How do you write a QA report?

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Olka Bocheńska

Sep 5, 2022 • 12 min read
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There are as many opinions as people. I think this phrase can be paraphrased as “There are as many QA documents as QA engineers,” right?

Each of us either faced or is facing writing our first QA report or is looking for improvements to already existing habits.

It is easy to write some documents, but how do you write a quality assurance report that will be valuable for the team and the client?

As a Quality Assurance Engineer, you know that writing a good QA report is essential for getting your team on the same page. But what goes into a report? And how do you make sure your findings are clear and concise? In this blog post, we'll walk you through the basics of writing quality assurance reports, including tips on formatting and organization. Let's get started!

First things first – what is a QA report exactly?

Although each QA engineer will understand the term instantly, this understanding can be developed into outcomes that are shaped differently, depending on a person. Let’s set some ground rules for its essence and purpose. The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) glossary defines a QA report as:

Documentation summarizing test activities and results.

That can mean pretty much anything, huh? Let’s sort it out by answering some more specific questions.

When do we write QA reports?

Imagine a few situations:

  • You have performed a run of smoke tests and want to share the results with the team.
  • You finished a long suite of regression tests covering detailed cases, and you want to inform managers about the current state of the app.
  • You were asked to execute an independent quality audit of a product you’re not part of on a daily basis, and you have to summarize your work.

Generally speaking, a QA report should be generated whenever there is a change to the code base. This could be when a new feature is added, when an existing feature is modified, or when a bug is fixed.

Of course, not every code change will require a full QA report. However, anytime there is potential for new or increased risk, a quality assurance report can help to mitigate that risk.

By documenting the testing that was conducted and the results that were achieved, QA reports provide valuable insight into the health of the code base and critical metrics. As such, they should be generated on a regular basis to ensure that quality standards are being met.

So basically, test reports should document all of the test cases that were performed during software testing, as well as the results of those tests. They should also deliver relevant information about the product and highlight any areas where improvements can be made.

Ok, but why? QA report goals

Think of the QA reports goals, for example:

Basically, as QA engineers, we want to summarize our work in a way that is clear and understandable to the report recipient, whether they are other QA engineers, developers, managers, or stakeholders.

How do you write a useful QA report?

Creating a comprehensive and easy-to-understand quality assurance report is one of the key components of a successful QA process. The document should include a clear description of the problem, as well as the steps taken to reproduce it.

In addition, it should also provide details on the impact of the issue and any workaround steps that were taken. However, you’re mistaken if you think that writing a QA report should be solely done in the after-test phase.

Think Ahead

Before you even start testing, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the goal of the report?
  • What kind of tests will be executed?
  • What data needs to be collected?

Define the audience of the QA report. This may change your approach to testing and the details you will focus on. Who’s gonna use the report you prepare?

  • The engineering team? – if you’re preparing a report for the developers, you want to focus on details rather than the bigger picture.
  • The business department? – don’t go deep into the technical details. Rather, think of the business value of the product and how you can expose its strengths and weak points through the tests.
  • The non-technical client who decides the project budget? – spare the technical details. Focus on the bigger picture and show the strong sides of the product and stress the risks that areas with failures may bring to the project.

Don’t produce another useless paper

Make sure your report won’t be one.

When searching for info about QA reports, you’ll probably quickly find the Test Summary Report Template (IEEE 829-1998) or many, I mean many articles, guides, templates, etc. They will look more or less alike, but each of them will be different.

So, to be on the same page, let’s establish the Universal Contents of a QA report.

Introduction

The outline provides a high-level overview of the report, while the introduction gives more detailed information about the purpose and scope of the report.

1. Name

As obvious as it sounds, your report should have a unique name (filename too). Nobody wants to open several files until they find the one they are looking for. I like to name the reports using the pattern: AppName_Version_TestType_TimeReference, e.g.:

  • OurBeautifulApp_v1.2.3RC1_SmokeTests_20220823
  • OurBeautifulApp_v1.2.3_FunctionalTests_Sprint22
  • OurBeautifulApp_v1.2.3_RegressionTests_2022Q3
  • Or whatever works for you and your team as long as it is unambiguous and clear
2. Table of contents
3. Changelog

Please, never skip the changelog! Especially if you’re not the only person working on the document. The changelog may be a lifesaver when you come back to the report a few months later and wonder why something looks different than you remember it.

