The Context-Driven Approach to Software Testing

Cem Kaner, Florida Institute of Technology

Several jokes about consultants revolve around the idea that they answer most questions by saying "It depends." The context-driven school of testing accepts the "It depends" reality but then asks, "Depends on what?" Rather than talking about best practices, this approach asks when and why a given practice would be beneficial; what risks and benefits are associated with it; what skills, documents, development processes, and other resources are required to enable the process; and so on. Rather than dismissing an unpopular testing technique or test documentation method as useless, you should ask these questions to determine possible uses. The appropriate context might be narrow, but you'll learn a lot more about the technique and its alternatives by becoming aware of the context variables rather than ignoring them. Cem Kaner, one of the founders of the context-driven school of software testing, explains the principles of context-driven testing and provides examples of the types of questions used to establish the context in a given situation.

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