University of Leicester


Gilbert Laycock, PhD Thesis Abstract: The Theory and Practice of Specification Based Software Testing

This is the abstract to my PhD thesis:

[Laycock92] Gilbert Laycock.
The Theory and Practice of Specification Based Software Testing. Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield (1993).

In this thesis my aim is to examine the common ground between formal methods and testing, and the benefits the two fields bring to one another. All too often they are regarded as mutually exclusive approaches in the development of software systems.

The thesis begins with an examination of the motivation behind software testing, a summary of its development over the past few decades, and a survey of existing techniques. This involves a detailed discussion of some of those techniques, and leads on to an extensive case study.

The case study shows how the use of a formal specification enables an existing "partition" based testing method to be used with far greater precision, but also highlights some of the limitations of the partition based techniques.

The thesis continues with a comprehensive look at the development of theoretical models of testing since the mid 1970's, and the way they have used successively more complex software models in order to be able to adequately describe suitable test cases.

The remainder of the thesis is concerned with the introduction and use of Eilenberg's X-machines as a formal model for the description of software specifications. The goal is to develop the X-machine model to the point where it is both useful and use-able as a tool for system specification, and at the same time the basis for a model of software testing so that test cases can be derived directly from the specification. To this end some of the theoretical properties of X-machines are examined, and some simple but very relevant results proved. The work is grounded on further case studies.

You can download the whole thesis from here as PDF.

Author: Gilbert Laycock (, T: +44 (0)116 252 3902.
© University of Leicester 19th June 1996, 14:21:45. Last modified: 16th April 2010, 10:22:38
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