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How can non-technical end users effectively test their spreadsheets?

Pak-Lok Poon (School of Accounting and Finance, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Fei-Ching Kuo (Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Huai Liu (Australia-India Centre for Automation Software Engineering, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Tsong Yueh Chen (Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




An alarming number of spreadsheet faults have been reported in the literature, indicating that effective and easy-to-apply spreadsheet testing techniques are not available for “non-technical,” end-user programmers. The purpose of this paper is to alleviate the problem by introducing a metamorphic testing (MT) technique for spreadsheets.


The paper discussed four common challenges encountered by end-user programmers when testing a spreadsheet. The MT technique was then discussed and how it could be used to solve the common challenges was explained. An experiment involving several “real-world” spreadsheets was performed to determine the viability and effectiveness of MT.


The experiment confirmed that MT is highly effective in spreadsheet fault detection, and yet MT is a general technique that can be easily used by end-user programmers to test a large variety of spreadsheet applications.


The paper provides a detailed discussion of some common challenges of spreadsheet testing encountered by end-user programmers. To the best of the authors knowledge, the paper is the first that includes an empirical study of how effective MT is in spreadsheet fault detection from an end-user programmer's perspective.



The authors are grateful to Dr Dave Towey at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China for his kind assistance in improving the presentation of this paper. The work described in this paper was partially supported by a Departmental General Research Fund of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Project No. G-UA56).


Poon, P.-L., Kuo, F.-C., Liu, H. and Yueh Chen, T. (2014), "How can non-technical end users effectively test their spreadsheets?", Information Technology & People, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 440-462.



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