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Parameters and Payload of an Operation

The previous page has shown how to describe an operation’s response format, this is, the output data of an operation. On the other hand, this page shows how to specify the input data, this is, the additional information that complements the endpoint and the operation to fully detail a request.

OpenAPI provides two mechanisms to specify input data, parameters and request body (message payload). Parameters are typically used to identify a resource, whereas the message payload provides content for that resource.

The edges marked with an asterisk are arrays.
The Path Item and Operation Objects are explained in the API Endpoints page.
The Media Type and Schema Objects are explained in the Content of Message Bodies page.

The Parameter Object

The parameters field in the Path Item and Operation Objects is an array containing Parameter Objects. When provided in the Path Item Object, the parameters are shared by all operations on that path (which can override individual parameters at the Operation Object level but not remove them).

Each Parameter Object describes one parameter with the following mandatory fields:

  • in (string): Location of the parameter as shown below.
  • name (string): Case-sensitive. Must be unique in each location.

Additional optional fields include:

  • description (string): Useful for documentation. Might contain usage examples, for instance.
  • required (boolean): Whether this parameter must be present or not. The default value is false.

The type of the parameters, their format and their serialization can be specified using additional fields as shown in the next sections.

Parameter Location

Parameters can reside in different locations, indicated by the in field. The most common ones are:

  • path: The parameter is part of the route of this operation (and hence of its URL). The parameter’s name must appear in the path as a template expression, i.e., delimited by curly braces {}.

    For example, the path /users/{id} must contain at least one parameter described with:

    paths:
      /users/{id}:
        get:
          parameters:
          - name: id
            in: path
            required: true
    

    NOTE: When using path parameters, the required field must be present and it must be true.

  • query: The parameter is appended to the query string part of the operation’s URL.

    For example, the URL /users?id=1234 can be parsed using:

    paths:
      /users:
        get:
          parameters:
          - name: id
            in: query
    
  • header: The parameter is sent in a custom HTTP header as part of the request. Header names are case-insensitive.

Parameter Type

Most of the time a parameter’s type can be specified by using a Schema Object in the schema field. Schema objects allow defining primitive or complex types (like arrays or objects) and impose additional restrictions on them. For example:

parameters:
- name: id
  in: query
  schema:
    type: integer
    minimum: 1
    maximum: 100

The Content of Message Bodies page describes Schema objects in greater detail.

In more advanced scenarios the content field can be used instead. It provides a single-entry map of Media Types to Media Type Objects (More details can be found in the Content of Message Bodies page).

NOTE: Exactly one of schema or content must be present. They cannot appear at the same time.

Parameter Serialization Control

The style field defines how a parameter is to be serialized and its effect depends on the type of the parameter. The resulting matrix is therefore rather complex and can be consulted in the Parameter Object specification page.

The tables given below exemplify the most common styles simple, form, label, and matrix:

  • Primitive types: For example, an integer named id with value 1234.

    style: simple form label matrix
      1234 id=1234 .1234 ;id=1234
  • Array types: For example, an array named ids containing the integers 1, 2 and 3.

    The explode field can be used to separate each element of the array into a separate parameter.

    style: simple form label matrix
    with explode=false 1,2,3 ids=1,2,3 .1.2.3 ;ids=1,2,3
    with explode=true 1,2,3 ids=1&ids=2&ids=3 .1.2.3 ;ids=1;ids=2;ids=3
  • Object types: For example, an object named color containing integer fields R, G and B with values 1, 2 and 3.

    Again, explode can be used to separate each field into a separate parameter.

    style: simple form label matrix
    with explode=false R,1,G,2,B,3 color=R,1,G,2,B,3 .R.1.G.2.B.3 ;color=R,1,G,2,B,3
    with explode=true R=1,G=2,B=3 R=1&G=2&B=3 .R=1.G=2.B=3 ;R=1;G=2;B=3

For more serialization options see the Parameter Object specification.

The Request Body Object

When updating a record on a database, the parameters are typically used to identify the record whereas the message body provides its new content.

The message body of a request is specified through the requestBody field in the Operation Object, which is a Request Body Object.

paths:
  /board:
    put:
      requestBody:
        ...

The only mandatory field in the Request Body Object is content which is described in detail in the Content of Message Bodies page.

As a reminder, the snippet below describes an operation with a JSON request body containing a single integer with values between 1 and 100.

      requestBody:
        content:
          application/json:
            schema:
              type: integer
              minimum: 1
              maximum: 100

The Request Body Object also has a description string and a required boolean to state whether the message payload is mandatory.

Tic Tac Toe Example

The Tic Tac Toe sample API contains two endpoints, one without parameters or request body (/board) and another one with both (/board/{row}/{column}). The relevant code snippet for the second endpoint is shown below and it should be easy to understand after reading this page.

paths:
  # Single square operations
  /board/{row}/{column}:
    parameters:
      - name: row
        in: path
        required: true
        schema:
          type: integer
          minimum: 1
          maximum: 3
      - name: column
        in: path
        required: true
        schema:
          type: integer
          minimum: 1
          maximum: 3
    get:
      summary: Get a single board square
      responses:
        ...
    put:
      summary: Set a single board square
      requestBody:
        required: true
        content:
          application/json:
            schema:
              type: string
              enum: [".", "X", "O"]
      responses:
        ...
  • Both operations (get and put) have the same parameters, since they are defined at the Path Item level.
  • The parameters are two integers, named row and column which are located in the path of the operation. This matches the path name which contains {row} and {column}.
  • The put operation, additionally, must provide a request body which must be one of the three provided strings: ., X and O.

The complete Tic Tac Toe sample API does not look exactly like the above snippet because it reuses portions of the document to remove redundancy. This technique is explained in the Reusing Descriptions page.

Summary

This page has shown:

  • How to specify the two types of input data an operation can provide: parameters and requestBody.
  • Parameters can be located in different places (path, query, headers) and their content (schema) and serialization (style) is highly customizable.
  • The request body is specified, much like responses are, using the content field.

The next page explains how to reuse portions of an OpenAPI document to remove redundancy, reducing file size and maintenance cost.


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