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On Evaluating Test Techniques in an Industrial Setting



Publication Type:

Licentiate Thesis


Mälardalen University, Sweden


Testing is a costly and an important activity in the software industry today. The systems are becoming more complex and the amount of code is constantly increasing. The majority of systems need to rely on its testing to show that it works, is reliable, and performs according to user expectations and specifications. Testing is performed in a multitude of ways, using different test approaches. How testing is conducted becomes essential, when time is limited, since exhaustive testing is not an option in large complex systems, Therefore, the design of the individual test case – and what part and aspect of the system it exercises, is the main focus of testing. Not only do we need to create, and execute test cases efficiently, but we also want them to expose important faults in the system. This main topic of testing has long been a focus of practitioners in industry, and there exists over 70 test techniques that aim to describe how to design a test case. Unfortunately, despite the industrial needs, research on test techniques are seldom performed in large complex systems. The main purpose of this licentiate thesis is to create an environment and framework where it is possible to evaluate test techniques. Our overall goal is to investigate suitable test techniques for different levels, (e.g. component, integration and system level) and to provide guidelines to industry on what is effective, efficient and applicable to test, based on knowledge of failure-fault distribution in a particular domain. In this thesis, our research has been described through four papers that start from a broad overview of typical industrial systems and arrive at a specific focus on how to set up a controlled experiment in an industrial environment. Our initial paper has stated the status of testing in industry, and aided in identifying specific issues as well as underlined the need for further research. We then made experiments with component test improvements, by simple utilization of known approaches (e.g. static analysis, code reviews and statement coverage). This resulted in a substantial cost-reduction and increased quality, and provided us better understanding of the difficulties in deploying known test techniques in reality, which are described in our second paper. These works lead us to our third paper, which describes the framework and process for evaluating test techniques. The first sub-process in this framework deals with how to prepare the experiment with a known set of faults. We aimed to investigate fault classifications to get a useful set of faults of different types to inject. In addition, we investigated real faults reported in an industrial system, performed controlled experiments, and the results were published in our fourth paper. The main contributions of this Licentiate thesis are the valuable insights in the context of evaluation of test techniques, specifically the problems of creating a useful experiment in an industrial setting, in addition to the survey of the state of practice of software testing in Industry. We want to better understand what needs to be done to create efficient evaluations of test techniques, and secondly what is the relation between faults/failures and test techniques. Though our experiments have not yet been able to create ‘the ultimate’ classification for such an aim, the results indicate the appropriateness of this approach. With these valuable insights, we believe that we will be able to direct our future research, to make better evaluations that have a larger potential to generalize and scale.


author = {Sigrid Eldh},
title = {On Evaluating Test Techniques in an Industrial Setting},
number = {78},
month = {December},
year = {2007},
publisher = {M{\"a}lardalen University, Sweden},
url = {}