Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Huffman Hayes

Abstract

Every day, ordinary people depend on software working properly. We take it for granted; from banking software, to railroad switching software, to flight control software, to software that controls medical devices such as pacemakers or even gas pumps, our lives are touched by software that we expect to work. It is well known that the main technique/activity used to ensure the quality of software is testing. Often it is the only quality assurance activity undertaken, making it that much more important.

In a typical experiment studying these techniques, a researcher will intentionally seed a fault (intentionally breaking the functionality of some source code) with the hopes that the automated techniques under study will be able to identify the fault's location in the source code. These faults are picked arbitrarily; there is potential for bias in the selection of the faults. Previous researchers have established an ontology for understanding or expressing this bias called fault size. This research captures the fault size ontology in the form of a probabilistic model. The results of applying this model to measure fault size suggest that many faults generated through program mutation (the systematic replacement of source code operators to create faults) are very large and easily found. Secondary measures generated in the assessment of the model suggest a new static analysis method, called testability, for predicting the likelihood that code will contain a fault in the future.

While software testing researchers are not statisticians, they nonetheless make extensive use of statistics in their experiments to assess fault localization techniques. Researchers often select their statistical techniques without justification. This is a very worrisome situation because it can lead to incorrect conclusions about the significance of research. This research introduces an algorithm, MeansTest, which helps automate some aspects of the selection of appropriate statistical techniques. The results of an evaluation of MeansTest suggest that MeansTest performs well relative to its peers. This research then surveys recent work in software testing using MeansTest to evaluate the significance of researchers' work. The results of the survey indicate that software testing researchers are underreporting the significance of their work.

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