Structured Tools and Conditional Logic: An Empirical Investigation

Iris Vessey, Ron Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Prior research has identified two psychological processes that appear to be used by programmers when they perform design and coding tasks: (a) taxonomizing—identifying the conditions that evoke particular actions; and (b) sequencing—converting the taxa into a linear sequence of program code. Three structured tools—structured English, decision tables, and decision trees—were investigated in a laboratory experiment to determine how they facilitated these two processes. When taxonomizing had to be undertaken, structured English outperformed decision tables, and decision trees outperformed structured English. When sequencing had to be undertaken, decision trees and structured English outperformed decision tables, but decision trees and structured English evoked the same level of performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalCommunications of the ACM
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1986


  • decision tables
  • decision trees
  • empirical evidence
  • minispecs
  • structured analysis tools
  • structured English
  • task complexity

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