Start with a blank sheet of paper

When I sit down to write a formal test document, I start with a blank sheet of paper. I do not start with a template.

I do that for a couple of reasons. First, I find that when I use a template I spend more time focusing on filling in the various sections than I do really thinking about the problem I'm trying to solve. The template distracts me from focusing on the problem in a deep and meaningful way. Second, I find that templates can anchor my thinking into specific solutions. When I'm actively thinking about what I want to do with my testing, I want every option on the table. I don't want a document to "guide" my thinking by limiting my options to the sections it contains.

Later, after I've done all the heavy lifting, I'll go back and format my document into the company template for that document. That allows me to add/remove sections as needed. The template does serve as a useful tool at that point. It serves as a quick check-sum to let me know if I've missed any critical piece of the equation or if I haven't thought something out enough.

This tip was part of a brainstorm developed at the September 2011 Indianapolis Workshop on Software Testing on the topic of "Documenting for Testing." The attendees of that workshop (and participants in the brainstorm) included: Charlie Audritsh, Scott Barber, Rick Grey, Michael Kelly, Natalie Mego, Charles Penn, Margie Weaver, and Tina Zaza.