Our Research on API Documentation

Modern software development means constantly using powerful libraries and frameworks (APIs). Good documentation of these reusable packages is obviously important for realizing their potential benefits.

  • How is such documentation used by software developers?
  • Are they doing it (the using) well?
  • How do they cope with imperfect documentation?
  • How with their own imperfect use of the documentation?

We want to explore these questions in this research area which we started in 2014.

Styles of API documentation

Maalej and Robillard have devised a set of 12 information types that form a simple taxononmy of nearly everything that can be found in API documentation. They have counted how frequent each type is in the elements of the Java standard library documentation and the .NET standard library documentation.

We have replicated their study for the Python standard library, because we suspect that the Python documentation uses a distinctly different approach. We want to characterize the difference and later also determine its impact on the usefulness of the documentation.

This work is ongoing. There are no publications yet.

API documentation references on Stack Overflow

We want to understand whether and how the quality
  • How often is API documentation mentioned in questions on stackoverflow.com?
  • In answers?
  • In what roles are they mentioned?
  • Does that make them better questions? Better answers?

This work is ongoing. There are no publications yet.