Tool-assisted unit-test generation and selection based on operational abstractions

Tao Xie, David Notkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unit testing, a common step in software development, presents a challenge. When produced manually, unit test suites are often insufficient to identify defects. The main alternative is to use one of a variety of automatic unit-test generation tools: these are able to produce and execute a large number of test inputs that extensively exercise the unit under test. However, without a priori specifications, programmers need to manually verify the outputs of these test executions, which is generally impractical. To reduce this cost, unit-test selection techniques may be used to help select a subset of automatically generated test inputs. Then programmers can verify their outputs, equip them with test oracles, and put them into the existing test suite. In this paper, we present the operational violation approach for unit-test generation and selection, a black-box approach without requiring a priori specifications. The approach dynamically generates operational abstractions from executions of the existing unit test suite. These operational abstractions guide test generation tools to generate tests to violate them. The approach selects those generated tests violating operational abstractions for inspection. These selected tests exercise some new behavior that has not been exercised by the existing tests. We implemented this approach by integrating the use of Daikon (a dynamic invariant detection tool) and Parasoft Jtest (a commercial Java unit testing tool), and conducted several experiments to assess the approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-371
Number of pages27
JournalAutomated Software Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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