Bug Report Basics: Tips for Writing the Steps to Reproduce a Bug
May 18, 2015
As a QA tester, a bug report is one of your most important forms of communication. There is a lot of information to pack into each one, including details about the test environment, description, expected outcome, and actual income. However, without providing the instructions on how recreate the issue, developers have little chance of getting to the root of the problem and fixing things. That’s why writing the steps to reproduce a bug are so crucial. For those who are new to the process, here are a few tips for effectively writing instructions on reproducing bugs.
Know Your Audience
Before you begin writing your bug report, think about who will be reading it. While developers are almost always the primary target audience, business analysts and other non-technical stakeholders may also review bug reports on certain projects, and you will need to cater your language and terminology accordingly. As a general rule, avoid abbreviations and highly technical terms without explanation when writing instructions for non-technical stakeholders. Adopt the perspective of a reader with little to no background information on the project, and then write your steps accordingly.
Something else worth considering is the native language of your target audience. If you are working with an offshore development team where English is not everyone’s native language, do not include any slang or colloquial terms. Stick to simple or compound sentences that are clear and unambiguous.
Be Concise, Yet Detailed
The key to writing effective instructions on how to reproduce a bug is to straddle the line between detail and brevity. Each sentence needs to bring the reader one step closer to recreating the issue. Anything else can be added in the description section. Resist the urge to combine multiple instructions into one sentence. Instead, break everything down into its own separate step. The shorter a step is, the easier it is to read.
Keep Terminology Consistent
One of the best ways to improve clarity in your bug reports is to keep the structure of your instructions and the terminology you use consistent throughout the project. For example, if you are testing a website and refer to the website’s ‘homepage’ in one step, don’t call it the ‘home screen’ in a subsequent step. This will only slow readers down as they work through your instructions. Establish a set of keywords, verbs, and phrases (or adopt them from functional specifications), and then stick to them throughout the lifetime project.
A good bug report will never win any writing awards. Your main goal is to convey information as clearly and as quickly as possible. You can accomplish this by maintaining the same sentence structure for each instruction and always work in chronological order.
Some Additional Tips for Bug Reports
Before turning your bug report it, see if you can recreate the issue using the steps you’ve just written. If not, either the issue is intermittent or your instructions are missing key details. Finally, be careful of your tone as you write instructions and fill out the bug report. Remember that as a QA or tester, you are on the same side as the developer. Both your objectives are to create high quality software, so focus on the project or product rather than the developer as an individual.