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Unit Test != Requirements

June 25, 2010

Are one or more usage examples enough to specify the requirements for something? For example:

rtrim('123000', '0'); would return '123'

No, as can be seen here: Oracle 8, SQL: RTRIM for string manipulation is not working as expected (Stackoverflow)

When I read that question I thought of TDD (Test Driven Development), something I think I should be doing more of. As said here, however, “Are tests sufficient documentation?  Very likely not, but they do form an important part of it.”

I’ve seen unit test cases used as a form of documentation. Generally they could be useful for this – to tell part of the story – but if they only consist of “enter this, expect that”, they will never be good enough to replace requirements documentation.

Footnote: How about the source code – is that sufficient as documentation? In one sense, yes – the source code is the best documentation of what the system does now. What’s lacking, however, is documentation of the business requirements – and this gap can be huge (see e.g. Agile Development and Requirements Management).

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