The Art of Debugging: Tips and Tricks for Troubleshooting Code

Debugging code can be one of the most frustrating yet also most thrilling aspects of software development. It's like trying to solve a puzzle, and when you finally figure it out, it feels like a great accomplishment. But until you find the solution, it can feel like you're banging your head against a wall.

As a software engineer, I've spent countless hours debugging code. I've learned some tips and tricks over the years that have helped me become more efficient and effective at troubleshooting. In this article, I'll share some of these tips with you.

Use print statements

One of the most basic debugging techniques is using print statements. These statements allow you to output values at different points in your code to see what's happening. You can print the values of variables, function output, and any other relevant information.

def add(x, y):
    # print the inputs
    print(f"x: {x}, y: {y}")
    result = x + y
    # print the result
    print(f"result: {result}")
    return result

By using print statements throughout your code, you can see where the code is going wrong or where unexpected results are happening. You can also use print statements to see if certain parts of your code are being executed or not.

Use a debugger

Another tool for debugging code is a debugger. Debuggers allow you to step through your code one line at a time, examine variables and their values, and set breakpoints at certain points to pause execution.

Most programming languages come with their own built-in debugger. For example, Python has the pdb module, and JavaScript has the debugger keyword.

import pdb

def add(x, y):
    result = x + y
    return result

When you run this code, it will pause execution at the pdb.set_trace() line. From here, you can step through the code, examine variables, and set breakpoints as needed.

Check input and output values

If your code is not working as expected, it's important to check the input and output values. Are you passing the correct arguments to your functions? Are the functions returning the expected values?

def add(x, y):
    result = x + y
    # check the input and output values
    print(f"add({x}, {y}) = {result}")
    return result

By checking the input and output values, you can quickly identify any issues and narrow down where the problem is occurring.

Use unit tests

Unit tests are another powerful tool for debugging code. Unit tests are automated tests that check that individual functions and modules in your code are working as expected. By writing unit tests, you can catch bugs early on and prevent them from propagating throughout your codebase.

import unittest

class TestAddFunction(unittest.TestCase):
    def test_add(self):
        self.assertEqual(add(1, 1), 2)
        self.assertEqual(add(2, 2), 4)
        self.assertEqual(add(0, 0), 0)

In this example, we've defined a test case for our add() function. We're testing that the function returns the expected result for different input values. When we run this test case, it will automatically run the add() function with the input values we've defined and check that the output values match the expected results.

Read error messages

When your code is not working as expected, it's easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed by error messages. But, error messages can actually be quite helpful in identifying the source of the problem.

Take some time to read the error message carefully. Look for lines that contain information about where the error occurred, what the error type is, and any relevant tracebacks.

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 7, in <module>
    result = divide(10, 0)
  File "", line 3, in divide
    return x / y
ZeroDivisionError: division by zero

In this example, we can see that the error occurred in the divide() function on line 3. The error type is ZeroDivisionError, and the traceback shows us the function call stack.

Take breaks

Debugging can be mentally exhausting. If you've been staring at the same piece of code for hours and can't seem to find a solution, it's important to take a break.

Go for a walk, grab a snack, or do something else for a little while to clear your head. Sometimes stepping away from a problem can help you see it from a different perspective and come up with a solution.

Ask for help

Debugging can be a daunting task, but you don't have to do it alone. Reach out to your colleagues or online forums for help. Chances are, someone else has encountered a similar problem and can offer some insight or advice.

When asking for help, be specific about the problem you're encountering and provide relevant code snippets, error messages, and any other relevant information. The more context you can provide, the easier it will be for others to help you.


Debugging can be a frustrating yet also rewarding aspect of software development. By using print statements, debuggers, checking input and output values, writing unit tests, reading error messages, taking breaks, and asking for help, you can become more efficient and effective at troubleshooting code.

Remember, programming is a skill that takes practice and perseverance. Don't be afraid to tackle difficult problems or ask for help when you need it. With time and experience, you'll become a master at the art of debugging.

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