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This is an archived syllabus from 2015-2016

COMP33812 Software Evolution syllabus 2015-2016

COMP33812 Software Evolution

Level 3
Credits: 10
Enrolled students: 73

Course leader: Andy Carpenter

Additional staff: view all staff


  • Pre-Requisite (Compulsory): COMP23420

Additional requirements

  • Students who are not from the School of Computer Science must have permission from both Computer Science and their home School to enrol.

Assessment methods

  • 70% Written exam
  • 30% Coursework
Sem 2 Lecture 1.4 Tue 13:00 - 14:00 -
Sem 2 Lecture 1.4 Mon 12:00 - 13:00 -
Themes to which this unit belongs
  • Agile Methods


This course unit continues the Agile Methods theme by focusing on the challenges not of creating new systems from scratch, but of evolving systems that already exist.

It has been observed that 80p of every pound spent on software development is spent on maintenance of existing systems. In real life, most software engineers spend their time either helping software systems to continue to meet the needs of their users, or adapting them to meet changing needs. Even new applications are typically constructed by combining existing components and database systems new software.

Similarly, downstream in agile development projects, new functionality must be implemented in the context of existing development, some of which may have been deployed to the customer and which must continue to deliver business value through the new development.


This course unit aims to make students aware of the challenges inherent in the evolution of existing systems, especially when they are in constant use, and to provide a working understanding of some of the techniques and best practices currently known for changing existing bodies of software safely.



Motivation for and overview of the course unit. Outlines the challenges inherent in software evolution, based on a case study from real life. Change as a fact of life for software systems.

System Comprehension

Introduction to techniques for understanding software systems built by others. Recognising common architectural patterns. Code reading techniques for program comprehension, including bottom-up reading (based on idioms) and top-down reading (based on abstractions).

System Evolution

Techniques for evolutionary design in the small: refactoring. Techniques for large-scale evolutionary design, especially evolution of legacy systems. Architectural patterns for isolation/exposure of change.

Black-Box and Open Source Components

How are external components integrated into systems? How does the evolution of the componets and the host system interrelate?


Are there ways in which some of the problems/complexity of software evolution can be avoided in the future?

Teaching methods


22 hours (in 11 2 hour sessions)

Feedback methods

Coursework with numeric and written feedback

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam (2 hours)
  • Lectures (24 hours)

Employability skills

  • Problem solving

Learning outcomes

Programme outcomeUnit learning outcomesAssessment
A2 A4Have an understanding of the importance of taking a long term view of software development at all stages in the software life cycle.
  • Examination
A2 A4Understand the factors that make change of existing systems both technically challenging and risky, and the processes required to control change.
  • Examination
B1 B3Be able to apply standard tools and techniques for program comprehension, in order to quickly gain an understanding of an unfamiliar software system.
  • Examination
  • Individual coursework
A2 A4Be aware of some of the techniques and tools used to assist in the modification of code, including debugging, impact analysis and refactoring.
  • Examination
A2 A4 B1 B3Have a knowledge and understanding of the specific problems inherent in the maintenance and evolution of legacy software systems, and be able to apply some of the techniques that can be of use in comprehending and changing them.
  • Examination
  • Individual coursework
A2 A4 B1 B3Have a knowledge and understanding of the specific challenges inherent in the maintenance and evolution of data-intensive systems, and be able to apply some of the techniques that can be of use in comprehending and changing them.
  • Examination
A2 A4 B1 B3Have a knowledge and understanding of the specific problems inherent in the maintenance and evolution of package-based software systems, and be able to apply techniques for designing change-resistant systems from pre-packaged code.
  • Examination
B1 B3Be able to make appropriate choices regarding the tools and techniques to apply to software evolution problems, trading off costs and limitations against the expected benefits.
  • Examination

Reading list

Software engineering: a practitioner`s approach (8th edition)Pressman, Roger S.9781259253157McGraw-Hill2014
Reverse engineering and software maintenance: a practical approachLano, Kevin and Howard Houghton0077078977McGraw-Hill1993
Software evolutionMens, Tom and Serge Demeyer (eds.).9783642095290Springer2010
Software engineering (10th edition)Sommerville, Ian9781292096131Addison-Wesley2015
Software maintenance: concepts and practice (2nd edition)Grubb, Penny and Armstrong A. Takang9789812384263World Scientific2003

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.