Understanding the Logic of System Testing

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they test the system forever. However, at some point and under certain conditions they have to make a claim that a feature passed testing. Hence, the supporting evidence, i.e., the test case execution results, can only be a necessary ( C, only if D ), but not a sufficient condition of the feature’s pass status. Based on this logic, the feature’s pass criterion can be defined as, “The feature passes the test only if all of its test cases pass testing.” In this case, the feature’s pass criterion means two things:

  • The feature pass conclusion is conditional upon the test execution results presented in its support.
  • Another condition may exist that could cause the feature to fail.

Step 3: Select a Technique to Derive a Conclusion
Once we have defined all components of a testing argument, the next step is to select a technique that can be used to derive a valid conclusion from the premises. The word valid is very important at this point as we are concerned with deducing the conclusion that logically follows from its premises. In the proof theory, such techniques are known as rules of inference [1, 2]. By using these rules, a valid argument can be constructed and its conclusion deduced through a sequence of statements where each of them is known to be true and valid. In system testing, there are two types of conclusions–a feature fail status and a feature pass status. Correspondingly, for each of these conclusions, a technique to construct a valid argument is discussed. On software projects, testers should discuss and define the logic of constructing valid proofs before they begin their test design. For example, they can present this logic in the Test Approach section of a test plan document.

Deriving a Feature Fail Conclusion
I defined the feature’s fail criterion as a conditional proposition in the form ( if A, then B ), which means if any of the test cases fail, then testers can conclude that the feature fails as well. This also means that each failed test case can provide sufficient evidence for the conclusion. In this case, a valid argument can be presented based on the rule of inference, known as Modus Ponens [1, 2]. This rule is defined as a sequence of three statements (see Table 1). The first two statements are premises known to be true and lead to the third statement, which is a valid conclusion.

Deriving a Feature Pass Conclusion
The feature’s pass criterion was defined as a conditional proposition in the form ( C, only if D ), which means a feature passes the test only if all of its test cases pass testing. This also means that such a conclusion is derived only when all of the feature’s test cases have been executed. At this point, the feature status can be either pass or fail, but not anything else. Hence, the rule of inference can be used, known as Disjunctive Syllogism [1, 2], which is presented as three consecutive statements that comprise a valid argument (see Table 2).

Step 4: Present an Argument for a Conclusion
At this point, there is a clear plan on how to construct valid arguments in system testing. The actual process of deriving a testing conclusion begins with executing test cases. By executing test cases, the testers can learn the system’s behavior and analyze the feature implementation by comparing it to its requirements captured by expected results of test cases. As a result, testers can acquire evidence from which they can derive and report a valid testing conclusion, i.e., a feature pass or

About the author

Yuri Chernak's picture Yuri Chernak

Yuri Chernak, Ph.D, is the president and principal consultant of Valley Forge Consulting, Inc. Yuri has worked for a number of major financial firms in New York, leading QA governance committees in IT and helping clients improve their software requirements and software testing practices. Yuri is a pioneer in implementing a new discipline—aspect-oriented requirements engineering—for financial applications on Wall Street. He is a member of the IEEE Computer Society, has been a speaker at several international conferences in the US and Canada, and has published papers in the IEEE publications and other professional journals. Contact Yuri at ychernak@yahoo.com.

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