What are API Parameters?

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What are API parameters?

API Parameters are options that can be passed with the endpoint to influence the response. In GET requests, they’re found in strings at the end of the API URL path. In POST requests, they’re found in the POST body.

Okay, you’re still confused. Let’s try another approach.

Have you ever wondered, after spending enough time surfing a website, why the URL in your address bar transforms into an incomprehensible mishmash of symbols and gibberish?

Kind of like this:

www.yoursite.com?myparam1=123&myparam2=abc&myparam2=xyz

Well, the stuff at the end, after the .com

?myparam1=123&myparam2=abc&myparam2=xyz

— those are called parameters.

In the world of APIs, these are like your search filters. And depending on the parameters you set, you get a different response each time.

Types of API parameters

There are several types of parameters found in REST APIs. Here are some of the most common ones.

Query string parameters

?myparam1=123&myparam2=abc&myparam2=xyz

These are the most common type of parameters. You’ve probably seen them before on your browser’s address bar, even outside the context of APIs. You can find them in the query string of the endpoint, after the ?.

Path parameters

/service/myresource/user/{user}/bicycles/{bicycleId}

Path parameters are found within the path of the endpoint before the query string (?). In the sample above, the path parameters are set off using curly braces.

Request body parameters

myparam1=123&myparam2=abc&myparam2=xyz

You might have noticed the similarity to query string parameters. That’s because they often use the same format. You’ll see these most often in POST requests, where values are sent in the request body.

Header parameters

You can find these in the request header; they’re usually related to authorization.

API Parameters in action

To make things easier to understand, let’s use this Words API to look at API parameters in action.

The Words API lets you retrieve information about English words — including definitions, synonyms, rhymes, pronunciation, syllables, etc.

Long story short, it’s a dictionary on steroids.

Its main feature is the /words endpoint, which lets you search any word in the English language. It retrieves all the data it has about that word and presents it to you in a nice, clean list.

Below are the results for a GET request using the /words endpoint for the word dog (URL: https://wordsapiv1.p.rapidapi.com/words/dog). I used Apipheny to import the API data straight into Google Sheets.

Pretty cool feature.

The dataset actually extends much farther to the right since I literally requested for all of the data available for the word dog. There are hundreds of cells for just this one word.

But what if we wanted some more specific, manageable results?

Well, that’s where API parameters come in.

If you look at the Searching section of the Words API documentation, here’s what you’ll see:

A list of some parameters you can use to get different responses from the /words endpoint.

Let’s try some of them out.

For us to retrieve a list of 12-letter verbs, we’ll have to use letters=12 and partOfSpeech=verb.

We’ll probably get a ton of results for this, so let’s limit the number of results into a manageable dataset by adding the parameter limit=5.

If we append all those parameters to our original endpoint, we get this API URL path:

https://wordsapiv1.p.rapidapi.com/words/?letters=7&partOfSpeech=verb&limit=5

The query string is set off with a ? symbol and each parameter after that starts off with an & symbol to denote that each parameter is its own.

Now, things should start making a little more sense. Query strings should look less like mishmashes of incomprehensible gibberish — and more like sentences.

In these “sentences”, you declare exactly which data you want to see. This allows you to get clearer, more relevant, and more manageable results.

If we run a request using this URL, here’s what we get:

A clean set of results with everything we asked for.

Pretty cool, right?

That’s just one example of how API parameters can make your experience with data less frustrating and more efficient.

Final words

API parameters definitely take a while to get used to, and there are millions of ways to use them effectively for whatever work you’re doing.

To master them, you’ll need a good grasp of logic and analytics, a decent understanding of coding, and a lot of patience.

This also means taking the time to really take deep dives into the documentation of any API you’re using so you can take advantage of all its features.

But once you get the hang of using API parameters, you’ll be much more productive than you’ve ever been.

Import API data directly into Google Sheets

Do a lot of copy-pasting?

We used to, as well.

But it took up too much of our time.

Introducing Apipheny, a Google Sheets add-on that lets you import data directly into Google Sheets — and save up to an hour of your workday.

It lets you connect virtually any API to Google Sheets — in just a matter of seconds.

This means you can now import data directly from your favorite data sources — and finally stop switching between tabs with your fingers stuck on Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V.

Here’s Apipheny CEO & Co-Founder, Meelad, showing you just how easy it is to use the add-on.

Apipheny lets you do the following things:

  • Skip the scripting & coding part of APIs.
  • Retrieve and send data from your favorite data sources easily, using the GET and POST request features.
  • Access virtually any REST API, whether it’s JSON or CSV.
  • Get the data you need in a nice, clean, list on your spreadsheet with the JSON converter.
  • Save time by automating your API calls with the Save and Schedule features.

Try it for free. No credit card needed.

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