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Leveraging the Wisdom of the Crowd in Software Testing by Mukesh Sharma and Rajini Padmanaban; ISBN 9781482254488
Software Testing: A Craftsman's Approach, Fourth Edition by Paul C. Jorgensen; ISBN 9781466560680
Secure and Resilient Software: Requirements, Test Cases, and Testing Methods by Mark S. Merkow and Lakshmikanth Raghavan; ISBN 9781439866214
How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing by Matthew Heusser and Govind Kulkarni; ISBN 9781439861554
Testing Complex and Embedded Systems by Kim H. Pries and Jon M. Quigley; ISBN 9781439821404

Overview of Software Testing Techniques

By William Lewis

Software testing, as a separate process, witnessed vertical growth and received the attention of project stakeholders and business sponsors in the last decade. Various new techniques have been continuously introduced. Many companies specialize in a particular type such as automated testing from Inflectra. Apart from the traditional testing techniques, various new techniques necessitated by the complicated business and development logic were realized to make software testing more meaningful and purposeful. This part discusses some of the popular testing techniques that have been adopted by the testing community. These techniques are

  • Black-Box Testing (Functional)
  • White-Box Testing (Structural)
  • Gray-Box Testing (Functional and Structural)
  • Manual versus Automated Testing
  • Static versus Dynamic Testing

Black-Box Testing (Functional)
In black-box, or functional testing, test conditions are developed on the basis of the program or system's functionality; that is, the tester requires information about the input data and observed output, but does not know how the program or system works. Just as one does not have to know how a car works internally to drive it, it is not necessary to know the internal structure of a program to execute it.

The tester focuses on testing the program's functionality against the specification. With black-box testing, the tester views the program as a black box and is completely unconcerned with the internal structure of the program or system. Some examples in this category include decision tables, equivalence partitioning, range testing, boundary value testing, database integrity testing, cause-effect graphing, orthogonal array testing, array and table testing, exception testing, limit testing, and random testing.

A major advantage of black-box testing is that the tests are geared to what the program or system is supposed to do, which is natural and understood by everyone. This should be verified with techniques such as structured walkthroughs, inspections, and joint application designs (JADs). A limitation is that exhaustive input testing is not achievable, because this requires that every possible input condition or combination be tested. In addition, because there is no knowledge of the internal structure or logic, there could be errors or deliberate mischief on the part of a programmer that may not be detectable with black-box testing. For example, suppose a payroll programmer wants to insert some job security into a payroll application he is developing. By inserting the following extra code into the application, if the employee were to be terminated, that is, his employee ID no longer existed in the system, justice would sooner or later prevail:

if my employee ID exists
deposit regular pay check into my bank account
else
deposit an enormous amount of money into my bank account
erase any possible financial audit trails
erase this code

White-Box Testing (Structural)
In white-box, or structural testing, test conditions are designed by examining paths of logic. The tester examines the internal structure of the program or system. Test data is driven by examining the logic of the program or system, without concern for the program or system requirements. The tester knows the internal program structure and logic, just as a car mechanic knows the inner workings of an automobile. Specific examples in this category include basis path analysis, statement coverage, branch coverage, condition coverage, and branch/condition coverage.

An advantage of white-box testing is that it is thorough and focuses on the produced code. Because there is knowledge of the internal structure or logic, errors or deliberate mischief on the part of a programmer has a higher probability of being detected. One disadvantage of white-box testing is that it does not verify that the specifications are correct; that is, it focuses only on the internal logic and does not verify the conformance of the logic to the specification. Another disadvantage is that there is no way to detect missing paths and data-sensitive errors. For example, if the statement in a program should be coded "if |a-b| < 10" but is coded "if (a-b) < 1," this would not be detectable without specification details. A final disadvantage is that white-box testing cannot execute all possible logic paths through a program because this would entail an astronomically large number of tests.

Gray-Box Testing (Functional and Structural)
Black-box testing focuses on the program's functionality against the specification. White-box testing focuses on the paths of logic. Gray-box testing is a combination of black- and white-box testing. The tester studies the requirements specifications and communicates with the developer to understand the internal structure of the system. The motivation is to clear up ambiguous specifications and "read between the lines" to design implied tests. One example of the use of gray-box testing is when it appears to the tester that a certain functionality seems to be reused throughout an application. If the tester communicates with the developer and understands the internal design and architecture, many tests will be eliminated, because it may be possible to test the functionality only once. Another example is when the syntax of a command consists of seven possible parameters that can be entered in any order, as follows:

Command parm1, parm2, parm3, parm4, parm5, parm6, parm7

In theory, a tester would have to create 7!, or 5040 tests. The problem is compounded further if some of the parameters are optional. If the tester uses gray-box testing, by talking with the developer and understanding the parser algorithm, if each parameter is independent, only seven tests may be required.

Manual versus Automated Testing
The basis of the manual testing categorization is that it is not typically carried out by people and it is not implemented on the computer. Examples include structured walkthroughs, inspections, JADs, and desk checking.

The basis of the automated testing categorization is that it is implemented on the computer. Examples include boundary value testing, branch coverage testing, prototyping, and syntax testing. Syntax testing is performed by a language compiler, and the compiler is a program that executes on a computer.

Static versus Dynamic Testing
Static testing approaches are time independent and are classified in this way because they do not necessarily involve either manual or automated execution of the product being tested. Examples include syntax checking, structured walkthroughs, and inspections. An inspection of a program occurs against a source code listing in which each code line is read line by line and discussed. An example of static testing using the computer is a static flow analysis tool, which investigates another program for errors without executing the program. It analyzes the other program's control and data flow to discover problems such as references to a variable that has not been initialized, and unreachable code.

Dynamic testing techniques are time dependent and involve executing a specific sequence of instructions on paper or by the computer. Examples include structured walkthroughs, in which the program logic is simulated by walking through the code and verbally describing it. Boundary testing is a dynamic testing technique that requires the execution of test cases on the computer with a specific focus on the boundary values associated with the inputs or outputs of the program.

Taxonomy of Software Testing Techniques
A testing technique is a set of interrelated procedures that, together, produce a test deliverable. There are many possible classification schemes for software testing, and Table 1 describes one way. The table reviews formal popular testing techniques and also classifies each per the foregoing discussion as manual, automated, static, dynamic, functional (black-box), or structural (white-box). Table 2 describes each of the software testing methods.


About the Author

Software Testing and Continuous Quality Improvement, Third Edition From Software Testing and Continuous Quality Improvement, Third Edition by William Lewis, New York: Auerbach Publications, 2009.

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