Automatically Generating Tests from Natural Language Descriptions of Software Behavior

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Virginia Tech


Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is an emerging agile development approach where all stakeholders (including developers and customers) work together to write user stories in structured natural language to capture a software application's functionality in terms of re- quired "behaviors". Developers then manually write "glue" code so that these scenarios can be executed as software tests. This glue code represents individual steps within unit and acceptance test cases, and tools exist that automate the mapping from scenario descriptions to manually written code steps (typically using regular expressions). Instead of requiring programmers to write manual glue code, this thesis investigates a practical approach to con- vert natural language scenario descriptions into executable software tests fully automatically. To show feasibility, we developed a tool called Kirby that uses natural language processing techniques, code information extraction and probabilistic matching to automatically gener- ate executable software tests from structured English scenario descriptions. Kirby relieves the developer from the laborious work of writing code for the individual steps described in scenarios, so that both developers and customers can both focus on the scenarios as pure behavior descriptions (understandable to all, not just programmers). Results from assessing the performance and accuracy of this technique are presented.



Behavior-Driven Development, Test-Driven Development, Natural Language Processing, Probabilistic Analysis, Automated Code Generation