Measuring the internal quality of source code is one of the traditional goals of making software development into an engineering discipline. Cyclomatic Complexity (CC) is an often used source code quality metric, next to Source Lines of Code (SLOC). However, the use of the CC metric is challenged by the repeated claim that CC is redundant with respect to SLOC due to strong linear correlation.

We test this claim by studying a corpus of 17.8M methods in 13K open-source Java projects. Our results show that direct linear correlation between SLOC and CC is only moderate, as caused by high variance. We observe that aggregating CC and SLOC over larger units of code improves the correlation, which explains reported results of strong linear correlation in literature. We suggest that the primary cause of correlation is the aggregation.

Our conclusion is that there is no strong linear correlation between CC and SLOC of Java methods, so we do not conclude that CC is redundant with SLOC. This conclusion contradicts earlier claims from literature, but concurs with the widely accepted practice of measuring of CC next to SLOC.

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IEEE Computer Society
L.M.F. Moonen (Leon) , L. Pollock
Domain Specific Languages: A Big Future for Small Programs
IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution
Software Analysis and Transformation

Landman, D., Vinju, J., & Serebrenik, A. (2014). Empirical analysis of the relationship between CC and SLOC in a large corpus of Java methods. In L. Moonen & L. Pollock (Eds.), Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution 2014 (pp. 221–230). IEEE Computer Society.