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The Art of API Documentation

API Documentation 3: Teaches technical writers how to write API overview material, tutorials, etc.
Peter Gruenbaum
2,098 students enrolled
Write API conceptual documentation, such as overviews, getting started sections, and tutorials.
Make calls to REST APIs using visual and command-line tools.
Find an open source project to document as a way of gaining experience.

Course Description

This is the third in a series of courses for technical writers who want to learn how to write API documentation. The first two courses are called “Learn API Technical Writing: JSON and XML for Writers” and “Learn API Technical Writing: REST for Writers”, and it’s recommended that you first take those courses, unless you are very familiar with API documentation, and how to document reference material.

This course teaches how to write conceptual API documentation, such as overviews, getting started sections, and tutorials. For the most part, no programming experience is required, but technical writers with programming experience will still find it useful.

In addition to conceptual material, this course covers guidelines for good sample code, tools for making REST requests, and how to find an open source project to document as a way to get into the field of API writing.

What are APIs?

APIs (Application Program Interfaces) define how software systems talk to each other, and API documentation is a rapidly growing field. There is a strong need for writers who can understand APIs and explain them so that software developers can understand how to use them. API writers get to be in on the cutting edge of technology in high-paying positions.

What is Conceptual Material?

API documentation consists of reference material and conceptual material. Reference material describes the details of the API: what are the pieces of each request and response, or each class and member. Conceptual material orients developers so that it’s easy for them to get started with a new API.

What is in This Course?

By the end of the course, you will understand how to write good API conceptual material, how to make REST calls using GUI and command-line tools, and how to find an open source project to document. In this course you’ll find:

  • 8 videos that:
    • Describe how to write good conceptual material
    • Provide guidelines for good sample code
    • Demonstrates how to use tools to make REST calls
    • Leads you through examples of how to find open source projects on the internet
  • 2 hands-on exercises to lead you through making REST requests using tools
  • PowerPoint presentations as a resource for every video lecture
  • A PDF with resources for finding open source projects

The course takes approximately 1 hours and 30 minutes to complete, depending on how fast you are with the exercises.



This lecture covers:

  • What are APIs and why are they important?
  • Why is API documentation important?
  • The difference between conceptual and reference material
  • What is in this course

API Conceptual Material

Conceptual Material

This lecture covers:

  • Why is API conceptual material important?
  • A quick description of:
    • Overviews
    • Getting Started
    • Tutorials
    • Sample Code
API Overview Material

This lecture covers:

  • Explaining "Why", not just "How"
  • Key Concepts
  • Workflow diagrams
  • Architecture diagrams
Getting Started Section

This lecture covers:

  • Why a Getting Started section is critical
  • What "Hello World" means
  • The structure of Getting Started sections
  • What should be in a Web API Getting Started section
  • What should be in a Platform API Getting Started section

This lecture covers:

  • The importance of tutorials
  • Identifying common tasks
  • The structure of tutorials
  • Screenshots
Sample Code

This lecture covers:

  • Why developers like sample code
  • Guidelines for good sample code
  • Web API vs. Platform API sample code
  • Link to an article on this subject


Tools for Calling REST APIs

This lecture covers:

  • Why tools for calling REST APIs are useful
  • GUI tools
  • Command-line tools (cURL)
Hands-on Exercise: GUI REST client (Postman)

This lecture shows you how to install Postman, the GUI app, and then use it to make REST calls.

Hands-on Exercise: Command-line Tool (cURL)

This lecture how to install cURL, the command-line tool, and then use it to make REST calls.

Where to Go From Here

Finding an Open Source Project to Document

This lesson covers:

  • How to break into the field of API documentation
  • What is an open source project?
  • GitHub
  • How to find an open source project to document

This lecture covers:

  • A summary of all previous lectures
  • Next steps
API Documentation Outline

This lecture contains an outline that shows a suggested structure for API documentation.

Bonus Lecture: Offer for First Course in the Next Series

Get a discount on the first course in the next series, which is Coding for Writers: Basic Programming.

You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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1 hours on-demand video
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