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Machine learning techniques to improve software quality

By Jaspar Cahill


A significant proportion of the cost of software development is due to software testing and maintenance. This is in part the result of the inevitable imperfections due to human error, lack of quality during the design and coding of software, and the increasing need to reduce faults to improve customer satisfaction in a competitive marketplace. Given the cost and importance of removing errors improvements in fault detection and removal can be of significant benefit. The earlier in the development process faults can be found, the less it costs to correct them and the less likely other faults are to develop. This research aims to make the testing process more efficient and effective by identifying those software modules most likely to contain faults, allowing testing efforts to be carefully targeted. This is done with the use of machine learning algorithms which use examples of fault prone and not fault prone modules to develop predictive models of quality. In order to learn the numerical mapping between module and classification, a module is represented in terms of software metrics. A difficulty in this sort of problem is sourcing software engineering data of adequate quality. In this work, data is obtained from two sources, the NASA Metrics Data Program, and the open source Eclipse project. Feature selection before learning is applied, and in this area a number of different feature selection methods are applied to find which work best. Two machine learning algorithms are applied to the data - Naive Bayes and the Support Vector Machine - and predictive results are compared to those of previous efforts and found to be superior on selected data sets and comparable on others. In addition, a new classification method is proposed, Rank Sum, in which a ranking abstraction is laid over bin densities for each class, and a classification is determined based on the sum of ranks over features. A novel extension of this method is also described based on an observed polarising of points by class when rank sum is applied to training data to convert it into 2D rank sum space. SVM is applied to this transformed data to produce models the parameters of which can be set according to trade-off curves to obtain a particular performance trade-off

Topics: software quality, software testing, predictive models, machine learning
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:41730

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