An Experimental Evaluation of Data Flow and Mutation Testing

Software Practice and Experience, 26(2):165--176, February, 1996.

Jeff Offutt, Jie Pan, Kanupriya Tewary, and Tong Zhang


This paper presents two experimental comparisons of data flow and mutation testing. These two techniques are widely considered to be effective for unit-level software testing, but can only be analytically compared to a limited extent. We compare the techniques by evaluating the effectiveness of test data developed for each. For a number of programs, we develop ten independent sets of test data; five to satisfy the mutation criterion, and five to satisfy the all-uses data flow criterion. These test sets are developed using automated tools, in a manner consistent with the way a test engineer might be expected to generate test data in practice. We use these test sets in two separate experiments. First we measure the effectiveness of the test data that was developed for one technique in terms of the other technique. Second, we investigate the ability of the test sets to find faults. We place a number of faults into each of our subject programs, and measure the number of faults that are detected by the test sets. Our results indicate that while both techniques are effective, mutation-adequate test sets are closer to satisfying the data flow criterion, and detect more faults.

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