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How effectively does metamorphic testing alleviate the oracle problem?

Liu, Huai; Kuo, Fei-Ching; Towey, Dave; Chen, Tsong Yueh


Huai Liu

Fei-Ching Kuo

Dave Towey

Tsong Yueh Chen


In software testing, something which can verify the correctness of test case execution results is called an oracle. The oracle problem occurs when either an oracle does not exist, or exists but is too expensive to be used. Metamorphic testing is a testing approach which uses metamorphic relations, properties of the software under test represented in the form of relations among inputs and outputs of multiple executions, to help verify the correctness of a program. This paper presents new empirical evidence to support this approach, which has been used to alleviate the oracle problem in various applications and to enhance several software analysis and testing techniques. It has been observed that identification of a sufficient number of appropriate metamorphic relations for testing, even by inexperienced testers, was possible with a very small amount of training. Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of the approach could be enhanced through the use of more diverse metamorphic relations. The empirical studies presented in this paper clearly show that a small number of diverse metamorphic relations, even those identified in an ad hoc manner, had a similar fault-detection capability to a test oracle, and could thus effectively help alleviate the oracle problem.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 31, 2014
Journal IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Print ISSN 0098-5589
Electronic ISSN 0098-5589
Publisher Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 1
Institution Citation Liu, H., Kuo, F., Towey, D., & Chen, T. Y. (2014). How effectively does metamorphic testing alleviate the oracle problem?. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 40(1), doi:10.1109/tse.2013.46
Keywords Software testing; test oracle; oracle problem; metamorphic testing; metamorphic relation
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf


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