Specification guidelines to avoid the state space explosion problem

Jan Friso Groote, Tim W. D. M. Kouters, Ammar Osaiweran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
299 Downloads (Pure)


During the last two decades, we modelled the behaviour of a large number of systems. We noted that different styles of modelling had quite an effect on the size of the state spaces of the modelled systems. The differences were so substantial that some specification styles led to far too many states to verify the correctness of the model, whereas with other styles, the number of states was so small that verification was a straightforward activity. In this article, we summarize our experience by providing seven specification guidelines to keep state spaces small. For each guideline, we provide an application, generally from the realm of traffic light controllers, for which we provide a ‘bad’ model with a large state space, and a ‘good’ model with a small state space. The good and bad models are both suitable for their purpose but are not behaviourally equivalent. For all guidelines, we discuss circumstances under which it is reasonable to apply the guidelines. Keywords: design for verifications; specification guidelines; state space explosion; model checking
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)4-33
Number of pages30
JournalSoftware Testing, Verification and Reliability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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