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A comparison of tool-based and paper-based software inspection

Macdonald, F. and Miller, J. (1998) A comparison of tool-based and paper-based software inspection. Empirical Software Engineering, 3 (3). ISSN 1382-3256

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Abstract

Software inspection is an effective method of defect detection. Recent research activity has considered the development of tool support to further increase the efficiency and effectiveness of inspection, resulting in a number of prototype tools being developed. However, no comprehensive evaluations of these tools have been carried out to determine their effectiveness in comparison with traditional paper-based inspection. This issue must be addressed if tool-supported inspection is to become an accepted alternative to, or even replace, paper-based inspection. This paper describes a controlled experiment comparing the effectiveness of tool-supported software inspection with paper-based inspection, using a new prototype software inspection tool known as ASSIST (Asynchronous/Synchronous Software Inspection Support Tool). 43 students used ASSIST and paper-based inspection to inspect two C++ programs of approximately 150 lines. The subjects performed both individual inspection and a group collection meeting, representing a typical inspection process. It was found that subjects performed equally well with tool-based inspection as with paper-based, measured in terms of the number of defects found, the number of false positives reported, and meeting gains and losses.