Great Example of Exploratory Testing Session notes

Exploratory Testing (ET) can be done well or it can be done poorly. How do you know how well you're doing ET? I believe you need 2 things: (1) you need to keep notes as you perform your testing, and (2) you need good feedback from a competent, experienced tester.

Taking good notes is not easy. It takes practice. A lot of it. In the process, you will learn something about how you organise your thoughts. You will also learn about biases, assumptions, techniques, critical thinking and communication of important facts.

Let's return to organisation of thoughts for a minute. One analogy that I often use is for a tester to think of your test notes like a Science Report. You know.. one of those reports that you likely had to do in elementary or high school for a science project, assignment or fair. There are basic and important sections/elements in a Science Report, and I believe those elements are also key for good test session notes.

I'm not going go into much detail about the comparisons here (for that, see my thoughts on my web site at, rather I thought I'd share a link to a news story that I just came across on the web site. One journalist decided to perform a test of the new Google "Mail Goggles" feature.

Read the article here:

What do you think?

There are a number of things I like about that article. One of the things that struck me the most was how much I liked the "test notes" in that article. I think it's a great example of test notes that you should keep during an ET session. I've reviewed more session notes over the last 5 years than I can remember. The test notes in this Time article are very good.

The "science report" structure is both amusing and helps to efficiently communicate what the author did. I doubt the journalist knows anything about ET or session-based test management. The flow and clarity of the report is very good because the journalist has a skill that I often find lacking in the "poor" ET session reports I've reviewed over the years. What's that skill? A journalist knows how to focus on and communicate the facts. The science report structure helped the author organise her thoughts and communicate the facts efficiently. I liked it. I think it worked. And it was funny too! :)

Which brings me to another important point. Just because you add structure to a report doesn't mean you lose your personality. You can be both clear and funny. Emotion and impressions are important in good notes too because they help raise awareness of the "qualitative" aspects of testing. Too many people put too much value on the "quantitative" aspects of testing.

I like Albert Einstein's quote in regards to this point:
"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted."

A good ET session report/test notes should reflect both qualitative and quantitative elements. The science report structure might provide you with a good framework for organising your thoughts. Oh, and if you're looking to improve your technical writing in the Software Testing profession, perhaps you might consider a journalism course.