What should i document? a preliminary systematic mapping study into API documentation knowledge

Alex Cummaudo, Rajesh Vasa, John Grundy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Good API documentation facilitates the development process, improving productivity and quality. While the topic of API documentation quality has been of interest for the last two decades, there have been few studies to map the specific constructs needed to create a good document. In effect, we still need a structured taxonomy that captures such knowledge systematically.Aims: This study reports emerging results of a systematic mapping study. We capture key conclusions from previous studies that assess API documentation quality, and synthesise the results into a single framework.Method: By conducting a systematic review of 21 key works, we have developed a five dimensional taxonomy based on 34 categorised weighted recommendations.Results: All studies utilise field study techniques to arrive at their recommendations, with seven studies employing some form of interview and questionnaire, and four conducting documentation analysis. The taxonomy we synthesise reinforces that usage description details (code snippets, tutorials, and reference documents) are generally highly weighted as helpful in API documentation, in addition to design rationale and presentation.Conclusions: We propose extensions to this study aligned to developer utility for each of the taxonomy's categories.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 13th ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ESEM 2019
EditorsHakan Erdogmus, Barbara Russo
Place of PublicationPiscataway NJ USA
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781728129686
ISBN (Print)9781728129693
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement 2019 - Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco, Brazil
Duration: 19 Sep 201920 Sep 2019
Conference number: 13th


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement 2019
Abbreviated titleESEM 2019
CityPorto de Galinhas, Pernambuco
Internet address


  • API
  • DevX
  • documentation
  • systematic mapping study
  • taxonomy

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