Software defect prediction: do different classifiers find the same defects?

David Bowes, Tracy Hall, Jean petric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


During the last 10 years, hundreds of different defect prediction models have been published. The performance of the classifiers used in these models is reported to be similar with models rarely performing above the predictive performance ceiling of about 80% recall. We investigate the individual defects that four classifiers predict and analyse the level of prediction uncertainty produced by these classifiers. We perform a sensitivity analysis to compare the performance of Random Forest, Naïve Bayes, RPart and SVM classifiers when predicting defects in NASA, open source and commercial datasets. The defect predictions that each classifier makes is captured in a confusion matrix and the prediction uncertainty of each classifier is compared. Despite similar predictive performance values for these four classifiers, each detects different sets of defects. Some classifiers are more consistent in predicting defects than others. Our results confirm that a unique subset of defects can be detected by specific classifiers. However, while some classifiers are consistent in the predictions they make, other classifiers vary in their predictions. Given our results, we conclude that classifier ensembles with decision-making strategies not based on majority voting are likely to perform best in defect prediction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525–552
Number of pages28
JournalSoftware Quality Journal
Early online date7 Feb 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2017


  • software defect prediction
  • prediction modelling
  • machine learning


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