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An Investigation of the Applicability of Design of Experiments to Software Testing



David R. Kuhn, Michael J. Reilly


Approaches to software testing based on methods from the field of design of experiments have been advocated as a means of providing high coverage at relatively low cost. Tools to generate all pairs, or higher n-degree combinations, of input values have been developed and demonstrated in a few applications, but little empirical evidence is available to aid developers in evaluating the effectiveness of these tools for particular problems. We investigate error reports from two large open-source software projects, a browser and Web server, to provide preliminary answers to three questions: Is there a point of diminishing returns at which generating all n-degree combinations is nearly as effective as all n+1-degree combinations? What is the appropriate value of n for particular classes of software? Does this value differ for different types of software, and by how much? Our findings suggest that more than 95% of errors in the software studied would be detected by test cases that cover all 4-way combinations of values, and that the browser and server software were similar in the percentage of errors detectable by combinations of degree 2 through 6.
Conference Dates
December 5-6, 2002
Conference Location
Greenbelt, MD
Conference Title
27th Annual NASA Goddard/IEEE Software Engineering Workshop (SEW '02)


design of experiments, pairwise testing, software assurance, software testing


Kuhn, D. and Reilly, M. (2002), An Investigation of the Applicability of Design of Experiments to Software Testing, 27th Annual NASA Goddard/IEEE Software Engineering Workshop (SEW '02), Greenbelt, MD, [online], (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created December 6, 2002, Updated November 10, 2018