Monday 5 October 2015

Testing skills #4 - Note taking

 Why is note taking an important testing skill?

There are a variety of ways to capture the evidence of our testing but if are notes are not of suitable detail then the value of our testing can be diminished.  Taking notes enables us to improve our knowledge and reinforces our understanding of the product being tested. This is part of utilizing critical thinking skills which was discussed in the chapter on 'critical thinking'

Robert Lambert discusses the need to have good note taking skills when performing exploratory testing
"During a session a good exploratory tester will often narrate the process; all the time making notes, observations and documenting the journey through the product. This level of note taking allows the tester to recall cause and effect, questions to ask and clues to follow up in further sessions." 
Explaining Exploratory testing relies on good notes - Robert Lambert - 2013
Michael Bolton wrote the following about note taking when testing:
"One of the principal concerns of test managers and project managers with respect to exploratory testing is that it is fundamentally unaccountable or unmanageable. Yet police, doctors, pilots, lawyers and all kinds of skilled professions have learned to deal with problem of reporting unpredictable information in various forms by developing note-taking skills." 
An Exploratory Tester’s Notebook  - Michael Bolton - 2007
There are a variety of note taking methods which you as a tester can utilize.  This page has an example of a few of them. Note Taking Systems - Student Academic Services - Cal Poly

One method that I have found extremely useful especially when capturing information from conferences or for recording my findings when testing is the 'Cornell Method'

The Cornell method was developed by Dr Walter Pauk of Cornell University and is widely used by University students.  It is a very useful method to help you work out if you can remember what you have written.

First of all you need to create a layout for each page in your notebook as follows. Alternatively use this Cornell Method PDF generator.

The method has 5 steps.

1. Capture what is being said or what you observe in the note taking area
2. As soon as possible review your notes and capture key details in the Review(Cues) column, add any questions you may have thought of.
3. Cover up your notes only showing the review column and now try to summarize your thoughts based on the cues.  Provide answers to any of the questions you wrote in the review column.  Use the summary column at the bottom to summarize your understanding and learning.  If you are struggling with your summary it could indicate that your notes are not sufficient.
4. Ask yourself questions on the material both the cues and the notes. Think about how you apply this information to your work.  How does it fit with what you already know?
5. Spend some time reviewing your notes and summary every so often to reinforce your understandings.

It is crucial that as a tester you practice your note taking skills.  Poor note taking can lead to missed problems and hinder knowledge sharing with the team.  Your notes are what helps to turn your tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge

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