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On the diffuseness of technical debt items and accuracy of remediation time when using SonarQube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Article number106377
Number of pages18
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Context. Among the static analysis tools available, SonarQube is one of the most used. SonarQube detects Technical Debt (TD) items—i.e., violations of coding rules—and then estimates TD as the time needed to remedy TD items. However, practitioners are still skeptical about the accuracy of remediation time estimated by the tool. Objective. In this paper, we analyze both diffuseness of TD items and accuracy of remediation time, estimated by SonarQube, to fix TD items on a set of 21 open-source Java projects. Method. We designed and conducted a case study where we asked 81 junior developers to fix TD items and reduce the TD of 21 projects. Results. We observed that TD items are diffused in the analyzed projects and most items are code smells. Moreover, the results point out that the remediation time estimated by SonarQube is inaccurate and, as compared to the actual time spent to fix TD items, is in most cases overestimated. Conclusions. The results of our study are promising for practitioners and researchers. The former can make more aware decisions during project execution and resource management, the latter can use this study as a starting point for improving TD estimation models.


  • Case study, Effort estimation, Remediation time, Sonarqube, Technical debt

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland