Practitioners' expectations on automated fault localization

Pavneet Singh Kochhar, Xin Xia, David Lo, Shanping Li

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

214 Citations (Scopus)


Software engineering practitioners often spend significant amount of time and effort to debug. To help practitioners perform this crucial task, hundreds of papers have proposed various fault localization techniques. Fault localization helps practitioners to find the location of a defect given its symptoms (e.g., program failures). These localization techniques have pinpointed the locations of bugs of various systems of diverse sizes, with varying degrees of success, and for various usage scenarios. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether practitioners appreciate this line of research. To fill this gap, we performed an empirical study by surveying 386 practitioners from more than 30 countries across 5 continents about their expectations of research in fault localization. In particular, we investigated a number of factors that impact practitioners' willingness to adopt a fault localization technique. We then compared what practitioners need and the current state-of-research by performing a literature review of papers on fault localization techniques published in ICSE, FSE, ESEC-FSE, ISSTA, TSE, and TOSEM in the last 5 years (2011-2015). From this comparison, we highlight the directions where researchers need to put effort to develop fault localization techniques that matter to practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISSTA'16 - Proceedings of the 25th International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis
Subtitle of host publicationJuly 18–20, 2016 Saarbrücken, Germany
EditorsAndreas Zeller , Roychoudhury Roychoudhury
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781450343909
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis 2016 - Saarbrucken, Germany
Duration: 18 Jul 201620 Jul 2016
Conference number: 25th


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis 2016
Abbreviated titleISSTA 2016
Internet address


  • Empirical study
  • Fault localization
  • Practitioners' expectations

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