Translating Code Comments to Procedure Specifications
Procedure specifications are useful in many software development tasks. As one example, in automatic test case generation they can guide testing, act as test oracles able to reveal bugs, and identify illegal inputs. Whereas formal specifications are seldom available in practice, it is standard practice for developers to document their code with semi-structured comments. These comments express the procedure specification with a mix of predefined tags and natural language. This paper presents Jdoctor, an approach that combines pattern, lexical and semantic matching to translate Javadoc comments into executable procedure specifications written as Java expressions. In an empirical evaluation, Jdoctor achieved precision of 91% and recall of 83% in translating Javadoc into procedure specifications. We also supplied the Jdoctor-derived specifications to an automated test case generation tool, Randoop. The specifications enabled Randoop to generate test cases that reveal more defects and produce fewer false alarms.