Syntactic Fault Patterns in OO Programs

Eighth International Conference on Engineering of Complex Computer Software (ICECCS '02), Greenbelt, MD, November 2002.

Roger T. Alexander, Jeff Offutt and James M. Bieman.


Although program faults are widely studied, there are many aspects of faults that we still do not understand, particularly about OO software. In addition to the simple fact that one important goal during testing is to cause failures and thereby detect faults, a full understanding of the characteristics of faults is crucial to several research areas. The power that inheritance and polymorphism brings to the expressiveness of programming languages also brings a number of new anomalies and fault types. In prior work we presented a fault model for the appearance and realization of OO faults that are specific to the use of inheritance and polymorphism. Many of these faults cannot appear unless certain syntactic patterns are used. The patterns are based on language constructs, such as overriding methods that directly define inherited state variables and non-inherited methods that call inherited methods. If one of these syntactic patterns is used, then we say the software contains an anomaly and possibly a fault. This paper describes the syntactic patterns for each OO fault type. These syntactic patterns can potentially be found with an automatic tool. Thus, faults can be uncovered and removed early in development.

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