4. Author

Leave your name and contact details.

Basic Information

This part of a QA report typically includes a brief project description, details of the chosen test environment, and the test methodology employed.

5. Short project description

Write a few sentences about the project. Don’t elaborate, just inform the reader what the project is about, what development stage it is, what the product is, its main goal and feature, what platforms it supports, as well as what is included for its test plan, etc.

6. Test environment

For example, the:

  • App version
  • Browser version
  • Device model and OS version
7. Test methodology

Write about the process you followed, test types performed, measurements used, and tools you used to assess the quality of the tested product.

Test Results

The crucial part of the report. This section of the QA report lists all the outcomes and analysis of testing plan execution along with the found issues.

8. Test results

Show the metrics – how many tests were planned, how many of them were executed, how many passed, failed, etc. Use visual representations like graphs or charts.

9. Issues

Write down all issues you found. You can describe each bug in detail or write down only a descriptive title and attach a link to the issue reported in the defect management tool.

Summary

Finally, you should provide conclusions and recommendations on how to improve the quality of the product.

10. Actionable conclusions

Summarize your work and findings. Say if the quality of the tested product is good or bad, based on the test results. Add actionable advice – what should the following steps be after executing the quality assessment?

11. Risks

List the risks you identified during the quality assessment of the product.

12. Recommendations

Write down your tips on how to improve the quality of the tested product.

Format

Let me be clear: the QA report doesn’t have to be a long, moderately interesting .doc file. Think of the tools you have and use them wisely:

  • Your team uses Jira on a daily basis and you’re reporting internally? Create a ticket with a QA summary, add the release version, and mention interested people. Discuss the report in the comments section. It’s a simple way to keep the report(s) and the discussion(s) in one place, making it easy to find in the future.
  • As we are speaking about Jira – if you’re using a test management tool like Zephyr or TestFlo, you can always export it as a nice report. Just remember not to export without the comments.
  • A .doc file. Whether you’re using an offline or online tool, make sure that the final version of the document is accessible to everyone interested, properly named and versioned, and saved in a place where it will be easy to find (e.g., the project’s drive).
  • An .xls file. Use the strengths of tabs and the magic of formulas. If your report is strongly data-driven with the potential to create a reusable template – go with it. Wisely used Google spreadsheets can be a very nice tool. But again, remember that the file should be easily accessible to anyone interested.

Tips and tricks to improve your reports

Reports are a necessary part of any quality assurance program, but they can be time-consuming to create. There are some tips and tricks that help you streamline the report-writing process. Here are some of the things that can’t be stressed enough:

  • Be honest – even if 100% of the tests fail, remember that it’s not your fault.
  • Be clear – especially if the report is addressed to non-technical people. Imagine you’re writing to people who have no idea about your role in the project and/or the project details at all. Express yourself in a way so that people will be able to understand the report without (too many) follow-up questions.
  • Be consistent – in both the content and its visual representation. Use the same metrics scheme in the whole report, use one font, one graphics pattern, etc.
  • Be objective – sometimes clients want to build features that seem to have no reason for us. Remember, you’re being paid for your expertise not your personal opinion, even if the product concept is not optimal.
  • Show your opinion – wait, didn’t I just…? Yes, use your experience, end users' perspective, and that inner ability QA engineers have to say why you think something is great and the other thing doesn’t make any sense. Just don’t get emotional and use a constructive feedback manner.
  • Provide a detailed description of your actions – remember that detailed doesn’t need to mean long.
  • Don’t overdo it – focus on the scope you defined, even if it’s hard to resist the flow.
  • Remember when we can talk about the good quality.
  • Last but not least – don’t treat this guide as the one and only oracle and source of truth. I once heard that if you want to be good at music improvisation, you should learn music theory and then forget it completely while improvising. Try to approach your work in a similar way – learn the patterns and good practices from others, then take the best out of it and develop your own patterns that will best suit you and your team.

Make life easier for you and your coworkers

The takeaway from all of this is that as a QA engineer you have an important role in ensuring the quality of your team's work.

By taking the time to write good reports, you're not only helping your team stay on track, but you're also providing valuable information to the client. Keep these tips in mind when writing your next report and happy testing!

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Olka Bocheńska

Olka is a QA Engineer. During her career she had a chance to work on various project with many...
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