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 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1009747104814)

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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.