AnswerBot: Automated generation of answer summary to developers' technical questions

Bowen Xu, Zhenchang Xing, Xin Xia, David Lo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of questions and answers on domainspecific Q&A sites like Stack Overflow constitutes a core knowledge asset for software engineering domain. Although search engines can return a list of questions relevant to a user query of some technical question, the abundance of relevant posts and the sheer amount of information in them makes it difficult for developers to digest them and find the most needed answers to their questions. In this work, we aim to help developers who want to quickly capture the key points of several answer posts relevant to a technical question before they read the details of the posts. We formulate our task as a query-focused multianswer-posts summarization task for a given technical question. Our proposed approach AnswerBot contains three main steps: 1) relevant question retrieval, 2) useful answer paragraph selection, 3) diverse answer summary generation. To evaluate our approach, we build a repository of 228,817 Java questions and their corresponding answers from Stack Overflow. We conduct user studies with 100 randomly selected Java questions (not in the question repository) to evaluate the quality of the answer summaries generated by our approach, and the effectiveness of its relevant question retrieval and answer paragraph selection components. The user study results demonstrate that answer summaries generated by our approach are relevant, useful and diverse; moreover, the two components are able to effectively retrieve relevant questions and select salient answer paragraphs for summarization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationASE'17
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 32nd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering
EditorsGrigore Rosu, Massimiliano Di Penta, Tien N. Nguyen
Place of PublicationPiscataway NJ USA
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781538626849
ISBN (Print)9781538639764
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventAutomated Software Engineering Conference 2017 - Urbana-Champaign, United States of America
Duration: 30 Oct 20173 Nov 2017
Conference number: 32nd (Automated Software Engineering (ANSE 2017) ) (Proceedings)


ConferenceAutomated Software Engineering Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleASE 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
Internet address


  • question retrieval
  • Summary generation

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