Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Write a Fully Effective Bug Report

To write a fully effective report you must:
- Explain how to reproduce the problem - Analyze the error so you can describe it in a minimum number of steps.
- Write a report that is complete and easy to understand.

Write bug reports immediately; the longer you wait between finding the problem and reporting it, the more likely it is the description will be incomplete, the problem not reproducible, or simply forgotten.

Writing a one-line report summary (Bug's report title) is an art. You must master it. Summaries help everyone quickly review outstanding problems and find individual reports. The summary line is the most frequently and carefully read part of the report. When a summary makes a problem sound less severe than it is, managers are more likely to defer it. Alternatively, if your summaries make problems sound more severe than they are, you will gain a reputation for alarmism. Don't use the same summary for two different reports, even if they are similar. The summary line should describe only the problem, not the replication steps. Don't run the summary into the description (Steps to reproduce) as they will usually be printed independently of each other in reports.

Ideally you should be able to write this clearly enough for a developer to reproduce and fix the problem, and another QA engineer to verify the fix without them having to go back to you, the author, for more information. It is much better to over communicate in this field than say too little. Of course it is ideal if the problem is reproducible and you can write down those steps. But if you can't reproduce a bug, and try and try and still can't reproduce it, admit it and write the report anyway. A good programmer can often track down an irreproducible problem from a careful description. For a good discussion on analyzing problems and making them reproducible, see Chapter 5 of
Testing Computer Software by Cem Kaner.

The most controversial thing in a bug report is often the bug
Impacts: Low, Medium, High, and Urgent. Report should show the priority which you, the bug submitter, believes to be appropriate and does not get changed.

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