The Impact of Background and Experience on Software Inspections
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This dissertation is an initial study into the relationship between an inspector's characteristics and his or her effectiveness in an inspection. Research has shown that improving the individual effectiveness of the inspectors improves the overall effectiveness of an inspection team. But, the performance of inspectors varies widely, even when using the same inspection technique. This variation is often due to the inherent differences among the inspectors who used the technique. In order to better understand this variation and provide guidance to inspection planners, this dissertation has focused on the background and experience of the inspector as the source of variation. To study this issue I used a novel approach for software engineering, grounded theory. This methodology allowed hypotheses to be built both top-down, from the literature, as well as bottom-up, using data. The literature portion came from software engineering as well as education and psychology. The data portion came from both existing studies and newly designed studies. The data from existing studies allowed the initial hypotheses to become more concrete. Once some of the hypotheses had support from data, the final step was to design studies to test a subset of the hypotheses. I designed and ran two studies to test the selected hypotheses. The goal of the first study was to understand the type and level of experience with the software inspection process that was necessary. The earlier data had shown that process experience was important, but the effect of the type and level of experience was still unclear. The goal of the second study was to understand the interaction between an inspector's software development experience and the level of detail required in an inspection process. The earlier data had shown some indications that for experienced inspectors too much detail reduced the number of defects found, while less experienced inspectors needed more detail to overcome their lack of experience and find more defects. This dissertation presents complete list of hypotheses and the results of these studies along with some specific suggestions for both researchers and practitioners.