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Activity: Evaluate API reference docs for core elements

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After completing the API reference tutorial, you’re ready to start an activity that gives you more experience in creating and editing API reference documentation. In this activity, you’ll either critique or create your own API reference topic for the open-source API project you identified earlier.

Activity: Evaluate API reference docs for core elements

In this activity, you’ll review API reference documentation and identify the common elements. To evaluate the API reference docs:

  1. Either from the open-source project you identified in the previous activity (Find an Open Source Project), or from this list of about 100 API doc sites here, identify one or more API documentation sites.
  2. In each of the doc sites, look for the API reference documentation section (the list of endpoints).
  3. In the reference documentation, identify each of the following sections:

    (The section names may differ in the API doc sites you find, but they’re usually recognizable.)

  4. Assess the API reference documentation by answering the following questions for each section:

    Resource description:

    • Is the description action-oriented?
    • Is it a brief 1-3 sentence summary?

    Endpoints and methods:

    • How are the endpoints grouped? (Are they listed all on the same page, or on different pages? Are they grouped by method, or by resource?)
    • How are the methods specified for each endpoint?

    Parameters:

    • How many types of parameters are there (header, path, query string, and request body parameters) for the endpoints?
    • Are the data types (string, boolean, etc.) defined for each parameter? Are max/min values noted?

    Request example:

    • In what format or language is the request shown (e.g. curl, specific languages, other)?
    • How many parameters does the sample request include?

    Response example:

    • Is there both a sample response and a response schema? (And is each element in the response actually described?)
    • How does the doc site handle nested hierarchies in the response definitions?

Create or fix an API reference documentation topic

This part of the activity might be challenging, but here is where you’ll start building some examples for your portfolio.

  1. In the same project as before, identify one of the API reference topics that needs help. (If the API has a new reference endpoint to document, focus on this endpoint.)
  2. Edit the topic to improve it. (If it’s a new endpoint, write the documentation for it.)
  3. Create a pull request and contribute your edits to the project.

Next steps

Now that you understand the essential sections to cover in documenting API endpoints, let’s look at standardized approaches for describing these sections, primarily with the OpenAPI specification and Swagger. The OpenAPI standard will help make sure you cover all the necessary details in these sections, and it will present the information to users in a way that users have become accustomed to.

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