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What is software test documentation: definition, examples, and types

Dec 13, 2022
What is software test documentation: definition, examples, and types

Software test documentation is essential to the software testing process. The failure of QA managers to utilize formal software test documents will not only affect your team's productivity but can also adversely affect the product. That’s why QA specialists who are well-versed in creating excellent QA test documentation will greatly benefit both the team and the product. So if you're one of them or planning to become one, keep reading!

What is test documentation, anyway?

Test documentation in software testing is a written description of the test cases and test results created before or during software testing. It gathers information about a product in a way that assists and improves the application testing process.

The purpose of test documentation is to provide clear and accurate information about the application under test so that everyone can understand and estimate the testing effort needed, plus the test coverage, resource tracking, execution progress, etc. In other words, it’s a complete suite of materials that describes and documents the whole process.

What role does QA documentation play in software development?

QA test documentation is a key part of the testing process. It serves as a road map for your testing efforts, outlining the steps you'll take to ensure a bug-free final product. Now that you have a broad overview, let's zoom in on the specific roles of technical documentation. It serves...

  • аs a record of information about the product being tested;

  • to ensure that everyone involved in the project has access to the same information about testing;

  • to make sure that the QA team can effectively communicate their findings to other stakeholders.

Types and examples of test documentation

Basically, the type of QA test documentation employed is determined by who will use the documents.  It’s typically classified into two types: internal and external.

Internal test documents

These records serve as a blueprint for the team's tasks and progress. The company's internal testing records are confidential and are only available to employees.

Test policy

This document lays out the key principles, methodology, and primary objectives of the test.

Test strategy

A test strategy is essentially a plan for the entire testing procedure, detailing what kinds of tests will be carried out. Developers, designers, and product managers can reference this document at any point during the project to see if actual performance is in line with expected activities.

Test plan

A test plan describes the overall testing purpose, resources (people and equipment), environment, constraints, schedules, and risks. Acceptance criteria, which must be met before a feature is considered ready, may also be included in the test plan. As such, it's the most comprehensive record, and it's usually available to everyone on the team and shared with stakeholders. 

Test scenario

One definition of a test scenario is an event or feature that could be validated by a test case. In scenarios, testers divide the product's functionality and interface into modules and provide real-time status updates throughout the testing process. Depending on its size and scope, a module can be described with a single status or hundreds of statuses. 

Test case

While test scenarios lay out the steps that will be taken, test cases describe the feature being tested. These files cover step-by-step guidance, detailed conditions, and current inputs for a testing task. Test cases have their own kinds that depend on the type of testing—functional, UI, physical, logical, etc. Test cases compare available resources and current conditions with desired outcomes and determine if the functionality can be released or not. 

Test data

Test data is information that exists before a test is run and is used to carry out the test case.

Traceability Matrix RTM

This document links the requirements to the test cases. That way, team members and stakeholders can easily track the progress of any task by entering its ID in the search.

External test documents

External report

External test software reports are comprehensive documents that collect  information on test results. They can be used to describe the project or functionality in great detail, and can provide a comprehensive overview of the test results. External test reports are created especially for stakeholders and clients who can log in and check the progress.

Test report

This document provides feedback on how and why the software passed or failed each test case within a given time period. Basically, there are two types of test case reports: bug reports and test summary reports. 

Bug reports detail any problem in a software system that prevents it from carrying out its intended task. Test summary reports summarize both the testing activities and the test results.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of test documentation?

Let's summarize how various types of documentation help move projects forward and lower the overall cost of software development and testing.

Benefits of testing documentation

Enhanced teamwork through better communication

Test documentation helps test engineers share their findings with the rest of the team, as well as keep tabs on bugs and the project's overall status. This way, everyone involved knows exactly what's going on during testing, can verify the code's quality at any time, and can see if the team is keeping to its estimated schedule and workload.

Increase in project acceptance and reduced rework

Team members define the requirements for the final product version early in the process and identify defects early in the development cycle, which significantly reduces rework because fixing defects after they have been coded adds cost and time to the project delivery schedule. As soon as all of the criteria are met, the product is considered to have "passed" the test and can be released. 

Interchangeability among team members

Without test documentation, the software testing team will need to spend time getting used to the environment and learning how things work. A well-organized recordkeeping system, however, would allow them to quickly review previous files and update the project.

Test case reuse

When a feature fails to function as expected, testers can refer back to the recorded cases and provide a quick fix. This saves time and effort when creating new test cases for each new version or release.

Less time spent on employee onboarding

Since all the information is contained in a single database, there is no need to assign a personal career coach to a new tester in order to share project specifics. 

What to consider when creating test documentation

As mentioned, a well-documented project is easy to read and understand by both developers and clients. However, oftentimes a lack of time and resources leads to poor-quality documentation. Let’s see what you should consider when creating testing documentation.


The time it takes to create software test documentation can be costly, especially when the documents are written by someone who is not familiar with the content. Keeping track of client-requested changes and updating corresponding documents can be time-intensive, too.

High costs

Due to the additional work hours required, test documentation does raise the overall cost of the project. However, it may also reduce the cost of the project in the long-term—if written properly, of course.

Poor quality

Poorly written test documents can cause misunderstandings between the client and your organization. However, keep in mind that your goal is to produce high-quality documents that, rather than slowing down workflow, will speed it up in the future.

Key takeaway 

Test documentation serves a greater purpose beyond simply describing the process of software development and finding bug issues. Well-structured and comprehensive QA test documentation is the core  of a well-planned software testing process. It improves communication and ensures that all interdepartmental coordination and collaboration happens in a focused way. 

In other words, skipping this stage of the testing process isn’t worth it. And now, with our tips and tricks, you can make sure that your test documents are good enough to serve as your 24/7 team member in maintaining the quality of your application.

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