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Bibliography of API documentation articles

by Tom Johnson on Nov 25, 2018 •
categories: api-doc

If you're doing research on API documentation, Bob Watson's API Bibliography, listing more than 100 articles, can be a great starting point.

A while ago I mentioned that there didn’t seem to be many academic articles focusing on API documentation. This was probably because I was limiting my searches to Technical Communication Journal archives. Following up this challenge to see what academic articles have been written on API documentation, Bob Watson put together an extensive API Documentation Bibliography. The bibliography lists more than 100 articles, most with relatively recent publication dates. If an online source is available, he links directly to it. If not, you can search for the source.

Thanks Bob for putting this together. This is a great resource! I’ve been looking for articles on how people approach code in documentation, and this list has been a helpful resource.

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Many academic articles on API documentation can be found in a diversity of journal articles, so they’re not always easy to track down. One trick is that if you find one relevant academic article, you can mine the references for related sources.

If you’re looking for some good articles to start, check out these two:

  • “Application Programming Interface Documentation: What Do Software Developers Want?” by Michael Meng, Stephanie Steinhardt, and Andreas Schubert. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 2018, Vol. 48(3) 295–330. (ResearchGate link)
  • “When Not to Comment: Questions and Tradeoffs with API Documentation for C++ Projects.” By Andrew Head, Caitlin Sadowski, Emerson Murphy-Hill, and Andrea Knight. 2018 ACM/IEEE 40th International Conference on Software Engineering. (ResearchGate link. I also found it online here.)

Lately I’ve been interested to learn more about techniques and strategies for documenting code. It seems like software code is one of the most difficult things to document, and I wanted to see what attention this topic has received in academic studies. More on this topic later…

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.