Systematic techniques for more effective fault localization and program repair

Gopinath, Divya
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Debugging faulty code is a tedious process that is often quite expensive and can require much manual effort. Developers typically perform debugging in two key steps: (1) fault localization, i.e., identifying the location of faulty line(s) of code; and (2) program repair, i.e., modifying the code to remove the fault(s). Automating debugging to reduce its cost has been the focus of a number of research projects during the last decade, which have introduced a variety of techniques.

However, existing techniques suffer from two basic limitations. One, they lack accuracy to handle real programs. Two, they focus on automating only one of the two key steps, thereby leaving the other key step to the developer.

Our thesis is that an approach that integrates systematic search based on state-of-the-art constraint solvers with techniques to analyze artifacts that describe application specific properties and behaviors, provides the basis for developing more effective debugging techniques. We focus on faults in programs that operate on structurally complex inputs, such as heap-allocated data or relational databases.

Our approach lays the foundation for a unified framework for localization and repair of faults in programs. We embody our thesis in a suite of integrated techniques based on propositional satisfiability solving, correctness specifications analysis, test-spectra analysis, and rule-learning algorithms from machine learning, implement them as a prototype tool-set, and evaluate them using several subject programs.