings will help the R package authors automatically identify SATD in their source code and improve their code quality. In the future, checklists for R developers can also be developed by scientifc communities such as rOpenSci to guarantee a higher quality of packages before submission



Self-admitted technical debt, R packages, Machine learning, Deep learning, Deep neural pre-trained language models



Automated Software Engineering


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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License



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