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:
Well, the stuff at the end, after the
— 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.
There are several types of parameters found in REST APIs. Here are some of the most common ones.
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 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.
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.
You can find these in the request header; they’re usually related to authorization.
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
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
Let’s try some of them out.
For us to retrieve a list of 12-letter verbs, we’ll have to use
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
If we append all those parameters to our original endpoint, we get this API URL path:
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.
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.
Do a lot of copy-pasting?
We used to, as well.
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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:
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