Mind Your Language: On Novices’ Interactions with Error Messages

Guillaume Marceau, Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi

SPLASH/Onward!, 2011

Abstract

Error messages are one of the most important tools that a language offers its programmers. For novices, this feedback is especially critical. Error messages typically contain both a textual description of the problem and an indication of where in the code the error occurred. This paper reports on a series of studies that explore beginning students’ interactions with the vocabulary and source-expression highlighting in DrRacket. Our findings demonstrate that the error message significantly fail to convey information accurately to students, while also suggesting alternative designs that might address these problems.

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