I am looking to write a program analysis for Java programs that tracks assignments and is able to discern:

  • whether a class field (static or not) is read and where the read originated
  • whether a class field (static or not) is written and where the write originated
  • properties of the value that is written: 1) is it a scalar 2) is the result of a composite expression (e.g. arithmetic expression or some other composite expression that involves applying operators to some operands)

This will need some sort of dependency resolution surrounding reads and writes to variables and (time permitting) consider variable aliasing as well.

I have been searching for various phrases that involve keywords "mutation" and "writes" but the results target mutation testing and other things that are not what I am looking for.

What is a technique or a class of techniques that fits these types of analyses and is there a fundamental technique that I can get started with?

  • $\begingroup$ Towards clarification of your question; in your first two points, what do you mean by field? Do you mean variable, or something else more specific? Can you say more about the language you wish to implement an analysis for? $\endgroup$
    – soren-n
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @soren-n I am referring to reads and writes to class fields. The language I intend to work with is Java. $\endgroup$
    – ragnacode
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


There are many techniques, with differing tradeoffs between the precision of the results vs the simplicity and running time of the algorithm.

I suggest looking at class hierarchy analysis (CHA), rapid type analysis (RTA), points-to analysis (e.g., Steensgaard's algorithm, Andersen's algorithm, and more), and more generally, alias analysis. You'll find a gazillion papers on these topics.

Note that in general this is an undecidable problem, so any analysis will output results that are an overapproximation (sound). Also, there are some complicated cases that for engineering reasons most analyses ignore (e.g., reflection).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.