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Project: Analyzing progression of question difficulty for SQL questions on Stack Overflow


SQL is difficult to use effectively, and creates many errors. Error types and frequency in SQL have been analyzed by various researchers, such as Ahadi, Prior, Behbood and Lister, and Taipalus and Siponen.

One method of problem solving that computer scientists apply is posting their questions online. One of the most accessible platforms for computer scientists is Stack Overflow. From the questions posted on this platform, we should be able to gather information on SQL usage and errors.

In this project you will examine how StackOverflow users progress in their knowledge by identifying and analyzing sequences of questions on SQL.

Various additional research questions are available:

  • What types of errors do we find on StackOverflow (syntax, semantic, complications)
  • Do users progress from one type of questions to another?
  • Is there an effect of previous knowledge on the types of questions asked by the user?
  • Etcetera.

With the results of your work, we can learn more about how people learn to use SQL. This information can help understand the types of errors of SQL users of different experience levels. As such, it can help us teach SQL more effectively.

Further reading:
  • Ahadi, A., Prior, J., Behbood, V., & Lister, R. (2015). A Quantitative Study of the Relative Difficulty for Novices of Writing Seven Different Types of SQL Queries. Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, 201–206. pdf
  • Taipalus, T., & Siponen, M. (2018). Errors and Complications in SQL Query Formulation. ACM Transactions on Computing Education, 18(3). pdf
Bert Wijnhoven
George Fletcher
Secondary supervisor
Daphne Miedema